Disney’s upcoming adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book has been ahead of a competing project set up at Warner Bros. for a very long time, and that’s not changing today. The Disney version, which Jon Favreau is directing, just added Breaking Bad alum Giancarlo Esposito and acting legend Christopher Walken to its already impressive voice cast (to compare, Andy Serkis’ WB adaptation doesn’t have a single actor cast yet).
Esposito, whose turn as Gus Fring on Breaking Bad earned him numerous accolades, including a Critics’ Choice Award, will be voicing Akela, the leader of the wolf pack. Meanwhile, Walken, a prolific A-lister who won an Oscar for The Deer Hunter and has racked up many awards since, will be lending his iconic vocals to the role of King Louie, the ruler of a troop of monkeys and apes.
The pair join a voice cast including Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley as panther Bagheera, Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o as she-wolf Raksha, Golden Globe winner Idris Elba as fearsome tiger Shere Khan, and Scarlett Johansson as hypnotic snake Kaa. Favreau’s The Jungle Book will also star newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli, who will be the only actor to physically appear on screen.
Intriguingly, Favreau’s film is described as “a combination of live-action and animation,” which suggests to me that Disney is aiming for a Life of Pi-style venture. And with the above actors all lending their voices to the project, The Jungle Book may just manage to balance drama and visual splendor in a way that justifies comparing it to that jaw-dropping Oscar winner.
Hopefully, the fact that both Disney and WB’s versions of The Jungle Book are being put on the fast track doesn’t mean that either will sacrifice the quality of Kipling’s classic. We’ve seen competing projects both disappoint before (just look at 2012’s Snow White films), so fingers crossed that doesn’t happen here.
We’ll find out (at least partially) when Disney’s The Jungle Book swings into theaters (in 3D, of course) on October 9th, 2015.