It seems to be a Hollywood tradition – one studio develops a high-profile project, so another studio puts a rival version into production. Think, apocalyptic dramas Deep Impact and Armageddon, or upcoming biblical epics Noah and Exodus. The sudden determination to deliver a new adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is no exception, and has thrust two separate versions into production. The difference is, only one can now boast Idris Elba in the role of diabolical tiger, Shere Khan.
The rival projects reside at Warner Brothers and Disney, but Uncle Walt’s version is currently in the lead. With accomplished director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) at the helm, their Jungle Book, a mix of live-action and visual effects, has assembled a formidable creative team to achieve the desired vision. The behind-the-scenes talent is being supervised by Academy Award winning VFX guru Rob Legato (Avatar, Titanic) and includes production designers from Man Of Steel and Rise Of The Guardians; concept artists from Oz, Star Wars and Chronicles Of Narnia; and the story team head from Iron Man, who is working closely with Legacy Effects (Avatar, Avengers, Life Of Pi and Pacific Rim) on creature design. That is a vast amount of impressive experience to draw upon, and it will hopefully produce stunning results for the Justin Marks-written film.
The adaptation at Warner Bros, on the other hand, does not seem to have a director yet. Though Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was once attached, his involvement is no more. Ron Howard has been rumoured to be interested, but any commitment on his part has yet to be confirmed. Compounding the lack of progress on the Warner Bros. film is Disney’s inspired casting of Idris Elba as Shere Khan. The star of Luther and The Wire has had the opportunity to showcase his impressive vocals recently as both political leader Nelson Mandela (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom) and Heimdall, gatekeeper of the Bifrost (Thor: The Dark World), and is clearly a great choice for Khan.
Before stalking stealthily into The Jungle Book, however, Idris Elba is set to tackle Beasts Of No Nation – a drama based on the experiences of a child soldier named Agu, who is forced to fight in a civil war in an African country. That film will be directed by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective), from his own adaptation of the novel by Uzodinna Iweala.
So, which version of The Jungle Book will be first across the finish line? Will Disney continue to steam ahead, or will Warner Bros manage to acccelerate into production? Perhaps, ultimately, it will boil down to quality more than speed. Place your bets now and let us know which version you’re looking forward to.