A rumble in the jungle: Disney favourite to be remade

Two new versions of the Mowgli stories are in production – but will either match the animated version?

Emily Dugan@emilydugan
Saturday 28 April 2012 22:48

The man who brought the world's best-known boy wizard to our screens is set to reunite Mowgli, Shere Khan and Baloo in a cinematic remake of The Jungle Book.

Steve Kloves, screenwriter on all but one of the Harry Potter films, is in talks with Warner Bros to make a live-action film of the Rudyard Kipling stories.

With its catchy songs and light-hearted take on the sinister 19th-century tales, the 1967 Disney film is still the best-known adaptation of Kipling's work. But it is unlikely that Baloo the bear will be crooning about "the bare necessities" in Kloves's version, which is expected to be closer to the darker original text.

Reports that Warner Bros is remaking the story will come as a blow to Disney, which first made the tale of orphaned Mowgli's jungle adventures popular again. It is unlikely to be a coincidence, then, that news of Disney's own Jungle Book-inspired film also emerged yesterday. The studio will be producing a film based on Neil Gaiman's novel, The Graveyard Book – which is a reimagining of Kipling's tales, with a cemetery substituted for the jungle.

The addition of two further films inspired by Kipling's tales is testament to the enduring legacy of the Victorian British author. From the poem "If" – read by patriotic public school boys everywhere – to the children's Just So Stories, his books have remained popular, despite their colonial history.

Best known as a screenwriter, Kloves will be both writer and director on the latest Warner Bros project, according to Variety, the Hollywood industry magazine. It is likely that a real actor will appear on screen as Mowgli in Kloves's rendition, acting alongside animals made using computer-generated imagery.

Disney has previously attempted live-action remakes of the cartoon, but both flopped. The first, in 1994, called Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, starred Jason Scott Lee as Mowgli and featured silent animals. It turned a minimal profit and was followed four years later by The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story, which was such a flop that it went straight to video.

Helen Nabarro, head of animation at the National Film and Television School, believes advances in film technology have made cartoons ripe for remakes. "The things you did in animation where you didn't need to worry about gravity can now be done in live action and be believable. If you look at Harry Potter, they're now using special effects to make live action magic in the way that animation is."

The film critic Barry Norman said the project was a chance to do the Kipling book justice. "The cartoon version was hugely successful, but didn't bear much relation to what Kipling wrote. It's a book I loved as a kid and it's never been done justice to on the screen. Kloves is a good writer, it's a wonderful yarn and, nowadays, with the special effects, it should be possible to do it really well."

The Flintstones, 1994

John Goodman perfected the booming call of "Wilmaaaa" as Fred Flintstone in this movie remake, but even the doubtful pleasure of Halle Berry in a cheetah bikini could not make this watchable.

Yogi Bear, 2010

The tubby bear from Jellystone Park and his sidekick Boo-Boo lost all their comedy when they were put into film as a blurry CGI reality.

Scooby-Doo, 2002

Freddie Prinze Jnr and Sarah Michelle Gellar made 1980s cartoon stars Fred and Daphne into real people, alongside computer-generated dogs Scooby Doo and Scrappy.

Popeye, 1980

Robin Williams became the spinach-chomping, bicep-wielding Popeye and Shelley Duvall his wife, Olive Oil. One reviewer said the beloved sailor-man had "boarded a sinking ship".

Garfield the Movie, 2004

Making the sedentary marmalade cat entertaining for a whole movie was a tall order, even with Bill Murray providing the voice.

Inspector Gadget, 1999

Go-Go-Gadget rubbish remake: somehow children's cartoon favourite Insp Gadget – who makes helicopter wings emerge from his hat – was rendered boring in this film version.

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