During production on Disney's 1967 animated adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, filmmakers came up with a rather ingenious cameo suited to the world's biggest band; the one, and only, The Beatles.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr would voice a quartet of vultures fitted with mop top hairstyles, crooning the charming number, "That's What Friends Are For". Except, those plans appear not to have come to fruition; due either to clashing schedules or, as rumours have it, Lennon's own refusal to partake in the gag.
Supposedly, Lennon vetoed the appearance and retorted to band manager Brian Epstein that he should tell Disney they'd be better off hiring Elvis Presley instead. The final film instead features the vultures in mock-Liverpudlian accents, voiced by J. Pat O'Malley, Digby Wolfe, Lord Tim Hudson, and Chat Stuart; with the more Beatles-influenced number reshaped into a timeless barbershop quartet.
Now, it looks as if Jon Favreau attempted to reclaim such a missed opportunity; and was once more met with a closed door. The director of the newest version of The Jungle Book claims he tried to get McCartney and Starr to cameo as the vultures, but wasn't able to secure the iconic musicians.
"We don't have the Beatle-vultures," he told The Radio Times. "I did talk about trying to get Paul and Ringo into the film, because they wanted the Beatles for the original, but I couldn't get them. We came to the idea too late. Maybe if there's a sequel..."
One memorable voice Favreau was able to secure was Scarlett Johansson, who provides her vocal cords to the hypnotic and villainous python Kaa; which the director explains was part of his aim to update the male-dominated book for modern sensibilities, alongside the casting of Lupita Nyong'o's wolf Raksha.
"Times are different now. It seems odd to have all-male characters. In the '67 film, it was an all-male cast," Favreau told The Press Association. "In Kipling's (book), there was a prominent character we really played up called Raksha. She really is the heart and soul of the central relationship with Mowgli.
"And then we changed Kaa the snake to be Scarlett Johansson who has an incredibly warm, wonderful, compelling, dramatic voice, and I think it helped balance it out and feel more of our time."
The Jungle Book hits UK cinemas 15 April.
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