Over the summer, it was announced that Disney would be opening their vault and re-introducing the world to one of its most beloved classics, The Jungle Book, in the form of a trendy live-action adaptation. I like to imagine that the Disney vault is an actual place in Anaheim guarded by Walt’s cryogenically frozen body, but that’s a theory I should save for my B-movie. Now, The Hollywood Reporter is back with more news about the project, namely that Jon Favreau is in talks with the studio to direct.
Favreau is no stranger to directing for the Disney family. After all, he’s the man behind the Iron Man franchise and Elf. After leaving the nest to make an indie called Chef, Favreau has heard the sweet call of the House of Mouse once more, to helm the remake written by Justin Marks. Here’s the thing, though: we all know that The Jungle Book got a delightful live-action adaptation in 1994, right? Mowgli, Baloo, and Bagheera were all brought to life with Cary Elwes, Sam Neill, Lena Headey and John Cleese in supporting roles. John Cleese.
Disney has a bit of a thing for turning their animated gems into vehicles with flesh-and-blood movie stars. There haven’t been many, but the list is continuing to expand. After The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians had its dog day in 1996 with the star-studded cast of the truly terrifying Glenn Close, her henchmen Mark Williams and Hugh Laurie and an amiable Jeff Daniels as Pongo’s dad Roger. Not satisfied with dozens of puppies nearly getting slaughtered by a madwoman in the first film, audiences loved it so much that it spawned the creatively titled 102 Dalmatians.
In 2010, Disney decided to let Tim Burton do whatever the hell he wanted with Alice in Wonderland, one of their very first cartoon motion pictures. The results were exactly what you’d expect: Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, and a cartoonish (but still live-action! this is important!) vision of Wonderland that probably fueled a lot of nightmares.
The train is still rolling, with Maleficent premiering in May 2014, the story of Sleeping Beauty told from the perspective of the horned villain (Angelina Jolie), and Kenneth Branagh’s vision of Cinderella coming to theaters in 2015 with Lily James as the titular princess. That’s a solid starting point for Disney if they’re going to be re-imagning their own films, but when they have so, so many to choose from, why go back to a film like The Jungle Book and reboot? Not to mention – Warner Bros. is still vying to create their own version right now, as Rudyard Kipling’s book is public domain. Why compete when there’s no need?
Think of something like The Little Mermaid, especially with Favreau directing. Can you imagine the snark? Filming something that takes place mostly underwater with a lady-fish as your lead might be complicated, but there’s also that Disney magic involved that I’ve heard so much about. It can happen. Aladdin would also be a solid choice, not only for the live-action depictions of magic that would be shown, but because you know that Robin Williams would totally be willing to reprise his role of the Genie if asked.
Mulan – a fantastic representation of a confident young woman who makes her own choices and also a chance for Disney to eek out a war movie. Whether or not they want to keep it a musical war movie is up to them, but it’s not the worst idea that’s ever occurred. Or hell, even taking Pocahontas and completely rewriting that muddled mess so that, you know, it’s not a love story between a 13 year-old Native American girl and JOHN SMITH might rectify the cartoon and give them more credibility.
The point: Disney has a vast, not endless, but pretty close, array of titles to choose from if they want to keep heading in the animated to live-action direction. Another round of The Jungle Book would be a waste of time, and kind of a shame, when there are so many classic stories that could be brought to life for a new generation. As much as anyone loves Baloo, there’s more to life than the bear necessities.