April 14, 2016

Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" Remade Again


Another remake of this book by Rudyard Kipling although this one is very good.

Filmed by Jon Favreau, and with CGI and today's technology it should be.
All is CGI except for Mowgli.

It has been made before: once in 1942 with Sabu, again with Jason Scott Lee in 1994, and of course the animated Disney version in 1967.



I enjoyed both the Sabu and Jason Scott Lee versions of this terrific story.

Rudyard Kipling was a prolific writer and some of his other books have also been made into films - for example: "Captains Courageous", "The Man Who Would Be King" and "Gunga Din".


From The Australian:

Kipling's India

GO:Rudyard Kipling was the author who defined India in all its imperialism and exoticism, not just for British readers, but for much of the English-speaking world. To see India through the eyes of the “bard of the Empire” is to understand what inspired some of his greatest works and to experience some of its most exotic and interesting places; incredibleindia.org.

LEGACY: The sadly dilapidated building known as Kipling’s Bungalow stands in the grounds of the heritage-listed Sir JJ School of Art, in the heart of old Mumbai. Rudyard’s father John Lockwood Kipling was the school’s first principal and developed a unique syncretic style of architecture that can be seen in some of Mumbai’s grandest buildings, including Victoria Terminus and the friezes at the nearby Crawford Market; travel.india.com/mumbai.

EXPLORE: For Kipling, Shimla (Simla in the era of the Raj), in the Himalayan foothills, was the place where “every right-minded story should begin”. It was here that his character Kim was inducted into the art of spycraft by the mysterious Lurgan Sahib, whose shop was “full of things that smelt like all the temples of all the East”. Kipling spent several summers in Shimla for the Civil and Military Gazette, picking up gossip for his columns and short stories at the aptly named Scandal Point and getting lost in the “crowded rabbit warren” of bazaars that spill down the mountainside below the fashionable Mall.

ADVENTURE: Head for Kanha National Park, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, one of the most reliable places to see tigers in the region, which inspired the Jungle Book stories. Kipling Camp, on the edge of the park, is the perfect place to stay. It was established by the Wright family, passionate advocates for wildlife protection, whose connection with the Indian subcontinent goes back to the late 1700s; kiplingcamp.com.

EXPERIENCE: Dubbed by Kipling as the “city of dreadful night”, Kolkata is also a city of poets and dreamers, of splendid albeit crumbling palaces and of some of the finest relics of the Raj. There is much in the former imperial capital that evokes Kipling’s legacy, such as the area around Dalhousie Square, the Victoria Memorial and the British Cemetery on Park Street.

John Zubrzycki has lived and worked in India as a correspondent, diplomat, researcher and tour guide. His most recent book, The Mysterious Mr Jacob: Diamond Merchant, Magician and Spy, tells the story of the man behind the character of Lurgan Sahib in Kipling’s novel Kim. He is working on a history of Indian stage magic and will lead a 13-day small group tour of Kipling’s India from November 21 for Travel on Q. More: (02) 9357 6800; travelonQ.com.au.


Jon Favreau talks like an anachronistic director when explaining his thinking behind the remake of The Jungle Book. In the present era, when ­directors seem to prefer to re­imagine rather than ­respect their source ­material, ­Favreau stands firmly for the latter. He didn’t want to put a fresh spin on the 1967 Disney animated classic to which he felt “connected”. ­Indeed, initially the 49-year-old didn’t even want to touch one of his formative films.

Favreau had been working on developing as a feature film another Disney property, Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom, at the same time as the “Mouse House” was working on another Disneyland adaptation, Tomorrowland.

But the Magic Kingdom film didn’t eventuate and the director of Iron Man (and its sequel), Elf, and Cowboys and Aliens moved on to the ­smaller, more personal film, Chef.

While the eventual release of Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney, proved a disappointment, the Walt Disney Company didn’t relent, dangling in front of Favreau the prospect of ­remaking The Jungle Book as a live-action film. But Favreau was not overly keen.

He couldn’t see the opportunity to do the “type of filmmaking I was curious about” until the studio’s chairman, Alan Horn, told him Disney was open to doing a film in the enveloping 3-D style of Life of Pi and Avatar.

“These are films that are very ambitious ­undertakings; it’s not just running around filming and adding CGI (computer-generated imagery) animals,” Favreau says. “This is creating a whole world. That felt ambitious and that level of ambition was exciting to me.

“It opened my mind, so when I sat down and came back and pitched a take, the take was more than just about translating the cartoon to real life.”

The result is outstanding and arguably the most immersive cinema experience since Life of Pi. Photorealistic animals have been created, to varying degrees of authenticity, for years, ­including the believable Planet of the Apes series and most recently the bear in The Revenant. But the animals in this Jungle Book — the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba), bear Baloo (Bill Murray) and the snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) — are not only believable to the eye, they are within an all-digital, photorealistic environment.

Every landscape and element within the verdant Indian jungle was created on computers, mostly by the British digital effects house MPC.

“You were fooled to think they were (real)?” Favreau asks, smiling. “Well, the kid (Mowgli, played by 10-year-old Indian-American Neel Sethi) was real. Usually, not always. But we were in downtown Los Angeles, the whole time.”

Incidentally, Favreau used the same LA sound stages that housed the Sterling Cooper ad agency in Mad Men. But the only “live ­action” footage used was of a riverscape created in the LA carpark; a key river scene (in which Mowgli floats down a creek on Baloo’s stomach) proved one step too far to re-create as the film wanted.

Before the technological wizardry came the adaptation, and Favreau had two key works to use while appeasing advocates of both. The 1967 film and its source material, Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 collection of short stories, ­believed to have been written for his daughter Josephine and ­recalling his early years growing up in India and returning there as a young man. Across time, the fables became the British Nobel laureate’s most popular work (alongside his later poem If), largely because of the ­broader truths the author was able to convey through his use of jungle beasts in an anthropomorphic fashion.

Walt Disney, as he did with so many other dusty fables, reimagined The Jungle Book as a peppy animated musical with songs by the Sherman brothers, Robert and Richard, in the midst of their stunning run in the 1960s-70s that included Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and directed by Wolfgang Reitherman.

Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks (previously best known for Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, if you can believe it) had those two key sources, several masters to serve and great expectations to meet for fans of ­Kipling’s book and the original Disney film. For instance, Horn “also had a deep connection to the Kipling ­stories”, ­Favreau recalls.

“So how do you satisfy both those expectations (of book and film) that are sometimes ­mutually exclusive? That was the interesting puzzle for me, and (also) using the tools now to tell the story that weren’t available before.”

One may have assumed the Disney studio also proposed several “non-negotiables” that had to be included or retained from the 1967 film, whether it be a song or a style.

Favreau admits the non-negotiables “were coming more from me, actually”. He ­approached the adaptation using the same technique he used when he took on the daunting task of bringing Iron Man to the screen from the Marvel Comics universe. He is an avid ­researcher, enjoying the process of investigation, learning about the subject and what had gone before. So he brainstormed the images that he connected with, unsolicited, when thinking of The Jungle Book.

“I did that with Iron Man too, finding the elements that I recall, just as a layman — and ­before I was an expert — what are the things that are indelible?” he says.

For The Jungle Book, they were the moments etched in many of our memories: Mowgli and Baloo floating down the river singing; the marching elephants; the little boy interacting with the baby elephant; the snake coiling up and almost eating the boy; the collapsing temple; the songs; the “very threatening for a G-rated movie” tiger and the torch.

“Those were the moments I wrote down in the margins and, as we wrote the script, I took a lot from the ’67 film, more so than the book,” he says. And the image of Mowgli and Baloo lounging contentedly on a tree branch becomes a neat visual coda.

This film is grittier and not as comic as the original, to its advantage. With realistic yet ­anthropomorphic animals, it would be slightly ­absurd to have them joking and bantering as talking animals do in animated films.

Not that the cast is without its comic talents, including Murray, Christopher Walken as King Louie and the recently departed Garry Shand­ling. But Favreau is sharp enough to temper their comedy.

He says he referred to “the old Disney stuff” and westerns, but most particularly the “big five” of the Disney canon: Dumbo, Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi.

“They really had moments that were quite intense but then they would often not show things on camera,” he says. “The music would swell and you’d see a shadow, not the act. The most intense moment is probably in Bambi, going right from the winter and the snow falling to a comic routine and the spring and animals coming out!”

He studied transitions in tone from sequence to sequence, particularly through music, and how great films can balance the light and dark without bingeing on either.

Favreau met Babe producer George Miller in Sydney and recalled the influence of that best picture Academy Award nominee. “That was showing there were life and death stakes in that world and yet there was humour and hope and you didn’t feel like you were overwhelmed by either tone,” he enthuses. “There was balance, which is why it holds up so well many years later.”

Then there’s another tonal decision, he says. “How many songs can you have and not be a musical?” Four, as it happens, including Murray and Sethi singing The Bare Necessities and Walken performing a delightful I Wanna Be Like You.

“If you do have too many, it changes the tone of the film, but if you don’t have them people will get upset,” Favreau notes.

“As an audience member, I’m very forgiving, as long as my ­expectations are being fulfilled,” he adds. “In (recent boxing movie) Creed, I was very happy when the Rocky theme finally came on, because I’m a fan. That’s the part you have to remember and a lot of filmmakers are ­becoming cognisant of: What would I want to see? How could I put on a great show for me?”

His balance and lightness is deft in a film as good as any the man who made his name alongside Vince Vaughn as the writer and star of 1996 comedy Swingers has directed. Certainly, the film has emerged as the surprise of the blockbuster season, likely to hold its own commercially this year alongside Zootopia, Star Wars: Rogue One and Captain America: Civil War.

The achievement is particularly notable considering the process by which the film was made in a Disney studio that now informally draws on expertise from across its broad company that encompasses Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.

Favreau says he collaborated with the Pixar and Disney Animation arms of the company on this film and he relished their “creative enthusiasm and an openness of idea sharing”. He showed early versions of the film to Pixar’s famed “Braintrust” of senior creatives and he drew on Pixar’s storytelling creative process by building his own story department.

“I was trying to emulate what they do ­because it’s so efficient (though) this dates back to Walt Disney’s day when he used to have story artists and they would sweatbox stories and work in pencils before they ever went to ink and paint,” he says. “So they made sure the story worked in pencil.”

Similarly Pixar creates up to 10 iterations of its films in crude animated forms to make sure the story works because, as Pixar chief John Lasseter says: “If it works this way, you know it’s going to work great when we add all the bells and whistles.”

Favreau did the same, primarily because ­reshooting an animated film if the story doesn’t gel is an inordinately expensive exercise. “So the animation you hold back to the last minute, up to a certain point,” he says.

Yet the digital animation in The Jungle Book is a profound achievement. Favreau humbly ­admits he “had the advantage of standing on the shoulders of giants”, including Avatar’s James Cameron, who visited the set, and his ­effects guru, Robert Legato, who was special ­effects supervisor on this film.

He says the key is making the effects as integral to the production as any other craft and not an addendum. Favreau cites such commitment in Gravity, from which he sought some tips.

“And the tricks they used, it’s magician’s tools,” he says. “It’s swapping real for fake when you don’t expect it, it’s having half of a real character and half of a fake character and you never know where the line is, and that’s the ­Melies magician’s tradition of what film is for.”

Melies, who featured as a character in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, was the turn of the century illusionist who brought his skills and invention to the earliest cinema (including his seminal 1902 film, A Trip to the Moon). Favreau says the tricks used in Gravity and The Jungle Book “are an extension of the illusionist’s toolbox.” Surely we’ve come a long way since Melies though?

“Not strategically,” he replies quickly. “If you look at Hugo, those conversations in that film are not that different from the conversations we’re having now. We just have better tools.”
And a multitude of resources, skilled technicians and opinions. It must take a certain kind of director to work in such a collaborative system within Disney?

“It depends,” Favreau says, noting the plea­sure he had making his previous film, Chef, an inexpensive and successful drama in which he directed himself as a chef on the skids. “That was very small and quick and personal where I wore so many hats and didn’t have to answer to anybody, and here I am without about 2000 people who have worked on this film, all around the world,” he says.

Yet he had a “a tremendous amount of freedom in the storytelling, even though you are under the Disney roof”.

“And certainly I didn’t generate this property; this property came from Disney, so there is a sense of stewardship and responsibility to Disney, to know that this is something that feels like it belongs in the (Disney) castle.” And it does.


 Above: by - Michael Bodey  - in The Australian

One should not forget Kipling's incredible poem:

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

 When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
 They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know." 

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death." 

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die." 

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

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