Disney just released photos of the most of main cast of the upcoming live-action version of The Jungle Book together with the humans who voice them. Each voice actor also provides some insight into the character they voice.
First of all, can we say again what a marvelous voice cast this is? Idris Elba as the tiger, Sheer Khan; Lupito Nyong’o as mother wolf, Raksha; Giancarlo Esposito as the father wolf, Akela Scarlett Johansson as the gender-flipped python, Kaa; Christopher Walken as the wannabe-human ape, King Louie; Ben Kingsley as the guardian and teacher panther, Bagheera; and Bill Murray as his fellow guardian, Baloo. This is going to be a top-notch production.
First, a small disappointment: There is no picture or biography for Baloo, the lovable bear who teaches Mowgli how to enjoy life in the jungle. Perhaps he got up on the wrong side of the bed on picture morning?
But on to the more positive parts of the post. First off, the images are beautiful and bolster previous impressions of the upcoming film’s lush beauty. And there are the character bios, giving us an introduction to this version’s take on the characters.
There are Mowgli’s allies, first and formost Mother and Father Wolf, Raksha and Akela. Nyong’o notes, “The word Raksha actually means protection in Hindi,” something Kipling was undoubtedly aware of when he wrote the original Jungle Book. Father wolf, Akela, is more worried, though he welcomes Mowgli, he is concerned about what the future may bring.
Bagheera becomes one of Mowgli’s advocates and his teacher. “Bagheera is Mowgli’s adoptive parent,” says Ben Kingsley, who voices Bagheera says that in his take, “Bagheera was military–he’s probably a colonel. He is instantly recognizable by the way he talks, how he acts and what his ethical code is.” He’s a good counter-point to the evil tiger, Shere Khan.
Kaa, Mowgli’s sometime-ally in the book, has become the seductive enemy. “Kaa seduces and entraps Mowgli with her storytelling,” says Scarlett Johansson. “She’s the mirror into Mowgli’s past. The way she moves is very alluring, almost coquettish.” While I look forward to hearing Johansson voice Kaa, and the samples we’ve heard have been great, it’s a pity that she has to be someone who “seduces” Mowgli. It’d be good to see the live-action movie bring back the more interesting Kaa of the books.
Enemies, Kaa, King Louie, and above all Shere Khan, are also represented. There’s the fierce Shere Khan who, having been injured by Man in the past, isn’t about to let people, even small boys, back into the jungle. He “reigns with fear,” says Elba. “He terrorizes everyone he encounters because he comes from a place of fear.”
King Louie wants fire, and he wants Mowgli to give the secret of making it to him. “King Louie is huge–12 feet tall,” says Christopher Walken, who voices the character. “But he’s as charming as he is intimidating when he wants to be.” I wonder if he will dance in the live-action film?
The movie comes out April 15, 2016. In the meantime, might we suggest reading the books? The Jungle Books: The First and Second Jungle Book have more than a few things the movies miss–as always happens! The original Disney cartoon is fun, and judging by previous live-action remakes, the upcoming film will be as well, but they miss all the animal stories in the books and the bitter-sweet story of Mowgli’s return to humans is completely missed.
Official Synopsis for the live action version of The Jungle Book
Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, “The Jungle Book” is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray). Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire. The all-star cast also includes Lupita Nyong’o as the voice of the fiercely protective mother wolf Raksha, and Giancarlo Esposito as the voice of wolf pack’s alpha male Akela. “The Jungle Book” seamlessly blends live-action with photorealistic CGI animals and environments, using up-to-the-minute technology and storytelling techniques to immerse audiences in an enchanting and lush world. The wild adventure swings into theaters in 3D on April 15, 2016.