Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book dominated the worldwide box office last weekend, far surpassing industry expectations and grossing over $100 million in just three days. That number also doesn't include the $187 million it brought in internationally, making it the number one movie in the world and putting it on a path where it could potentially make more money than Batman v. Superman. But what many may have forgotten is that this is not the first time Disney has remade The Jungle Book.
Disney's history of remaking animated classics as live action films began in 1994 when The Jungle Book was brought to life as a cinemascope epic with the author's name above the title. Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book focused more on Mowgli as an adult, devoting only a few minutes to his childhood. Kipling's name attached to this film is puzzling to all who have read the source material as it is a mostly original story, treated almost as a sequel to the animated version.
Jason Scott Lee played Mowgli, but Disney fans know him best as the voice of David in Lilo & Stitch. In this version, Mowgli is separated from his family not as an infant, but as a young boy. He retains memories of his birth parents and his best friend, Kitty, who lures him back to civilization as an adult. But Mowgli finds it impossible to reacclimate to society and after discovering that Kitty's fiancee plans to use Mowgli to steal King Louie's treasure, Mowgli will have to fight to save his jungle friends from the greed of man.
Obviously, Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book takes its biggest inspiration from Disney's animated film, with the Disney created King Louie becoming an integral part of the story. Characters that were previously villains, however, now come to Mowgli's aide. Even Shere Khan joins Mowgli to protect the jungle rather than viewing him as a foreigner who doesn't belong.
Of the two live action versions of The Jungle Book, Jon Favreau's is far superior. But there are still a few reasons why fans should check out the previous version. While the new film uses an entirely computer generated animal cast, Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book features live animal actors (none of the animals talk in this version). In fact, the only use of CG in the film is Kaa the snake, but even he had a real python for certain shots. It also filmed on location in India, adding some realism to the piece. Plus it costars Sam Neill hot off the success of Jurassic Park as well as Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Men in Tights) and John Cleese (Monty Python, Harry Potter series).
Following the success of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, the studio greenlit a remake of 101 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close, which came out in 1996. This film, along with Homeward Bound, also opened the door for other Disney remakes of the late 1990's, including Flubber and The Parent Trap. And as we enter a future full of Disney remakes, I hope we never lose sight of one thing: It all started with Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book.