Occasionally, like-minded Hollywood studios will have similar projects competing for airspace in a crowded market. This explains why, years ago, we had two blockbuster thrillers about asteroids heading toward our planet. Well, a few years back, competing interpretations of The Jungle Book were meandering through post-production, one from director Jon Favreau and the other marking the directorial debut of Andy Serkis. Well, Serkis pumped the brakes, allowing Disney's The Jungle Book to open in 2016. Later this year, Serkis' own version, Mowgli, will open in theaters (we got our first look at the trailer below), and when we recently hopped on the phone to discuss the project with this talented artist, he explained why he ultimately let Disney go first, saying:
We also, at the same time, we're in a race with, obviously, the Disney version, which we then chose to stand down from. Because it was a moment where it was like, you know, who's coming out first? And then it just seemed crazy, because we wanted to take our time to evolve the facial capture, and to really not rush it, because it was a complex thing to do. My first real entry into this was to design these animals so that they felt like emotionally believable characters. And so it wasn't just a matter of creating photo real tigers and panthers and bears. It was about designing them around the actors' faces, and then allowing, in postproduction, the visual effects company to really make it real, to really honor those actors' performances and take the time to do that.
But we also wanted to create some space between us and the Disney one, which had come out, and done very well. And I wanted... we all wanted it to have more oxygen. We were refining the story. So it was actually, in the middle of that, I also shot Breathe, which ended up being my first feature. So it's good. It's all worked out for the best in the end, I think.
Leave it to Andy Serkis, an actual wizard who is partially responsible for some of the greatest motion-capture performances in this industry, to realize that pressing pause on his process and allowing the mo-cap workers to perfect their art was only going to benefit his movie in the long run. Serkis knew that his approach to Rudyard Kipling's source material was always going to be different from a Disney take on The Jungle Book. No recognizable soundtrack, no comic relief. This is a darker spin on the material, and as such, needs the animals to work from a different angle. And for that to happen, the motion-capture on the actors in Serkis' cast -- from Benedict Cumberbatch and Cate Blanchett to Christian Bale -- had to be the best it could possibly be.
Look at the reveal of the tiger Shere Khan in the new trailer to get a sense of the work that came with Mowgli's delay!
Mowgli now ends up being Andy Serkis' second directorial effort, though he started principal photography on Mowgli before Breathe. And, as he joked with me, during the break, he also tried his hand at acting in a few projects, from Black Panther and War for the Planet of the Apes to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Andy's been busy.
See how it all turned out when Andy Serkis' star-studded Mowgli opens in theaters on October 19.