Live Action, The Latest Animation News

Jon Favreau Plans to Shoot ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Jungle Book 2’ Back-to-Back

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One of the most controversial (and ongoing) news stories this year – at least on this website – was Disney’s continued push to churn out live-action retellings of some of its most iconic animated movies. Despite the roaring success that came in the form of The Jungle Book and a critical darling in the form of Pete’s Dragon, the reactions to article after article of a new live-action remake announcement are still that of swift derision and unceasing bemoaning over yet another one of these movies being made (and, subsequently, the fact that nearly half of Disney’s live-action, non-Marvel slate is nothing but these movies).

But Jon Favreau doesn’t see it that way. Fresh off directing The Jungle Book, he is now diving head-first into a live-action adaptation of The Lion King. If there is one director in Hollywood who can do for these films what he did with superhero movies (Iron Man), it’s him.

Earlier this month, Collider conducted an interview with Favreau, focused solely on his Disney ‘live-action remake’ projects: The Lion King and The Jungle Book 2.

The Process

When asked about the process of making these types of films, Favreau described it in a way that sounds similar to feature animation. These films – taking into account the large amount of photo-realistic CGI and how long it takes to get a story locked down – take a lot of time to come together:

I think nothing’s quick. This is a slow process and rushing it is not a good idea because a lot of when people react to visual effects they don’t like, often times it’s because it’s rushed and because it’s not well thought through ahead of time. Having gone up to Pixar and working with them on this and other projects — and they’re about as technical as you get — they always say the same thing — it’s all about story. Make sure the story is perfect before you launch forward into the next phase. The technical phase doesn’t come until the human storytelling phase is done.

The Next Chapter

Favreau also went on to describe the unique set of challenges he faces with each movie. With The Jungle Book 2, it’s all about making a sequel that genuinely feels like the next chapter in an overall story – thematically, tonally, and visually:

For ‘Jungle Book 2,’ it’s all about the story, all about the script, all about the characters and we’re working on that, and making a lot of progress and have some stuff that feels connected. Because you want it to feel like the first film. You want it to feel not like you’re doing a different genre a film because you’re doing another chapter, you want it to feel connected to the original.

Honoring the Original


As for The Lion King, Favreau is well aware of the original film’s iconic status among generations of moviegoers and animation fans, as his main goal is to honor the animated film while using modern-day storytelling techniques to bring his own stamp on the property:

With ‘Lion King,’ there you have such a strong original film, and then there was a theater production of it as well in a different medium that was very well received and successful and still continues to play. And you have a lot of people with very deep memories and connections to those properties so you want to make sure that, even though the story is very strong, you want to make sure it translates well to yet another medium and doesn’t feel like it’s duplicating or trying to outdo what was done in another medium.

From Hand-Drawn to CG

As he mentions in that quote, his experience directing The Jungle Book is helping him inform his take on the classic film, and that experience goes beyond just the story:

The thing is that the animated version of ‘The Lion King’ is — I don’t know how you outdo that. It works tremendously well. I think it was sort of the end of the era before the 3D animation started coming in, and I don’t think anybody wants to see an animated version because if you want to see an animated version, look at the original. It holds up, it’s still wonderful to watch. So the trick is can you make it look like you actually found real animals in a real environment? And how do you translate the story through that? And in that sense, what we learned on ‘Jungle Book’ as we got into the photorealism of the environments and the characters, the behavior of the animals, how do you use the lessons you learned there, but adjust it to the tone of what ‘Lion King’ is?

Because I think that when you hear the opening song, when you see those images, the photography of it, even in 2D it is arresting, and I try to imagine what it could be like using the tools that we have today and could we make audiences feel the same way and retell the same myth using these new tools? So the challenge becomes how do you have it look photoreal? And what has to be adjusted so that it doesn’t feel inconsistent? In ‘Jungle Book,’ if we just took everything that was in the ’67 film, that humor would have been too broad for a live-action, and also you have to take into account that these look like real animals, so the intensity of it gets really notched up. So understanding the lessons that we learned from ‘Jungle Book’ is really helpful as we develop this, but it’s all a discovery process. And fortunately, working with a lot of the same people and it feels like a continuation of that journey.”

Back-to-Back Ambition

As if Favreau’s ideas couldn’t get anymore ambitious, his current plan is to film The Lion King and The Jungle Book 2 back-to-back. He remains committed to this plan as director of both movies, even as he admits that burnout could be a possibility:

I think we’re kind of learning a lot about how this all works right now I’m kind of full bore into developing the tools to tell the story for ‘Lion King,’ because you’re sort of developing whole new sets of tools for each production. And right now in the story phase, getting the story right for ‘Jungle Book 2.’ I don’t know. Right now the plan is that we go right from one into the other, but I know from having worked on two superhero movies back to back, these take many many many years. I was working on Marvel movies for like four years back-to-back. It’s a big chunk of your life and you have to make sure that you’re excited and can bring all of your attention and concentration to bear on this, because they are really big puzzles. Every film is a puzzle you have to solve — these highly technical ones are like 3D chess. There’s like a whole other level to it that has to be understood and learned.”

The Jungle Book 2 doesn’t have a solid launch date, but Disney is reportedly aiming at a 2019 release window for the film. The Lion King is currently in development, so it has yet to snatch a release date as well.

What do you think? Are you excited for either film?

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Brandon Smith

Brandon is your average nerd with a love for nerdy things (games, comics, anime/manga, etc.). He also loves reading and writing and plans to be an author someday. For now, he writes with passion and curiosity about the world of animation. He lives with his family in North Carolina and is currently attending college.
  • Manuel Orozco

    There is no way I’m seeing a live action Lion King without real humans involved in the plot! As much as I enjoyed Faveru’s work on Elf, Zathura and Iron Man, he has to be pretty crazy.

    • brandon

      If audiences can handle only 1 or 2 humans showing up in The Jungle Book, I’m sure that can handle the absolute absence of humans in The Lion King. They sure didn’t freak out about not seeing humans when the original film came out.

      • Manuel Orozco

        True. I didn’t see Jungle Book because the original wasn’t one of my Disney favorites as a kid. I’m not seeing Lion King since the original scared me as a kid. Another thing, I voted that the baggage of Disney remakes has to be this year’s biggest controversial animation news.

        • Dean

          Jungle Book has a different tone and feel than the original. It’s more serious and there is more conflict. I suggest at least giving it a rental. Also, don’t base movie-watching decisions on childhood fears. A lot of “scary” movies I watched as a kid don’t bother me anymore.

          • Manuel Orozco

            Never mind what I said

  • Though I’m not totally siked for Lion King, I know Faveru I think can maybe pull it off after Jungle Book, and again not too keen on Jungle Book 2 but again he did leave a pretty big window open for that too. And probably know we won’t see King Louie in it but it would be so cool to see him again, he was my favorite part
    I am waiting on the sidelines patiently with what’s gonna happen with these films 🙂

  • Phin68

    How exactly do you make a live-action Lion King when the film’s devoid of humans? It certainly couldn’t be shot on set.

    • brandon

      The beauty of motion-capture performances. Also, yet again, The Jungle Book was mostly devoid of humans (save for one little boy), so a live-action movie with no humans isn’t too big of a jump. Especially if, like Favreau, you are thinking long and hard about what the visual aesthetic of a ‘photorealistic CG’ Lion King should look like.

      • Dean

        Photorealistic CGI =/= Live-Action. Else movies like Beowulf (2007) would be considered live-action.

        • brandon

          Fair enough. With films like Jungle Book and now this Lion King blurring the lines, I’m not surprised that people are now scrambling to nail down a rigid definition for what these films are.

      • Phin68

        But that’s the thing: the boy is live-action. That’s why the Jungle Book could get away with being called a live-action movie. The Lion King doesn’t have that element in it, and therefore makes it an animated movie.

        • brandon

          See my comment below about films like this ‘blurring the lines’.

        • Manuel Orozco

          And the fact that Mowgli is the only live action character is why I did not bother to see the new Jungle Book.

  • Rachel Wagner

    I guess I’m not that excited about photo-realism over actual art but I liked Jungle Book fine so hopefully these will be good

  • I’m not bitter over Disney making these live-action films. It more or less depends on the film. I was fine with them remaking Jungle Book and Pete’s Dragon because the original versions of those films came out years ago and they weren’t that good. Never saw the 1977 Pete’s Dragon, but the reviews were very mediocre. I did see the original Jungle Book and it was very cute with catchy songs, but that was it. So the remakes of these had a very good opportunity to redo and improve the stories, in which they did. But with Lion King, it’s different because that only came out a little over 20 years ago and that was a masterpiece in the eyes of most people. How can Favreau improve that? It doesn’t seem necessary to be made and I feel Disney is doing this exclusively for money. Overall, I’m looking forward Jungle Book 2, I’d love to see more with Mowgli. As for LK, I’m skeptical.