As one of the driving forces in entertainment, Disney has done a phenomenal job of carving out niches and dominating those markets. They’re got animation on lock with the double whammy of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, they’re critically and commercially dominating the superhero sphere through their Marvel branch, and with their Lucasfilm acquisition, they’ve returned Star Wars to the top of the pop culture totem pole. But one of their most ingenious recent developments is the push for live-action remakes of their animated classics, which have proven not only a brilliant business move, but a delight for fans with hits like Cinderella and, perhaps to a lesser degree, Maleficent.
Looking ahead at the projects in the works, it’s clear that the live-action remakes have become a priority for the studio, and they’ve found a solid creative partner on that front in former Iron Man collaborator Jon Favreau, who directed and produced this year’s box office smash, The Jungle Book. The live-action/photo-real CGI update of the 1967 classic was a triumph with critics and audiences alike, and the studio was so confident in it, they greenlit the sequel before it even hit theaters. And while Favreau is hard at work on the follow-up, he’s also been handed the keys to one of Disney’s most beloved films of all time, The Lion King. And it’s a move that makes perfect sense. After all, Favreau already proved he can handle not only the tremendous technical challenges, but the narrative challenge of keeping the story rooted in adventure and making sure those photoreal beasties don’t become straight-up terrifying.
With The Jungle Book now available on home video, Collider’s Steve Weintraub recently sat down with Favreau to chat about the film and he took the opportunity to get some updates on the status of Favreau’s upcoming projects. The director talked about what he learned from The Jungle Book that he’s carrying over to The Lion King, the importance of nailing the story before moving on to effects, and a lot more. Check out what he had to say below.
Asked about his progress on the two features, Favreau made it very clear that these high-tech live-action remakes take a lot of time. Naturally, the photorealistic CGI worlds take time on a technical level, but most importantly, they’ve got to get the story locked in first.
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.
And while Favreau and his team are hard at work on cracking the stories for both films, each has its own set of challenges. For The Jungle Book 2, it’s all about making sure that story feels connected to the world and tone they built in the first film:
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.