Disney’s new version of The Jungle Book is one of the most complex animated movies of all time.
Based on Rudyard Kipling’s short stories of the same name, its release comes almost half a century after the original 1967 movie made its debut.
The film stars Neel Sethi as mancub Mowgli, but all the main animal characters were created with CGI.
Behind the hyper-realistic creations, though, a stellar voice cast sees Bill Murray play Baloo, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, Christopher Walken as King Louie, Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha and Giancarlo Esposito as Akela.
Here are 10 facts you probably didn’t know about this new Disney version of The Jungle Book.
1 Unlike the original, King Louie’s not an orangutan
One of the most impressive characters in this new version of The Jungle Book is King Louie, a giant ape voiced by a giant of the big screen: Christopher Walken.
But while King Louie (I Wan’na Be Like You) was an orangutan in the original, in the 2016 version the reason he’s so big is he’s a gigantopithecus.
The beast is an ancestor of the orangutan, and is long extinct, but was chosen for dramatic effect.
Unlike the orangutan, the gigantopithecus is also thought to have been found in India, where The Jungle Book takes place.
2 The original songwriter wrote songs for this version as well
While the original 1967 Disney version of The Jungle Book was a musical, the new movie is not. However, it does still feature several songs — or parts of songs — including Bill Murray performing the iconic Bare Necessities.
Christopher Walken also sings I Wann’a Be Like You as King Louie, while Scarlett Johansson performs Trust In Me.
The original songs were written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, known as the Sherman Brothers, so Richard (Robert sadly passed away in 2012) was brought in to write the songs for the new movie too.
3 Bill Murray and his brother have now both voiced Baloo
Bill Murray lent his voice to the legendary character of Baloo in this film. He said: “I’m a huge fan of the original book, it’s really extraordinary writing. He was quite a guy, Kipling. So when Jon Favreau said, ‘Would you like to do this?’, I really couldn’t say no.”
However, Bill isn’t the first person in his family to voice Baloo. His older brother, comedian and actor Brian Doyle-Murray, read the role for Disney’s 1998 straight-to-video film The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story.
4 Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli, had never acted before
More than 2,000 people auditioned for the role of Mowgli in the film, and the boy who got the part was 12-year-old Neel Sethi.
He manages to carry the movie like a seasoned pro but, incredibly, he had never acted before in his life. But in an interview with Monsters and Critics Sethi said the secret was actually trying not to act.
He said: “I’ve never acted before, it was my first audition. I never thought about acting before but then I thought “alright”.
“My dad said “You have to be good. You’re not supposed to be yourself. You’re supposed to act!” But they didn’t like it when I acted. They liked me when I was myself.”
5 It is one of three Disney films in 2016 featuring Idris Elba
Idris Elba is without doubt Disney’s flavour of 2016 — with The Wire star lending his voice to not one, not two, but three of their animated movies in 2016.
The first was Zootopia, which was released in March and saw him play the part of Chief Bogo, a cape buffalo who is the head of the Zootopia Police force.
In The Jungle Book he plays Shere Kahn, the tiger out to get Mowgli, and he also plays sea lion Fluke in Finding Dory, the sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo, which is out in June.
6 Kaa is female, but was male in the original
While Kaa the Indian python was voiced as a male by Sterling Holloway in the 1967 movie. But this time around Kaa is a woman, with Scarlett Johansson taking on the role.
Jon Favreau decided to make the change because he thought to many of The Jungle Book’s characters were male.
It is the first time that Kaa has been portrayed as a female, while Bagheera — a male in this film and the original — was portrayed as a male in 1998’s The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story.
Interesting fact: while Indian pythons normally grow up to a maximum of around 10ft (3 meters), in this film Kaa — when compared to Mowgli — would actually be around 100ft long.
7 It was filmed entirely in Los Angeles
All sorts of amazing jungle locations appear in the latest version of the movie, but amazingly every single one of them was created using VFX.
All filming took place in sound stages in front of green screens at LA Center Studios, with puppets from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop brought in for Sethi to act next to.
Sethi told Monsters and Critics that when filming the scene of him sitting on Baloo’s belly floating down the river, he was actually just sitting on a bit of Styrofoam with a brown carpet on it.
The animals were created with key-frame CGI using footage of real animals and real actor movements to make them as realistic as possible and help them match the voices.
8 It was released in India a week earlier than the US
The film was released in India along with several other countries on April 8, one week ahead of its US release on April 15.
This was done specially as a tribute to the fact the story is set in India. The earlier date also meant the release coincided with the Indian New Year so many people were on holiday.
9 It is Garry Shandling’s last movie
Comedian Garry Shandling voices the character of Ikki the porcupine in the movie, but he tragically passed away from a heart attack on March 24, 2016, just weeks before its release — so never got to see his character realised.
Aged 66 at the time of his death, he had enjoyed a long and successful career including his roles in a string of popular television shows like It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show.
He also appeared in several movies over the years including Zoolander, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Iron Man 2.
10 Director Jon Favreau’s kids are in the movie
Jon Favreau’s three kids all have voice roles in the movie. His son Max is one of the wolf cubs, while daughters Brighton Rose and Madeleine play Gray — also a wolf cub — and Raquel the Rhino respectively.
Several other famous names also appear in the credits. Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts’ children Sasha and Kai are also young wolves, while The Evil Dead creator Sam Raimi is Giant Squirrel.
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