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Jungle Book Director Jon Favreau Explains How The Film Was Initially Much Darker

Disney’s reimagining of The Jungle Book premiered in April, nearly 50 years after the 1967 animated classic, the last film on which Walt Disney worked. Director Jon Favreau’s updated vision mixed elements from the original film with some from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book novels, ultimately ending up with a darker take on Mowgli’s (Neel Sethi) story, especially with more sinister reimaginings of Kaa the snake (Scarlett Johansson) and King Louie the Gigantopithecus (Christopher Walken). However, Favreau admitted the original treatment for the movie was surprisingly even darker.

“The scale of the fights between the animals [was] much larger,” Favreau told MTV News on the phone. “It was much more like armies of animals. It was building too big, almost.” He compared it to the proportions of action films, which would just be too much for this story. While there was a type of animal army that banded together to battle tiger villain Shere Khan (Idris Elba) at the end, it was nowhere near the amount initially proposed.

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The treatment also fell more in line with the original source material. Like most Disney animated classics that stemmed from previous works, Disney’s versions tended to be lighter and happier. For example, the Grimm brothers’ story of Cinderella had the evil stepsisters chop off bits of their feet to make them fit in the glass slippers. In Kipling’s stories, Baloo actually beat Mowgli at times instead of singing “The Bare Necessities.” Favreau also noted how there was originally zero music in the film.

Of course, this was only a treatment, not even a full-length script, but Favreau said the ideas being fleshed out were “definitely leaning more towards the Kipling [tales], and further from the ’67 film.” Thankfully, he managed to find a happy medium, one that both honored Kipling’s writings as well as paid tribute to Walt Disney’s vision.

Favreau also debunked the rumour that Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan was originally cast as the elephant Colonel Hathi. The elephants never speak in the film, nor were they ever supposed to do so. “I think that was just an internet rumor that popped up,” he explained. “There was never any scripted lines, nor I don’t think I’ve ever even met Jamie.” Just goes to show that you need to take IMDb trivia factoids with a grain of salt.

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And that adorable Easter egg during the end credits? Favreau admitted it wasn’t originally planned. After Mowgli defeated Shere Khan and united the jungle animals, the movie ends with Kipling’s book closing, then literally bouncing back to life. The same book actually opens the 1967 classic animated film.

Favreau felt like this short moment “created connection between the two films,” like a cinematic bookend. Because the novel was so valuable, only the Disney archivist was allowed to handle it during production. The bounces we saw onscreen are manmade, with the archivist literally poking Kipling’s work with a broom handle from underneath a table as the credits roll. Something tells me Walt Disney would’ve gotten quite a kick out of that.

The Jungle Book is available on Digital HD August 23 and on Blu-ray August 30.

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