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Could Disney/Pixar Remake The Jungle Book?

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This month one of Disney's best loved animated features is released on Blu-ray.

Their beautifully crafted take on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book has been a family favourite since the late 1960s.

Helmed by Wolfgang Reitherman, it features vocal work by his son Bruce; the great Phil Harris as lovable sidekick Baloo, and a superb supporting cast, including George Sanders and Louis Prima.

It's hard to imagine a world in which foot-tappers the Bear Necessities, and I Want to Be Like You did not exist.
Feeling down? Pop those tracks on and you'll be better in no time.

I last saw TJB on the big screen 20 years ago, and despite the odd dated reference, it still seemed like that timeless classic I enjoyed as a kid.

Two years after that 1993 screening, the original Toy Story was released, the first computer-generated animated feature which ushered in a new era for movies.

These days every cartoon feature seems to be CG. The gimmick of seeing rounded, realistic animated figures on the big screen is now just commonplace, so more important than ever is capturing that dynamic which made the original Disney films so enjoyable.

So, would Disney/Pixar ever consider remaking The Jungle Book featuring the original voices?

Some might see it as sacrilege to even consider it, but Walt was always a pioneer, pushing the envelope to re-tell old tales for a new generation.

"Well every movie is absolutely unique," explains Bruce Reitherman, aka the voice of Mowgli. "Pixar demonstrate there's nothing about the computer that limits you from making tremendously entertaining and effective films using that computer medium."

Naturally Bruce is still a huge fan of the human touch with ink, paint and brush, describing hand-drawn animation as "a unique and wonderful legacy of the 20th century".

Since the Disney company was founded decades ago, it's been on the cutting edge of technology.
The Black Hole (a flawed but personal favourite) and Tron pioneered CGI more than 30 years ago. They have either spawned a sequel or a pending revamp, so why not remake one of their best loved films for a new generation using the very tools Walt's company helped promote?

It's hard to imagine a remake without the use of those original fantastic voices and songs, but in an age when computer-generated animation is so high spec, would they want to give it that high gloss sheen more associated with The Incredibles and Wreck-It Ralph?

I think the brain has a hard time going from flat animation to the rounded, computer-generated version; either one or the other, as The Simpsons proved years ago when a CG Homer entered a 3-D world. Though it was a fun experiment, some fans seemed to prefer the original cel animation.

Even if every shot was faithfully recreated in computers, would a CG version of The Jungle Book really manage to capture the classic original's spirit?

It's a different genre and audience admittedly, but Gus van Sant's almost shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's Psycho in the 1990s was a damp squib, proving a copy of a classic loses something in translation.

The same could be true of cel to CGI animation.
Bruce, who also worked with his dad on assorted animated Winnie the Pooh films (he was the voice of Christopher Robin), has spent two decades making wildlife films for companies including the BBC.
He thinks Walt would have embraced CGI 'toons.

"That's really the thing that drives the studio (Disney) forward and keeps them alive and fresh; making a similar kind of product that's unique to the time it was made in and has this timeless quality."

If a CGI Jungle Book were made, a generation with no expectations of the original would probably embrace it with open arms. After all, it's purists who grew up with the original movie that might have a problem, not the newcomers.

Bruce is on the money when he says, "The attitude of the Disney studio is keep pushing the thing forward; keep adopting the newest, greatest stuff."

He's well aware that the origins of Disney were in a time when feature animation did not exist: "You had to invent it, or at least perfect it to the point where people would watch it, so that pioneering spirit is something that still drives the studio and I'm happy for it," he explains.

These days Bruce divides his time between conserving wild and agricultural land in Santa Barbara, California; offering advice as a wildlife biology consultant on various endangered species and bird surveys, and also does "a bit of architectural photography".

However, for millions he will always be the voice of that 'man cub' who taught us all about the Bear Necessities of entertainment, and life: great characters, a good story, and the occasional foot-tapping dance routine/musical number thrown in for good measure.

Today's filmmakers could do worse than take notes as they watch one of the last, best films Walt oversaw. It's a masterclass in entertainment, and personally I think it could only be enhanced by a Pixar revamp.

The Jungle Book is out now on Blu ray.