‘The Jungle Book’ World Premiere, Jon Favreau Took Selfies

The Jungle Book cast and crew were given the red carpet treatment during the film’s world premiere last night, April 4. Held at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, many of The Jungle Book‘s cast and Disney representatives were on hand for photo ops including director Jon Favreau who took time to take a selfie with the crowd.

“The original film was the only time Walt Disney had celebrity casting, so I felt that in keeping with that tradition, I wanted to hire people whose voices were recognizable. It turned into something [where] the cast was able to breathe life in humanity into these digital characters,” Favreau told the Hollywood Reporter.

The Jungle Book features an all-star cast of voices including Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, and Lupita Nyong’o. In fact, the only star character who isn’t computer animated is Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli, the film’s central character. In addition to Sethi being a film newbie, he also didn’t actually get to perform with the other films stars, but Favreau showed him the ropes. Sethi admits that his first film role wasn’t all that easy.

“Yes, it was a little hard,” Sethi said, “but Jon really helped me through it all. There were puppets there and he got into the puppets and interacted with me and that made it a lot of fun.”

The Jungle Book special screening featured an impressive virtual jungle for guests to walk through following the carpet of red, but it pales in comparison to the jungle featured in the actual movie. While footage of The Jungle Book looks beautiful, it too is a masterpiece of movie magic.

Though the story takes place in an Indian jungle, the film was actually shot inside a sound stage in Los Angeles transformed with the “magic” of digital and CGI effects. According to a press release from Disney, more than 800 computer graphic artists spent over a year creating more than 70 species, 100 million leaves, and images of fire and water. Disney says that the “virtual environment makes up 80 percent of the film frame 100 percent of the time.” The filmmakers used motion capture technology as well to help them picture the whole film before the live taping. Apparently, even Favreau wore the dotted suit a few times for a few select scenes of The Jungle Book.

“When I think about Disney’s legacy, I relate to Walt’s original dream,” he says. “Walt Disney’s work has influenced my work. He was considered high tech for the time. He was the first person who locked soundtrack with picture, so the characters were perfectly choreographed to the musical score—something that absolutely blew people’s minds. Disney was on the cutting edge of technology.”

Among the guests at The Jungle Book premiere was Disney legend Richard Sherman who wrote the music of the original 1967 animated film with his brother Robert who passed away in 2012. The new movie includes music from the first film with a new soundtrack by composer John Debney. Ironically, Debney is the son of Louis Debney who worked with Walt Disney on the original film.

“We knew going in that we wanted to honor the music of the original so we utilized a lot of the original. My job was to kind of take all the colonels of the original and yet to bring it to this new contemporary world,” said Debney.

In the related press release, Debney recalls about his father’s work on the first film. “When I was a youngster, they were making this incredible magical film called The Jungle Book, and I was sort of a studio brat,” says Debney. “I got to know the young man, Bruce Reitherman, who played Mowgli. We would go on adventures around the world with his family.”

There has been some concern that the new Jungle Book film will overshadow the original. Film producer Brigham Taylor addressed the issue last night as well.

“It felt like it could live like a companion piece, that every parent should show their child the 1967 movie and then you can watch this movie and find them complementary to each other. I felt like we weren’t attempting to replace or erase anything, but to add to the legend of this universal story that every generation should probably have retold for them.”

The Jungle Book opens nationwide on Friday, April 15.

[Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]