People's Kathy Enrich Dowd reports the 63-year-old actor will voice the CGIed Baloo, "the laid-back, ticklish bear who befriends Mowgli." Mowgli's an orphan child raised by wolves in Indian jungle who learns about life through the animals around him—pretty nifty allegory, really. Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book is based off the 1894 classic novel by Rudyard Kipling.
Disney's 1967 animated feature The Jungle Book made Phil Harris's Oscar-nominated "Bare Necessities" a little kid anthem. Who doesn’t remember dancing around the room, singing along to the cheerful bear, as he described all you need in life?
Can Murray just as iconic? Depends on the film's direction.
The cast is already bursting at the seams with talent. Christopher Walken'll be King Louie, Scarlet Johansson slithers her way as the python Kaa, Idris Elba's hypnotic voice dazzles as evil Shere Khan, and Lupita Nyong'o shall mother Mowgli as the wolf Raksh.
"Bill Murray to Play Baloo in Disney's The Jungle Book Reboot" adds Once Upon A Time's Giancarlo Esposito will lead the pack as Akela.
However, newcomer Neel Sethi landed the coveted role of Mowgli. Stephanie Webbing discusses the choice of Mowgli in "Bill Murray Cast as Baloo the Bear in The Jungle Book Live-Action Animation Film."
In a statement to the magazine last month, Disney showed confidence in the young actor's skills. "Neel is a newcomer from New York, picked from among thousands of auditions, and his role in The Jungle Book marks his first foray into acting."
"Casting is the most important element of any film and finding the right kid to play Mowgli was imperative." And Favreau was just as confident and complimentary. "Neel has tremendous talent and charisma."
And given Maleficent’s success from cartoon into live action, the technological jump from 1967 to 2015 means a more immersed world for Disney's artists and production. 2D art is pretty much dead and buried at the juggernaut studio, and the push for 3D and CGI since acquiring Pixar shows the forward direction. So making The Jungle Book in 3D should be no surprise.
The Jungle Book will arrive in theaters on Oct. 9, 2015, but it's not the only adaptation in the works. And Dave McNary from Variety spills all about that "other" project in "Andy Serkis’ ‘Jungle Book: Origins’ Set for October 2016, A Year After Disney’s ‘Jungle Book’".
Warner Brothers announced their project, Jungle Book: Origins, a few hours before Disney dropped their bombshell. Since Kipling's book is public domain, it's easy for both studios to create versions of the same source.
And before Serkis took over, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of upcoming Birdman, was a name circulating in the rumor mill. While this is Serkis's first directing gig, the actor's made a deep mark in Hollywood as Peter Jackson's Gollum in Lord of the Rings. He was also a second unit director in the Hobbit movies.
Even though Warner Brothers has given Origins a premiere date of Oct. 21, 2016, the roles remain uncast. Very little is known about Origins, in fact, but the name implies a series of films following the life of Mowgli.