In the jungle, it's all about competition. Animals fight over food, territory, and mates. Often the strongest predators face off in competitions that attempt to show that they are masters of their domain.
The same might be said for movie studios.
According to comingsoon.net, Disney's "The Jungle Book" is set for release on Oct. 9, 2015, and Warner Bros.'s adaptation for Oct. 21, 2016. That's less than a year and two weeks' difference between major movie releases based on the same source material.
While both projects have been in the planning stages for months, Disney's version is further along than that of Warner Bros. The past several weeks have been full of casting announcements from Disney, while Warner Bros. only set a title for their film, "The Jungle Book: Origins," a couple of days ago.
Disney is certainly putting a lot of big-name stars into its movie. Voices for many of the anthropomorphic animals in the story will be provided by Christopher Walken, Scarlett Johansson, Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong'o, Idris Elba, and Bill Murray, according to Rolling Stone. Casting has not yet begun on the Warner Bros. project.
While both films will draw from similar sources, both studios have stated different goals for their respective movies. According to Screen Rant, the Disney film will be a family-friendly movie, more or less a live action/CGI update of the animated film Disney already released in 1967. The Warner Bros. project will attempt to stay closer to original source material, including darker elements Disney probably wouldn't use.
That source material is Rudyard Kipling's collection of short stories titled "The Jungle Book," published in magazines from 1893 to 1894. The collection has been in the public domain for decades, though Warner Bros. would be unable to use elements of the 1967 Disney film that weren't in the book. Walken's character in the upcoming Disney film, for instance, is King Louie, an Orangutan that never appeared in the Kipling stories but did appear in the 1967 film. As such, Disney is free to use the character again, but Warner Bros. is not.
"Origins" will be Serkis's directorial debut. As an actor, he is known primarily for his groundbreaking motion-capture work as Gollum for "The Lord of the Rings" and as the ape Caesar for the recent "Planet of the Apes" films. This expertise will likely come in handy for creating motion-capture CG models of the various talking animals required for bringing Kipling's story to life. While Serkis has never directed an entire feature film, he has had a great deal of experience with directing action sequences, including the crowd-pleasing barrel escape scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," according to Variety. Disney's film will be in good hands with action scenes as well. Favreau directed "Iron Man" and "Iron Man 2."
The question of whose film will prevail will have to wait a couple of years. The epic battle of the studios won't end until both films have been released and their respective profits have been calculated. Until then, all bets are off.
Weston Williams is a Monitor contributor.