Disney's live-action (but mostly made with groundbreaking CGI) adaptation of The Jungle Book made just shy of a $1 billion in 2016, so it makes sense that the studio would order a sequel. The choice to have Mowgli (Neel Sethi) remain in the jungle instead of sending him to the human village (as was done in the 1967 animated film) allowed room for more chapters in the budding franchise. While Jon Favreau is currently busy working on the Lion King remake, he is expected to return as director with Sethi also set to reprise his role of Mowgli.
In the meantime, Justin Marks (writer of the first installment and creator of Starz's Counterpart with J.K. Simmons) is in charge of writing the script for the follow-up. Interviewing with Slash Film, Marks talked about the script and inspirations for the plot. Sadly, it won't be based on TaleSpin, the 1990s spinoff cartoon of the original movie where Baloo flies a plane as a bush pilot in the 1930s. No, The Jungle Book 2 will draw from two separately unique sources.
“In the second film, the idea is to go further through the Kipling but also go into some of the Disney resources from the ’67 film that maybe didn’t get to see the light of day in the first film,” said Marks. “If you look back to Bill Peet’s work on the original film, some of which was thrown out by Walt Disney, Jon [Favreau] and I really dove deep into the Disney archives to see some of the ideas. We were like, ‘Wait, that’s a great idea. We really need that in the film.’ So we’ve built it out like that.”
Bill Peet wrote the initial screenplay for the animated picture in the 1960s, but left Disney after clashing with Walt who didn't approve of the dark tone Peet wanted to pursue. Despite being booted from the production, he created two of the most famous characters, King Louie (Louis Prima) and the young girl (Darleen Carr) Mowgli falls in love with at the end. Peet also came up with the idea of having Mowgli return to the human village at the end of the movie instead of going between the jungle and village like he does in Rudyard Kipling's book from 1894.
“There is so much more Kipling to adapt,” added Marks. “I just finished a draft of it quite recently. Even in the first film, we really looked to the other Kipling stories for inspiration, The Elephant and the history and the mythology and the creation of the jungle.” Indeed, Kipling published The Second Jungle Book in 1895, a year after the first, which includes a prequel story that takes place before Mowgli's beef with the tiger Shere Khan.
As for whether or not Mowgli will return to the human world, Marks says it's possible, but wants to focus on the boy's strong connection to the jungle and the creatures that raised him as their own. "It was important to Jon and it was important to me to tell a story about family being what you make of it, and identity being the people around you and that’s who you are," he said. "So it didn’t feel right to send him to another place, at least in the first film. A later film, maybe we reevaluate that.”
The Disney sequel is a ways off, but another (unrelated) take on Kipling's classic stories, Mowgli, will arrive next October from Warner Brothers and director Andy Serkis. And just like Favreau's version, it's got an all-star cast of Serkis (Baloo), Christian Bale (Bagheera), Benedict Cumberbatch (Shere Khan), Cate Blanchett (Kaa), and Naomie Harris (Raksha).