Disney’s upcoming live-action take on The Jungle Book is certainly aiming high. The highly anticipated special-effects driven adventure film from director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) features one hell of a cast, but you’ll only be hearing most of them.
Indeed, at least for most of the movie, the only human we’ll see is Neel Sethi, the child actor cast as Mowgli. Sethi has one hell of a job here, acting off CG animal characters voiced by an array of stars, including Idris Elba as the Bengal tiger Shere Khan, Scarlett Johansson as the snake Kaa, and Ben Kingsley as the protective panther Bagheera. Other cast members include Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito, and Lupita Nyong’o.
Disney has released some fantastic photos of the voice cast, sadly, sans Murray, and their respective animal characters. Check them out below, along with brief descriptions and words from the actors themselves.
The Jungle Book hits the U.S. on April 15.
Bagheera is a sleek panther who feels it’s his duty to help the man-cub depart with dignity when it’s time for him to leave his jungle home. “Bagheera is Mowgli’s adoptive parent,” says Ben Kingsley, who lends his voice to Bagheera. “His role in Mowgli’s life is to educate, to protect and to guide. My Bagheera was military—he’s probably a colonel. He is instantly recognizable by the way he talks, how he acts and what his ethical code is.”
King Louie is a formidable ape who desperately wants the secret of Man’s deadly “red flower”–fire. He’s convinced Mowgli has the information he seeks. “King Louie is huge–12 feet tall,” says Christopher Walken, who voices the character. “But he’s as charming as he is intimidating when he wants to be.”
Akela is the strong and hardened alpha-male wolf who shoulders the responsibility of his pack. He welcomes Mowgli to the family, but worries he may one day compromise their safety. “Akela is a fierce patriarch of the wolf pack,” says Giancarlo Esposito, who voices the character. “He believes the strength of the pack lies in what each and every wolf offers. He’s a great leader, a wise teacher.”
Lupita Nyong’o voices Raksha, a mother wolf who cares deeply for all of her pups—including man-cub Mowgli, whom she adopts as one of her own when he’s abandoned in the jungle as an infant. “She is the protector, the eternal mother,” says Nyong’o. “The word Raksha actually means protection in Hindi. I felt really connected to that, wanting to protect a son that isn’t originally hers but one she’s taken for her own.”
Kaa is a massive python who uses her voice and hypnotic gaze to entrance Mowgli. The man-cub can’t resist her captivating embrace. “Kaa seduces and entraps Mowgli with her storytelling,” says Scarlett Johansson. “She’s the mirror into Mowgli’s past. The way she moves is very alluring, almost coquettish.”
Voiced by Idris Elba, Shere Khan bears the scars of man, which fuel his hatred of humans. Convinced that Mowgli poses a threat, the Bengal tiger is determined to rid the jungle of the man-cub. “Shere Khan reigns with fear,” says Elba. “He terrorizes everyone he encounters because he comes from a place of fear.”
Synopsis for The Jungle Book:
Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, “The Jungle Book” is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray). Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire. The all-star cast also includes Lupita Nyong’o as the voice of the fiercely protective mother wolf Raksha, and Giancarlo Esposito as the voice of wolf pack’s alpha male Akela. “The Jungle Book” seamlessly blends live-action with photorealistic CGI animals and environments, using up-to-the-minute technology and storytelling techniques to immerse audiences in an enchanting and lush world. The wild adventure swings into theaters in 3D on April 15, 2016.