'The Jungle Book' Uses CGI To Swing Into New Territory For Animation

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I watched Star Wars: The Phantom Menace at a movie theatre somewhere in southern California. I was nine years old, and I remember thinking, "Well, they've done it. How will computer animation ever get better than this?" Obviously, little me had some learnin' to do. The technological advances of The Lord of the Rings and other epics of the early millennium would quickly shut down my assumptions — it turns out that there is a lot more to CGI life than Jar Jar Binks. And while the past five years alone have offered leaps and bounds in terms of CGI and animation — Inside Out, anyone? — the use of CGI in The Jungle Book, out Apr. 15, will introduce a whole new mode of animated storytelling.

During the past several weeks, the film's director Jon Favreau and star-studded cast have revealed more information about The Jungle Book 's stunning animation, and it sounds truly ground-breaking. If Bill Murray's turn as Baloo and Idris Elba's take on Shere Khan aren't enough to get you excited for this movie's possibilities, perhaps its carefully crafted CGI might change your mind. What you can expect visually from Disney's latest film is something truly unforgettable.

Favreau has made it clear that this movie is a labor of love. According to Collider, "The question for [Favreau] became, 'If I love it so much in those other forms, why do it now?' and he realized that the technology had come to a point where he could actually tell the story in a different way, bringing some of what exists in the imagination to the big screen." In what could be an homage to the original Jungle Book, every element of the film is animated, with the exception of Mowgli. Played by Neel Sethi, this Mowgli's entire filming took place in front of a blue screen, presenting a unique challenge for the child actor.

This deviation from traditional combos of live-action and CGI translates into a sensibility that the A.V. Club called "photorealistic," and if you see the movie, you'll undoubtedly agree that the animals look as natural — even while talking — as if you saw them in real life. By crafting an entirely animated space, the film doesn't risk the strange contrast between reality and CGI that occurs so often.

Even though The Jungle Book is the first Disney film of its kind to use this specific form of animation, the process of bringing together the artists mimicked Disney's typical process. Wrote Germain Lussier og i09,

Unlike most live-action movies, Favreau developed The Jungle Book in the exact same way Pixar and Disney Animation do their films: by hiring a group of people to work on the story, and plotting out the film, in animatics and storyboards, dozens and dozens of times before even touching a camera. This is a process that all but assures your movie works, at least on some level.

So, with such groundbreaking animation, will The Jungle Book emerge as a new classic? That remains to be seen, but at the very least, it'll certainly be one of the most talked-about movies of the year.

Images: Giphy; Disney