What would you ask famed director, actor, producer and all around nice guy Jon Favreau?
How would you choose your words when questioning newcomer and star of Disney’s The Jungle Book, Neel Sethi?
These were questions I was faced with when I found out we were going to be interviewing these two talents as part of the #JungleBookEvent press tour. I wanted to present questions that YOU my readers would want to know the answers to but a question that they may not be tired of answering from their long days of interviews.
I knew that my daughters third grade class had read The Jungle Book in literature class in the fall and I knew that my other daughters sixth grade class was the same age as Neel so I asked THEM what they would want to ask. I was going to be the voice box for these young people and help give them one more connection to this classic piece of literature that has become a cinematic classic.
— Sarah Mock (@SarahBMock) March 24, 2016
— Sarah Mock (@SarahBMock) April 1, 2016
Jon and Neel walk in and see that James has Jungle Book figurines on the table and it sparked this interaction:
Can I tell you…? Marvel Movies and Elf had no merchandise and I was so sad that there was never merchandise. And finally on Ironman, there’s merchandise and they send you one. So you’re protecting it. So this time as we were looking at Jungle Book Merch and they said, “Well, if you want to order it…you should order it in advance because if you wait until it comes out, it’s — it’s gonna be forever because the way that merchandising works is there’s different quarters and cycles, etc.’
So I look at the pictures and say I will take 10 of those, 20 of those, 50 of those. I want to give some of those out. And I fill out the thing. I don’t think anything of it.
And then time passed and deliveries started to be dropped off….
They delivered about 20 boxes the first day and that was the first shipment. And my wife asks ‘What’s going on here?’
Our whole dinning room is filled with boxes! Then I get back from Australia… the entire driveway is full of boxes. So we had so many stuffed animals and every kid that comes over, it’s like Christmas! If it’s still around by Halloween, there’s gonna be a very lucky kid.
How did you get started and did you come to Disney or Disney came to you for this project?
I was working with Disney on a project called “Magic Kingdom” which I thought was really cool. It was essentially the Park coming to life. A family goes to the park every year, the daughter is about to go away to college.
She doesn’t want to go.
It’s the one last time the get to go to the park and something happens, the park changes over. And it’s whatever is implied by the park coming to life in full scale. They get separated, and as a family have to face challenges, come back together again, get separated.
So, just a big adventure but inspired by all the different lands of the park and the different attractions I grew up with, almost like a dream! The dreams I used to have when I was younger about Disneyland. We weren’t moving forward with this Magic Kingdom project but I had been researching how do I do something with live humans but a set that you’re not gonna build. There are too many times when I worked on Effects Movies where we build these big sets and then you end up replacing them and you pay for it twice. It seems wasteful, inefficient, to me, I want to get all the money, all the money they’re gonna spend on the screen.
And so I met with Rob Lagato, actually, who is our Visual Effects Supervisor on this. I was discussing with him, how would I do this if I want to do this for “Magic Kingdom” hoping of course that maybe it would get made and I would hire him. He invited me back to his place, showed me Visual Effects, how he did things in “Hugo”, talked about “Avatar” “Titanic” working with Marty Scorsese, talked with Jim Cameron.
Just a very experienced guy who really understood Visual Effects and what you could do with them. And I didn’t really thing anything of it after that and then I got the call from Disney to come in.
Then I got the call from Disney to come in.
Alan Horn loves “Jungle Book.”
He loved it as a kid.
He loved the Novel, the stories, and this was going to be the next one after the success that they had, they wanted to explore what could happen.
And I didn’t really understand, I knew the Animated Film. Doing a photo real version of that didn’t seem obvious on how to do that. But as he discussed “Life of Pi” and he talked about the tone of that film and he talked about “Avatar”… it got me thinking we could create our own complete environment. And if you do that, I could do something similar to what I was thinking about for ‘Magic Kingdom’ which was, create: Disneyland a Castle this big, if the branches of trees in this movie in real life were this big or a panther is this big, make him as big as he was in the cartoon. Make him bigger, play with scale.
Always keep it photo real but you give it a dream like quality so you see the whole thing through kid’s eyes. And so it was their enthusiasm, and their commitment to doing this. And honestly, the confidence they had with the success of the other live action adaptations that made me realize that they were an enthusiastic partner.
[bctt tweet=”Keep it photo real but give it a dream like quality. See it through kid’s [email protected]_Favreau” username=”SarahBMock”]
How did you know when you found Mowgli?
I can’t take credit for this talented young man. He wasn’t experienced …. being a Father,I recognized it, it was confidence. He was a full formed version of himself and so we kind of got who he was. Very quick on the comeback, very confident, and I think the fact that he wasn’t a kid who was out there looking for acting jobs, it made it fun for him. It didn’t feel like he was concerned about failing or concerned about getting the part or not.
How did he know about the audition?
They came in on a lark.
He saw a flyer.
They auditioned and I was looking at 2,000 kids. They would send me the best of the lot and he was one. They said he was a little younger than we had thought. He’s from Manhattan, that helped.
I’m from New York.
I like the Century Theatre.
And there was something that made me smile. He started doing martial arts. After the audition was over, he said, ‘I do my own stunts!” And I was like, “This kid’s having a good time and then we brought his family out and I met with the family.
What was the audition part like?
I was in a dance class and the teacher said I’d be very good for it. I never thought about acting before but I auditioned. They really liked me so we flew in LA, 2 weeks later, we flew to LA. The producer called 9to say I got the part) and were flipping and jumping and we were so happy! We went out and got my favorite food!
You had to act with a lot of things that weren’t there. Did you have something in your mind when you were actually filming and how close was the final film to that?
(sic) They made puppets for me to interact with (sic) It made it a lot easier. The puppets sometimes looked like Baloo and that helped a lot, and John got into the puppet sometimes. That helped me interact with him.
My Son is 7 and he wanted to know what as the scariest scene for you to film?
None of it was really scary because I was always 30 inches off the ground but I didn’t really like the mud. It would dry on me and get hot and itchy. Then they would spritz it with cold water for it get muddy again and I didn’t like that (but I) had to act like it was normal (because) I’m getting chased by a stampede of Buffalo.
Here comes my questions!
I have some questions from third and sixth graders at Logos Academy in York Pennsylvania. They read the Jungle Book in their Literature Class this fall. They would like to know about school. Did you go to a traditional school, what was it like to transition from school to set and back again…
Lois the teacher, was in the room and Jon pointed out that Neel should probably get this question right. And he, Jon, appreciated Lois as an acting coach in addition to her teaching
I was in a normal school when I auditioned, it was actually the last day of 5th Grade, the last day of Elementary School. All of my good friends went to the same school as me. Everybody thought it was cool for a week and then they (it was back to normal.)
One last question for Jon. ( I think this was my favorite question!)
Out of everything that you’ve worked on, have you taken anything meaningful from the set of one of your films?
The one I took from (this set) was….if you notice when he goes into King Louis, the Temple where King Louis is… The Cow Bell.
There were cheers from the bloggers because who doesn’t love a bit more cow bell?