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Battle of the film adaptations: Andy Serkis's 'Jungle Book' to come out a year after Disney's

Weston WilliamsThe Christian Science Monitor

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.

Warner Bros. has announced that its version of "The Jungle Book" will come out only a year after Disney's release of their own film adaption of the 1894 classic.

According to comingsoon.net, Disney's Jungle Book is set for release on October 9, 2015, and Warner Bros.'s adaptation for October 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 farther along than Warner Brothers'. 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.

"Origins" will be directed by Andy Serkis. Disney's "The Jungle Book" will be directed by Jon Favreau.

Disney is certainly putting a lot of big-name stars into their movie. Voices for many of the anthropomorphic animals in the story will be provided by the likes of 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 original source material, including darker elements Disney probably wouldn't use.

That source material is Rudyard Kipling's collection of short stories entitled "The Jungle Book," published in magazines between 1893 and 1894. The collection has been in the public domain for decades, though Warner Brothers would be unable to use elements of the 1967 Disney film that weren't in the book. Christopher Walken's character in the upcoming Disney film, for instance, is "King Louie," an Orangutan that never appeared in the Kipling books, but did appear in the 1967 film. As such, Disney is free to use the character again, but Warner Brothers is not.

"The Jungle Book: Origins" will be Andy Serkis's directorial debut. As an actor, he is known primarily for his groundbreaking motion-capture work as Gollum for "Lord of the Rings" and as the ape Ceaser 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, 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. Jon 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.