It’s only a few weeks until we’ll see the A-list animals of the new Jungle Book film in action, and Disney is whetting our appetite by staging a photoshoot and interview with the movie’s voice stars alongside their CGI jungle counterparts.
Suffice to say, it’s a totally fur-renzy of acting and visual effects talent.
First up we get Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito as daddy wolf Akela, not to be confused with your son’s scout leader. “Akela is a fierce patriarch of the wolf pack,” the actor says. “He believes the strength of the pack lies in what each and every wolf offers. He’s a great leader, a wise teacher.”
Next, it’s Star Wars’ own Maz Kanata Lupita Nyong’o hiding her face behding CGI once again as matriarch Raksha, who adopts Mowgli as one of her cubs.
“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.”
Snaking in at number three is Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa, the massive python who tries to ensnare Mowgli. “Kaa seduces and entraps Mowgli with her storytelling,” Johansson says. “She’s the mirror into Mowgli’s past. The way she moves is very alluring, almost coquettish.”
Another looking for a bit of monkey business is Christopher Walken as King Louie, the gigantic prehistoric orangutan looking to learn the secrets of fire.
“King Louie is huge, 12 feet tall,” says Christopher Walken, “but he’s as charming as he is intimidating when he wants to be.”
Also intimidating us all is Idris Elba’s jungle tyrant Shere Khan, a bit of a man-hater (and maneater) after he was injured by humans.
“Shere Khan reigns with fear,” says Elba. “He terrorises everyone he encounters because he comes from a place of fear.”
And finally we see Ben Kingsley as Mowgli’s guardian Bagheera, who’ll probably be looking for a quick march through the jungle.
“Bagheera is Mowgli’s adoptive parent,” says Kingsley. “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 recognisable by the way he talks, how he acts and what his ethical code is.”
Sadly however, the shoot doesn’t include Bill Murray with his bear Baloo – we’re guessing when it came to press, he insisted on doing the bare necessity.
The Jungle Book will be released in UK cinemas from the 15th April