Mowgli, actor/director Andy Serkis’ adaption of Rudyard Kipling’s classic The Jungle Book, will no longer be released by Warner Brothers but instead will be premiering on Netflix’s streaming service. Netflix purchased the film from the studio who originally had it scheduled for an October 19 release. It will now make its debut on the streaming service at some point in 2019.
In addition to directing, Serkis co-stars as Baloo the bear, which he plays through performance capture. Rohan Chand stars as the titular orphan of Kipling’s classic tale, who when left orphaned as an infant in the jungle is raised by wolves and can communicate with the animals therein. The movie also stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale as some of the jungle animal denizens.
Speculation is that Warners dumped the film to Netflix in order to avoid unfavorable comparisons to director Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, which came out in April 2016, also adapting Kipling’s public domain novel. The Favreau film was a hit with critics, grossed $966 million at the global box office and nabbed an Academy Award for Visual Effects.
Both Mowgli and The Jungle Book were in development simultaneously, with Serkis coming onboard this project in 2014. While it was to be his directorial debut, delays led him to direct the historical drama Breath first. But that delay also meant that the Disney-produced version helmed by Favreau got to theaters first.
This is not the first somewhat high profile film to be sold off to the streaming service by a studio who might be afraid of its underwhelming box office potential. Paramount sold off The God Particle, which they had reworked into an installment of their Cloverfield franchise The Cloverfield Paradox to Netflix very quietly last year. Netflix revealed in February that they had the film with a big Super Bowl ad announcing its availability on the service immediately following the conclusion of the game. But the excitement of the reveal wasn’t enough to overcome the poor critical notices that the film got. More recently, the streaming service premiered the Michael Pena-starring science-fiction thriller Extinction which it had purchased from Universal.