Continually taking on the new characteristics that is the only hope for survival in the wilderness—besides fun songs—Warner Bros.’ The Jungle Book has now become a Ron Howard movie, in the hopes that this evolutionary leap will keep it from falling prey to Disney’s bigger, faster Jungle Book movie with Jon Favreau. Warners’ live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic child-rearing manual was actually the first of the two competing Jungle Book projects to be announced, with Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves attached to develop a newer, more realistic version of the story about what happens when orphans are sent to live with wolves and bears. But the film fell behind Disney after director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu dropped out, and presumably after Warner Bros. balked at Kloves’ one-page drawing of a boy being eaten.
Now Warner Bros. is back to keeping pace with Disney, with a new screenplay from Callie Kloves—who inherited the story from her father, like so many traits that ensure she’ll continue to thrive—and Howard likely in as director and producer. Still, there’s no telling when Howard will actually get around to it: He’s currently finishing In The Heart Of The Sea, he’s attached to direct the next Da Vinci Code movie, and he recently picked up the CIA drug-running story Mena—and we already agreed not to bug him about The Dark Tower for a while. Unless Howard makes this his very next project, Disney’s version could still overtake it as the dominant species. If so, at least we’ve still got Howard’s first film about the questions of nature vs. nurture, Splash.