A few years ago, there was a Hollywood arms races between Disney and Warner Bros. over Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Disney had their old cartoon to draw from, along with its famous songs like “The Bare Necessities.” Warner Bros. had Andy Serkis, the king of motion-capture performances, directing a mo-cap version of the story with a cast that included Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Benedict Cumberbatch. In the end, Disney got their Jungle Book to theaters first, in the spring of 2016. Serkis’ film, which was eventually retitled Mowgli, was shot but never came out. A first trailer finally appeared last May, which promised a release on October 19, 2018.

But now, via Deadline, comes surprising word that those plans have changed in a major way: Warners has sold Mowgli to Netflix, which will debut the movie on its streaming service in 2019. While Netflix has been snatching up troubled projects from big studios in recent months, like Paramount’s The Cloverfield Paradox, this will clearly be its biggest acquisition to date, a full-fledged CGI spectacular with a budget that has to be in the vicinity of $100 million.

Serkis gave Netflix a lengthy statement about the film and the news:

What excites me most is the forward thinking at Netflix in how to present this, and the message of the movie. They understand this is a darker telling that doesn’t fit it into a four quadrant slot. It’s really not meant for young kids, though I think it’s possible that 10 or above can watch it. It was always meant to be PG-13, and this allows us to go deeper, with darker themes, to be scary and frightening in moments. The violence between animals is not gratuitous, but it’s definitely there. This way of going allows us to get the film out without compromise.

Serkis also notes that the film was shot with 3D in mind, and so there will be “some kind of theatrical component” for customers who want to see it that way. (He also called the 3D version “exceptional,” because what else would he say?) Even if no one goes to the theater to see Mowgli, this gives Netflix a tentpole for next year to rival almost anything coming from the major studios.

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