The Walt Disney Studios went waaaay beyond the bare necessities to find Mowgli for its upcoming feature The Jungle Book. After a global search, Disney finally landed on 10-year-old newcomer Neel Sethi from New York.
Sethi will make his acting debut in the film directed by Jon Favreau (Elf, Iron Man). And not only will he be the greenest actor in front of the green screen, but he’ll also be the only one: Disney says the film, a combination of live-action and animation, will feature just one human.
“Casting is the most important element of any film and finding the right kid to play Mowgli was imperative,” Favreau said in a statement. “Neel has tremendous talent and charisma. There is a lot riding on his little shoulders, and I’m confident he can handle it.”
The studio says it went through thousands of auditions “from New York to New Zealand, London to Canada, and all throughout the United States and India” before deciding on Sethi.
“Neel embodies the heart, humor, and daring of the character,” casting director Sarah Finn said. “He’s warm and accessible, yet also has an intelligence well beyond his years and impressed us all with his ability to hold his own in any situation. Even though he has no professional acting experience, his natural charisma and instincts jumped out at us.”
Voice actors include Scarlett Johansson (Kaa, the python), Idris Elba (Shere Khan, the duplicitous tiger), Lupita Nyong’o (Rakcha, the mother wolf) and Ben Kingsley (Bagheera, the friendly leopard). No word on who might be Baloo the carefree bear — but forget about your worries and your strife. We’re sure he’ll be in there.
Disney’s version of The Jungle Book is scheduled for an Oct. 9, 2015 release. Warner Bros. is also working on a Jungle Book movie with Andy Serkis directing, but no date has been set for that film.