BOOK REVIEW – The Art of The Jungle Book by Ellen Wolff

By Marty Mulrooney

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The Art of The Jungle Book by appropriately named writer Ellen Wolff is the official companion to the recently released live-action Disney adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s collection of stories of the same name. Published by Titan Books, with a foreword by the film’s director Jon Favreau (Swingers, Iron Man 3), the book offers an inside look at the technological magic behind the art of the film, along with interviews with all of the key cast members.

This book provides a peek behind the curtain as a tool for understanding how this film was actually created. It also serves the purpose of shining a spotlight on the countless hours of work that the artists and technical team poured into this shared vision. If these dedicated people do their jobs properly, their fingerprints disappear and the movie seems to come to life through magic. This book is an opportunity to highlight the inspired efforts of the hundreds of filmmakers who have contributed to this work.
Foreword by Jon Favreau

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The Art of The Jungle Book is a stunning coffee table book from the outset, chronicling the journey of the filmmaking process across six unique chapters along with a foreword and conclusion. Titan Books are masters at creating this type of book (see The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road) and they don’t disappoint here. It’s beautifully designed and crammed with behind-the-scenes details. As usual, it serves more as an overall ‘making of’ book than a dedicated art book, but that’s a small complaint.

Behind-the-scenes photography, computer generated designs and interviews join the obligatory concept art to really drive home the technological magic that went into making the film. It’s all beautifully printed in stunning full colour on glossy paper and, unlike some other books of a similar nature, there are many glorious full-page spreads allowed to showcase the art in all its true glory without the interruptions of borders or text. Even if you never read a single word, there’s enough value for money here in terms of visual satisfaction alone.

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Thankfully, the text is rather entertaining too. Although interviews with the cast and crew might be stepping slightly outside the box suggested by the book’s title, each one offers great humour, warmth and insight. It’s lovely to find a book that seems to have been made with the full cooperation of the filmmakers, rather than simply cobbled together from what could be found. There isn’t a wealth of information – you’ll still want to watch the special features when the Blu-ray arrives – but what is shared is informative and interesting, with hardly any filler to be found.

The wonderful thing about all of the concept art is that it closely matches what eventually ended up on-screen, no doubt a result of the film being like “doing post production first and  then doing photography.” The unique nature of the film (with all of the supporting cast and the majority of the environments created using visual effects as they went along) no doubt resulted in concept art that had to be particularly detailed, lifelike and beautiful. The stunning examples on display in The Art of The Jungle Book certainly add weight to this assumption.

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Some of the most interesting and impressive parts of the book are where the bluescreen process is shown. It’s amazing to see how, via a series of photographs and computer generated images, every individual element in a scene is layered to create the flawless final shot. There is even a photograph where Jon Favreau stands in as Baloo, holding a giant fake plastic head to provide the correct line of vision for human actor Neel Sethi!

Overall, The Art of The Jungle Book is a beautiful coffee table book and a solid companion for fans of the film. Although it never goes into too much detail, the well-written text compliments the gorgeous artwork on display perfectly and never overwhelms the experience. If you love film art and want to gain a little bit of light filmmaking insight on the side, you should definitely check out this book!

9 OUT OF 10

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