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New 'Jungle Book' was an unusual 'journey' for veteran Disney producer
Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kinglsey) and Mowgli (Neel Sethi) appear in Disney's new, live-action version of "The Jungle Book." - photo by Josh Terry
Most of what youre seeing isnt there.

That may be an odd thing to hear for anyone who has seen the striking visuals in the trailer for Disneys brand-new version of The Jungle Book, but producer Brigham Taylor knows what he's talking about.

Taylor produced the film alongside director Jon Favreau, and though its marketing makes The Jungle Book look like a live-action adaptation of Disneys 1967 animated classic, little aside from the young boy at the center of the story actually exists outside of a hard drive.

Taylor said the availability of advanced effects was a big part of what persuaded the people at Disney to revisit Rudyard Kiplings classic tales of a young boy growing up in the jungle. Previous attempts at a live-action adaptation had been made over the years, but theres only so much you could do with a trained tiger or an orangutan, Taylor said. We knew we could create animals that could embody the very personalities that Walt had created (in the 1967 animated film), so it felt like the timing was right.

Taylor, who landed in Southern California after a degree from Brigham Young University got him started in the movie business, is no stranger to special effects. His IMDB profile cites work on films such as 2015s Tomorrowland and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Yet he describes The Jungle Book as a strange journey unlike any movie Ive ever worked on.

The difference is the level of your reliance on the effects, he explained. Working on the Pirates of the Caribbean films involved a lot of physical set construction and shooting on real boats out in the middle of the ocean. And then you figured out how to cleverly integrate a zombie pirate or a Kraken, he said.

But The Jungle Book reversed the process, injecting a single live element actor Neel Sethi, who plays young Mowgli into the synthetic environments that had been built for all the talking animals.

It forced us to build the world before we photographed anything, Taylor said.

Familiar voices such as those of Bill Murray and Christopher Walken bring the iconic animal characters such as Baloo and King Louie to life, but Disney didnt use a lot of Andy Serkis-style motion capture on the Hollywood veterans.

There was a little bit used with Christopher Walken, and it was the only place that made sense, Taylor said.

Weta digital which brought Serkis Gollum to life in the Lord of the Rings trilogy used some of Walkens facial expressions as references for his performance as the gigantic singing orangutan.

Taylor and company were determined to make this Jungle Book their own.

We didnt want to be something that was just trying to be a photocopy of the original, he said. The 1967 animated film, its amazing, its wonderful, and it stands on its own. We wanted to make something that was a companion piece but stood on its own.

The animation is a big part of that effort, but the team also made several adjustments to the story. Taylor admits that in some cases that meant inventing material, but he also points out that the changes often tied the narrative closer to Rudyard Kiplings original stories.

Its been a long and rewarding journey for Taylor, who admits he had his doubts when he first arrived at Disney back in 1994.

I didnt know how long that would last, he said, but it wound up working out.