Comics Creators

A thought on Jungle Book


I loved Jungle Book. Just saw it at the weekend. I’m also always happy when a good movie is rewarded by amazing box office and this flick made 300 million globally while you and I were chilling out over the same period.

But a thought occurred to me and it seems especially prescient given all the chat about Hollywood white-washing in recent times, especially of Asian actors. This movie didn’t have a single white face, even in the background, and made 300 million between Friday and Sunday. Pan, on the other hand, had similarly beloved source material and lots of white faces, completely tanking at the box office. The lesson here I think is that we’ve moved beyond audiences caring about white movie stars and instead getting excited when a movie is just really damn good.

Am I being naive? I don’t think so. I think a major part of what makes the F and F franchise work around the world is the mixed race cast having international appeal.

What’s your thoughts?



I think the idea leaked in the Sony emails was nonsense that people don’t want minority leads etc. There may be a small minority but there will be others drawn to it. It didn’t do The Force Awakens any harm.

I agree they just want a good story well told (I also saw the Jungle Book with the kids and really liked it).


I don’t think it matters to most people.

But I just saw this about ‘Ghost in the Shell’;


Interestingly, the casting of an Asian-looking actress may have avoided the “whitewashing” accusations and likely placated some fans in Europe and America but provoked a worse reaction in Japan.

“It’s a shame they didn’t choose a Japanese person to tell such an interesting story. But at least they didn’t cast a Chinese actress, like they did in Memoirs of a Geisha,” said Ai Ries Collazo, another manga fan. "[Zhang Ziyi] actually did an amazing job, but it was like: really? Again, can’t they find a Japanese actress? Though casting an Asian actress would probably have gone down better in America."

Japanese manga and anime fans pointed out that similar “race-bending” casting takes place in reverse for domestic productions. Two live-action movies based on the Attack on Titan manga, also originally published by Kodansha, were released last year. The characters in the manga by Hajime Isayama were Western, but the cast for the movies was all Japanese.


So it’s true that different people in different cultures worry about different things.


That’s true but that’s not necessarily about ethnicity. It’s a bit like asking why they cast Christopher Lambert as a Scotsman and Connery as a Spaniard, the lines blur a little there.



Actually, the movie had plenty of white faces. You just didn’t see them.

King Louie was Christopher Walken.
Ka was Scarlett Johannson.
Baloo was Bill Murray.
Yes, Lupita N’Yongo and Idris Elba were in it too.

But if this is a movie set in India and if the production had gone so far as to hire an Indian (American) to play the role of Mowgli, perhaps the voices might have been those of Indian (American?) actors (again assuming there were Indian voice actors of the calibre as those actors I’ve just mentioned)?

Or would that have been stereotyping?


I’m pretty sure this isn’t news to Mark or anyone else.


I have it on good authority that all bears sound like former SNL cast members.


Apparently Yogi now sounds a bit like Dan Ackroyd.


I guess I didn’t read correctly when he said the movie didn’t have a single white face.

I was illustrating my point that

with examples. It is an accepted tactic in debate.

Your comment doesn’t add to the discussion of the topic at hand.


The film is sold on it’s voice cast as much as the quality of the VFX, and they are a mix of different ethnic backgrounds. Sir Ben Kingsley is a mix himself too of course.

My feeling is the modern film audiences do not need to see all white people on screen, but they do want to see (or in this case, hear) people they know and like a lot of the time, but that colour blindness is not universal to all people in all roles.

A CGI bear can be anyone, but Mowgli shouldn’t be white.


It doesn’t, those are voices. It isn’t that difficult to differentiate the two.

That is an accepted tactic in debate. :wink:


Agreed that Mowgli shouldn’t be white. That would be like casting a black Tom Sawyer (unless it’s a total reimagining). I was just countering that maybe we should be looking at all forms of “whitewashing” (quotes because I think it’s bollocks and I’m just playing devil’s advocate).

Taking nothing away from your point about modern film audience preferences, surely it would have been more authentic/correct to cast Indian voices in the rest of the primary roles?


And those are semantics.

I’m extending the white face/whitewashing idea to beyond the obvious of casting white actors in ethnic roles. These are creatures living in on the Indian subcontinent. It then stands to reason that they should sound like they’re from there (unless they sound British; having been influenced by their oppressors) and not like (for example) an American military sergeant who hid his friend’s watch up his ass so his Vietnamese captors wouldn’t find it and so he could give it to that same friend’s son many years later?



I would also say that I am not very convinced how much a voice cast sells any cartoon. A big driver is how much it appeals to kids who have no idea who any of them are. You can get big names because it takes them 2 or 3 days instead of 12 weeks or more to shoot a live action film. For anyone outside English speaking territories someone else is dubbing it anyway.

I’m not saying it isn’t a skill to voice a cartoon and give it a higher quality, Elba in particular made Shere Khan really scary, but something like Zootopia or Frozen had some fairly B or C list voices and made very big money.


My point is you don’t see a white face. I had no idea who anyone was doing the voices outside of Bill Murray and, as I watched the film, Christopher Walken.



Tigers and panthers don’t talk in real life.


Disney would be happy to hear that people saw the film, but less so that they didn’t know who the voice cast were, they’ve been using them to promote the film and they paid good money for them.


And people don’t have adamantium skeletons or use cards that explode…
The point isn’t that they don’t talk.
The question is if these tigers and panthers did talk, would they sound like they came from India or from America?


My question remains: does whitewashing only apply to the actual physical presence of white actors on the screen in ethnic roles?
Or does it apply to any characterisation by a white actor in an ethnic role?