styling the man-cub

The Jungle Book Costume Designer's journey on making the perfect loincloth for Mowgli!

We all love The Jungle Book. We all have seen multiple versions of it. The 1967 Walt Disney film, Rudyard Kipling’s storybook, Indian TV series with Vishal Bhardawaj’s famous ‘chaddi pahan ke phool khila hai’ song and the trailer of the highly anticipated 3-D Computer Graphics movie. And have had that wonderful feeling inside each time :)

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 5.31.22 pm.png

Disney’s new Mowgli is Neel Sethi. 1st time child actor and an Indian-origin American. Chosen from over 2000 hopefuls child actors who auditioned for the role. He is also one of the few live-action characters requiring real costumes. The rest of the cast is largely computer-animated animals voiced by famous Hollywood stars.

Mowgli’s get-up is about his plucky nature, fearless attitude, athletic boy body, famous wild hair, impish smile and his only wardrobe item - tiny red loincloth. Though Mowgli has just one costume throughout the film, costume designer Laura Jean Shannon made 16-17 versions of the red loincloth in preparation for water, mud, rain, hidden safety harnesses and running scenes.

We share with you Laura’s costume journey and other trivia about styling the man-cub.

Laura Jean Shannon, in Made In Hollywood, says the goal was to “create something that looked effortless but really actually took quite a bit of thought and quite a process to come up with. I had upwards of at least a dozen loincloths that we started with in different shapes.”

According to Laura, the process started with discussing the original cartoon film and how meaningful that was, with the director - Jon Favreau.

Then began the process of carefully integrating her costume designs with the look and feel of the CGI-generated cast and sets.

We all watched a pre-visualized entire film so that we could see all of the scenes and all of the characters and how they played together,” she says. “It was very, very important to know what the action was, what Neel and his other little buddies would  be doing so that we could really think ahead and make sure that we had covered all of our bases.”

Next came shopping for the loincloth material. Laura Jean Shannon chose an Italian fabric. On her selection, she says “It was an Italian gauzy fabric that had enough opacity that we could use it for a loincloth, but also had enough lightness and life to it that I could paint into it and give it age and wear and make it look really authentic to the jungle.”

Different scenes required different loincloths. “For instance, he gets immersed in mud,” Shannon says. “When a loincloth gets muddy it gets droopy and it looks like a diaper, which was something we had to be very careful to not have happen.”

Also, Mowgli’s costume had to reflect his development as a character. “The costume that’s worn by baby Mowgli actually morphs into what our Mowgli, that we see throughout the film, wears,” she says. “It’s almost as if he’s taken what he had as a small child and retrofitted it into his larger form.”

Here’s a scene trivia that will make you respect the costume designer's dedication to Mowgli's character.

Shannon built a “suit of armor” from the leaves of an alocasia tree (known as elephant ear plant). The garment showcased how the intelligent man-cub would protect himself from angry bees before collecting honey for Baloo. “That  was probably my biggest challenge — besides the fact that he and all of the guys were growing so fast — was figuring out how to build a costume out of living plants that would actually hold out and be able to take all of the action in the film.”

See Laura Shannon’s interview below. And book your tickets today!!