I will never forget the moment that I fell in love with Jon Favreau. We were invited to an early look at his adaptation of The Jungle Book. I went in with low expectations. After all, there had been many bad versions of that tale over the years. I presumed that we would be going into a film that would rely on spectacle, end up being a disappointment, and would end up being a huge money pit. But Jon Favreau was able to change my mind.
He knew that the technical innovation had to be partnered with fantastic storytelling. To make his point, he brought up Walt. While he did not have the hubris to equate his talent with Walt Disney, he shared what he learned about how the early Disney artists used the technological innovation of their animation with strong storytelling. Mr. Favreau wasn’t just providing lip service, he knew what he was talking about. He brought up the Nine Old Men, specific examples from Pinocchio and Fantasia, and knew everything about the development of Walt’s Jungle Book. He proved his knowledge without cue cards or notes. He was legit. As the movie was released you could see the tributes to Disney’s animation legacy. He even revived Fantasound by using modern technology. It is Jon’s care that made The Jungle Book one of the biggest films of all time.
I wonder if Pixar feels left out. After all, they are the only pre-Fox Disney Studio that didn’t work with Mr. Favreau this year. He appeared in two Marvel Cinematic Universe films, which reminded us that he was the inaugural director of the MCU. His reprisal of his Happy Hogan role delivered an emotional punch to Avengers: Endgame and a lot of fun to Spider-Man: Far From Home.
While many have asked why they bothered remaking The Lion King, he was able to deliver a technological marvel that also showcased the storytelling that is considered a pinnacle of Disney storytelling. The box office success cannot be denied as the film will be either the number 2 or 3 film of 2019. In fact, if you combine The Lion King with his MCU appearances, Favreau has had a hand in 3 of the top 10 movies of the year.
If that was not enough, The Mandalorian has been nothing short of a home run. The show has captured the zeitgeist and brought a lot of attention to Disney’s new streaming service. The reveal of “The Child,” is just another example of Favreau’s skills as a storyteller and a showman. But in my mind, I knew he would do a great job. Mirroring my Jungle Book experience, when I saw Jon talk about the series at Star Wars Celebration, he once again discussed what made Star Wars iconic and demonstrated his strong knowledge of what makes Star Wars work.
When Jon accepted the Disney Legend award at the D23 Expo, he took his moment in the spotlight to bring the award back to Walt. He discussed the value of storytelling and the Disney history that has inspired him with a specific focus on Sorcerer's Apprentice. In his speech, he quoted Arthur C. Clarke that, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” There is no question that Jon Favreau is one of this generation’s greatest magicians and storytellers — making him a perfect pick for our Disney Person of the Year.