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Jon Favreau Draws Parenting Inspiration From 'The Jungle Book' Characters

Jon Favreau is no stranger to success when it comes to adapting book characters for the big screen. The former indie star made a huge splash directing two "Iron Man" movies as well as executive producing "Avengers: Age of Ultron." Now Favreau is bringing the characters of Rudyard Kipling's beloved "The Jungle Book" to life in a live-action adventure that arrives in theaters on April 15.

At the center of the story is Mowgli, played by 12-year-old newcomer Neel Sethi, a young boy who is raised by a family of wolves and has several strong parental figures in his life: his wolf-mother Raksha, the carefree bear Baloo, the stern black panther Bagheera and the wolf-pack leader Akela. We recently heard from Favreau — himself a father of three — about his film and which "Jungle Book" characters his parenting style most resembles.

There are very strong parental figures in the film. Which one represents you as a father?

The characters are really a deconstruction of what parents are. They have elements of all parents. Just like Dorothy going with her friends down the Yellow Brick Road, they all represent different aspects of what goes on in our brain. And so as a parent, sometimes I'm Bagheera, sometimes I'm Baloo, sometimes Akela, sometimes Raksha.

How important do you think storytelling is in parenting?

Storytelling is — what are the traditions, what are the myths of a culture for? They're to try to help the young generation not have to learn lessons painfully because you can learn them through visualization and through story. To explain to them that the stove is hot without them having to touch it. Of course that's a fantasy; they have to learn on their own, as well.

But that is part of the strength of a culture, that you can help at least contextualize their struggle so that as they persevere and come out the other end, they understand what it means and it gives them purpose.

MORE: 50 Greatest Kids' Movies of All Time

What made you decide to remake "The Jungle Book" at this time?

I connected very much with the animated film when I was growing up. And I was very compelled with the idea of taking what can be done with visual effects now. I was very impressed with films like (the remake of) "Planet of the Apes," "Avatar," "Life of Pi" and specifically what was done in "Gravity." It became a big puzzle, and after sleeping on that and thinking about it, I came up with a take on it. And so, a hundred years ago was the book, 50 years ago was the animated film and now—50 years later—it's time to update the story for our generation.

What was your biggest fear in remaking this family classic?

My biggest thing was not to drop the ball for the people who love this underlying property. Could we still preserve the soul and the charm and the feeling of the first one and change it from a G-rated musical to a PG-rated adventure that would have more thrills and be more exciting and scarier at times than the original, but also maintaining the heart the humor and the music, too?

Do you feel you've succeeded?

Much like my training and what I studied with "Chef" [which Favreau starred in, as well as wrote and produced], it's not a meal until it's served and eaten. All of the chefs I ever met, no matter how self-centered and selfish they seemed, and unconcerned and egotistical — they're peeking through that kitchen window to see if everybody is finishing what's on their plate.

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Images via Disney

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