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Jumanji writer: The challenge was to come up with a sustainable story

  • Published at 06:29 pm December 24th, 2017
  • Last updated at 09:03 pm February 20th, 2018
Jumanji writer: The challenge was to come up with a sustainable story
When two kids stumble upon a mysterious board game, they unleash a wide range of creatures that wreck havoc in their lives. Now the only way to get rid of these menaces is to finish playing the game. That was the premise for the original “Jumanji” movie in 1995. Now, 22 years later, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan are playing the game again. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” opened in theatres in the US on December 20. The movie is also playing in Star Cineplex and Blockbuster Cinemas in Dhaka. You said you didn’t see the new trailer of “Jumanji.” But you have the general idea what it’s about. What are your feelings about the re-imagining? What did you like or dislike about it? Well, it’s an interesting choice. There are two ways you could go. You either have creatures from “Jumanji” come into the real world, which was our choice and they’ve decided to take kids and put them in the Jumanji world. So, I’m as eager as anybody to see how that works out. I know they shot most of it in Hawaii. So, there should be some good jungle action scenes I’d think. When you wrote the original “Jumanji,” what was your inspiration for choosing this story? Well, it was originally a book written by Chris Van Allsburg with great illustrations and this wonderful premise about the creatures coming out of a board game. It was very simple. There was no story to it. It was kind of like “Cat in the Hat.” They play the game, the creatures come out. They end the game, they all go away. So, for us, the challenge was trying to come up with a story that can sustain feature length and when we came upon the idea of a kid who gets lost in the game and coming out needing to complete the game... We knew we had a story that could sustain a feature movie. At that point, we began formulating it to pitch. It went on from there. How did the script get picked up by the studio? It was a matter of pitching it. I think almost a year-and-a-half. We went [to the studios], we pitched our ideas to various studios including Tri-Star, which eventually wound up distributing it. And they all passed. But our producers Bill Teitler and Scott Kroopf didn’t give up on it. I think they knew the strength of the story. We certainly believed in it too. And we finally met with a development executive called Michael Bassmann in Columbia. He saw the film [script]. He sparked to it. He told Peter Guber about it. Peter was very excited about it, went to Van Allsburg, locked up the rights and then we were hired to write the first draft. After you wrote the draft, how much were you involved in the production and post-production? None, in terms of the production until the premiere. Then we came back. Once we finished our drafts, then Chris Van Allburg thought he wanted to take a crack at it. So, he wrote a draft. And then Joe Johnston was hired as the director and he brought on a writer that he’s worked with in the past that was Jonathan Hensleigh. So, we were off the project at that point. It was like, you know, waving goodbye to our baby, which was ours for two years. And then we were invited to the premiere. So, that was fun. Did you have any ideas for sequels? The first movie ended with two European kids finding the board game again. Well, it was set up for a sequel and we pitched a couple of notions. They were looking around for something. And this has been on and off development for some time. Actually, I think some other writers were hired to do a sequel and that didn’t work out. This new one “Welcome to the Jungle” technically is a remake… It [the original movie] was set up to have subsequent films and fortunately it did well enough that they decided to go ahead and do another version of it, which is kind of a salute to the power it’s had over the years. When the original “Jumanji” opened, we opened second to “Toy Story.” So, it was competitive that weekend and we didn’t win the top spot, but over time, I think the film proved to be a real audience favourite. And I’m sure the studio did very well with it.