New Delhi, Aug 20 (PTI) Hollywood screenwriter Mike White says his upcoming Disney movie 'The One and Only Ivan' deals with the issue of captivity and liberation, a theme that would resonate with audiences in the current times. White, whose writing credits include films such as 'School of Rock', 'Beatriz at Dinner' and 'Pitch Perfect 3', has adapted the film's screenplay from Katherine Applegate's 2012 book of the same name.
The live-action and CGI hybrid movie presents the poignant and heartwarming tale of Ivan, a 400-pound caged silverback gorilla at a suburban shopping mall who, after meeting a baby elephant named Ruby, starts to question his life.
It is coincidental, the writer said, that the film, loosely inspired by the real-life story of a gorilla who spent 27 years in a cage, is coming out at a time when people are 'cooped up' in their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic.
'It's interesting that it's coming out at a time where everyone is feeling a little bit cooped up. I think that people are going to watch the movie and really be able to relate to animals and their predicament.
'They would be able to relate to that feeling of wanting to be free and wanting the world to go back to a time when we're not being cooped up and have anxieties. I think, in a weird way, it's kind of a perfect movie for our time,' White told PTI in a Zoom interview from Los Angeles.
The movie features a star-studded voice cast led by Oscar winner Sam Rockwell as Ivan; Brooklynn Prince as Ruby; Angelina Jolie as Stella, an African elephant; Danny DeVito as Bob, a stray dog; Helen Mirren as Snickers the poodle; Chaka Khan as Henrietta the chicken; Ron Funches as Murphy the rabbit and Phillipa Soo as Thelma the parrot.
Bryan Cranston plays Mack, owner of the Big Top Mall with Ramon Rodriguez as George, a janitor, and Ariana Greenblatt as George's daughter Julia.
Thea Sharrock has directed the film, which is set to premiere on Disney Plus Hotstar on Friday.
White said the film captures the idea that captivity is never an appropriate scenario for animals.
'This is a really powerful movie for children because it talks about certain ways that we've experienced animals as entertainment, whether it's some circuses, zoos or different ways that we enjoy animals.
'However, sometimes it is helpful to remember that this isn't the best situation for them. We, as people, want to be able to interact with animals because we have this affinity with them. But at the same time, it's often the environments that aren't great for the animal.' It was the voice of Ivan that spoke with White as the character came across to him as someone with a stockholm syndrome.
'He's kind of in a stockholm syndrome situation where the person who has been kidnapped starts to identify with the kidnapper. He wants to come through for Mack but over the time, especially when Ruby arrives, he starts to realise this isn't the best situation for either of them.
'So, the way I tried to write the movie was to think of it as a 'prison break' kind of genre. Like they're in a prison and they're trying to figure out how to escape in a sense.' White tried to retain the spirit of Katherine's book while bringing humour to make it appealing to people of all ages. 'It's a soulful book that's written for such a young audience. I really appreciated that and wanted to retain its spirit. There's sort of a melancholy, thoughtful voice of Ivan in the book and I wanted to hold on to that.
'At the same time, I tried to build out the world a little bit and create smaller characters that could populate the world, and also find more humour because the book is very... It's got some wryness, but it's not a funny book,' White added.
He is relieved that the film was liked by the author and gave it her 'seal of approval'.
'It is very meaningful to me because the last thing I want to do is undermine her experience. I feel like we've really captured the spirit of the book. Some things you have to change just because it's a movie and it has a different set of demands.
'But I feel like it's very true to Ivan in the book, and it's very true to the spirit of the book. I think that people who enjoy the book are going to like the movie and people who never found the book are going to enjoy the movie on its own terms,' White said. PTI RB BK BK