Disney has announced that principal photography has begun on The One and Only Ivan, with filming taking place at Pinewood Studios just outside of London. This film will be a live-action/CGI hybrid, based on the beloved children's book by Katherine Applegate. Disney has not quite yet set a release date, or revealed a production schedule for this highly-anticipated adaptation, but it's possible the studio could be seeking a summer 2019 date, now that filming is under way.
The One and Only Ivan children's book was published in 2012, which became a #1 New York Times' bestseller and took home several awards, including the 2013 Newberry Medal for "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." The book centers on a silverback gorilla named Ivan, a who lives in captivity with a baby elephant named Stella and a stray dog named Bob, all sharing a communal habitat within a suburban shopping mall. While the book, which explores the beauty of friendship, the power of visualization and the significance of the place we call home, is a work of fiction, it does have roots in an incredible true story.
The book is based on a real silverback gorilla named Ivan, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but he was captured as a baby and taken to live with humans in America. After he began to outgrow his human home, he was placed in a 40-foot by 40-foot glass enclosure at the B&I Shopping Center in Tacoma, Washington, where he lived in captivity for the next 27 years of his life. The animal rights advocacy group Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) ultimately called upon the community to boycott the shopping center after seeing the conditions Ivan was living in, and there was a 1991 documentary called The Urban Gorilla produced by National Geographic.
In 1994, the B&I Shopping Center ultimately gave up the rights to Ivan, and later that year, he was placed on a permanent loan to Zoo Atlanta. While he at first refused to interact with the other gorillas, he ultimately was able to adjust. There had been rumors that Michael Jackson had offered to buy the gorilla and place him within his private zoo at Neverland Ranch, but that was never confirmed. Ivan passed away at the age of 50 in 2012 as one of the oldest gorillas in captivity ever.
While Angelina Jolie has long been confirmed to lend her voice to the production, Disney's announcement also revealed that Oscar winning actor Sam Rockwell has been added to the voice cast. While their characters have not yet been confirmed, Jolie is listed on IMDB as providing the voice of Stella, while Rockwell is reportedly voicing Ivan himself. New voice cast members who have been confirmed include Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project), Helen Mirren (Winchester) and Danny DeVito (Dumbo), while live-action cast members include Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Ramon Rodriguez (Iron Fist), Arianna Greenblatt (A Bad Moms Christmas), Indira Varma (Exodus: Gods and Kings) and Eleanor Matsuura (Wonder Woman). Thea Sharrock (Me Before You) directs from a screenplay by Mike White (The School of Rock), based on Applegate's novel, with Angelina Jolie and Brigham Taylor producing alongside the late Allison Shearmur. Hopefully we'll hear more on this Disney adventure soon.