Canonsburg native edits Disney’s new ‘Jungle Book’ movie

April 14, 2016
Canon-McMillan graduate Mark Livolsi served as editor for “The Jungle Book” which opens today in U.S. theaters. It’s the first time he worked with computer-generated imagery. - Photo courtesy of Mark Livolsi

If you go see Disney’s “The Jungle Book” – and you should – Mark Livolsi has some advice: See it in 3-D. Preferably, IMAX 3-D.

Livolsi, a Canonsburg native, served as editor on the remake of Disney’s 1967 classic animated film, and he’s delighted with the overwhelmingly positive reviews it received.

Critics have praised the film, directed by Jon Favreau, which was released April 8 in India and opens today in U.S. theaters.

“I don’t think any movie I’ve been involved with has gotten reviews as good as this one,” said Livolsi, who edited hit films including “Wedding Crashers,” and “The Blind Side.”

“This one is pretty special. I hope people aren’t disappointed,” he said.

“I don’t think they will be. I didn’t go into this movie as a fan of 3-D, but it was shot in native 3-D and it was supervised by the very talented Rob Legato, who did the visual effects for ‘Avatar’ and ‘Hugo.’ It’s spectacular in 3-D.”

“The Jungle Book” is Livolsi’s second Disney film. In 2013, he edited “Saving Mr. Banks.”

When Favreau asked Livolsi to edit “The Jungle Book,” it offered the Canon-McMillan High School graduate an opportunity to do something he hadn’t done before: work on a computer-generated imagery movie.

“It’s been a very fun experience for the past two years. All of my other movies have been live action. Live action shooting is instant gratification,” he said.

“I get the scene, I interpret the scene, I cut the scene and you essentially have a good approximation of what the final scene will be. With CGI, you’re working with footage that doesn’t technically exist yet. The editing never stops on a movie like this. It’s incredibly challenging and tricky.”

Livolsi noted every scene was shot in a studio in downtown Los Angeles. But thanks to stunning digital and CGI effects, “The Jungle Book” looks like it was filmed in the jungles of India.

Only one live-action character is in the movie, 11-year-old Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli. Providing the voices for Mowgli’s animal friends are Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito and Ben Kingsley.

Livolsi said he enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere Favreau fostered during the movie’s production.

“Everybody who worked at the facility – animators, producers, everyone – was involved. Jon was immersed. He was there every second, for every aspect of it,” Livolsi said. “He was very hands-on, very involved with the edit. It was very communal. Everybody got to involve themselves in other people’s departments.”

Favreau made a conscious effort to honor the legacy of the original film and the fans who love it (two original songs, including “Bare Necessities,” remain in the remake), while creating a movie that appeals to a broad audience. The film, Livolsi said, is darker and more intense than its first version.

Livolsi enjoyed another first while editing “The Jungle Book.” His son, Mark Jr., served as a production assistant on the film, allowing the two to see each other almost every day.

Livolsi is the son of Donna Livolsi of Canonsburg and the late Chuck Livolsi, an illustrator for the Pittsburgh Press.

Livolsi, a graduate of Penn State University’s film school, edited television commercials until he got his first break in film, serving as apprentice sound editor on “Heartburn” in 1986.

Livolsi’s ability to blend an artist’s eye with the technical demands of editing have made him one of the industry’s most respected film editors (Orson Welles once said that an editor can “salvage or savage” a movie.)

He has edited nearly 30 major films. Among them are “The Devil Wears Prada,” “We Bought a Zoo,” “Marley & Me” and “Vanilla Sky” and collaborated with directors such as Cameron Crowe and Peter Hedges.

He has been nominated for three ACE Eddie Awards and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

After editing three films since 2013 (he edited “The Judge” in 2014), Livolsi is taking a break.

“I’ve been working for four straight years without taking any time off. I’m making it a point to take some time off,” he said.

The self-described “movie fanatic” plans to watch movies and hit the gym.

And, he’ll enjoy the success of “The Jungle Book.”

“I enjoyed this movie. I like all the movies I edit because they’re all like your children in a way. You’re protective of all of your movies, but you don’t always want to see them again, he said. “But I’ve seen ‘The Jungle Book’ maybe 50 times so far for various reasons, and I don’t get tired of it. I think it’s a special film.”

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

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