Sir Ben Kingsley has rejected claims the live action film of The Jungle Book is too scary for young audiences, saying "you are not preparing the child for the future if everything is sugar-coated in pink".
Sir Ben voices the panther Bagheera in the update of the Disney classic, based on Rudyard Kipling's book.
The film sees the cast of animals, voiced by actors including Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Lupita Nyong'o, rendered in life-like detail using computer graphics, prompting censors in India to recommend parental guidance for children younger than 12.
Oscar-winner Sir Ben said: "There are moments in the film which are tremendous gifts to children. Jon Favreau (the director) realises that when you are telling a story to a child you cannot eliminate the dark side, it's unfair.
"You are not preparing the child for the future, you are not telling that child anything if everything is sugar-coated in pink.
"It does get dark out there, the child will be challenged as a child as well as an adult. There are things in schools that will isolate the child, that may bully or intimidate the child and any child watching The Jungle Book safely with a parent will say 'That's me, I can do that and I can overcome terrific adversity', and I think that is an essential part of a child's story."
Favreau, who is responsible for the first two Iron Man movies and has served as an executive producer on subsequent Marvel films, added: "I think it's scary. You have a real tiger trying to eat a kid. There is no way to make that a kiddie musical so as soon as we made it real world we had to shift the tone. The trick was preserving what we love about the old one."
He continued: "When you're a chef, you season the plate and hope it's not too salty for the people who come."
The Jungle Book is released in UK cinemas on April 15. The film had its European premiere at the BFI Imax cinema in London on Wednesday.