The Jungle Book animated musical was released by Walt Disney Productions in 1967. The story is based on Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 book of the same name. The lead characters in the film were voiced by Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, and Bruce Reitherman. But did you know Louis Prima wasn’t the first choice for the voice of King Louie?
The producers of The Jungle Book originally considered Louis Armstrong for the voice of King Louie, but they were worried about the backlash of choosing a black actor to voice an ape. To avoid controversy, they cast Louis Prima instead.
Who is King Louie?
King Louie is a fictional character in The Jungle Book. He is an Orangutan who plays the leader of the primates and attempts to acquire knowledge from Mowgli to become more human by making fire. Unlike most of the characters that were adapted to the film from Rudyard Kipling’s novel, King Louie was not featured in the book.
When deciding who should voice his character, they initially thought of Louis Armstrong. But to avoid the controversy that would result from casting a black actor to voice an ape, they picked Louis Prima instead.
Louis Prima is an Italian-American singer who was a native of New Orleans. Prima believes that playing King Louie is one of the highlights of his career. (Source: New York Times)
The Hidden Message Behind The Jungle Book
Kipling’s poems and short stories became popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, published in 1894, was an instant success enjoyed by both children and adults.
The Jungle Book collection tells a story about a human boy named Mowgli and how he lived in the wild raised by wolves. This was something new to everyone. In these stories, the animals served as allies and adversaries to Mowgli. The bear Baloo, the panther Bagheera, and the tiger Shere Khan have become well-known characters, each depicting their personality and motives towards Mowgli.
Kipling’s hidden messages aren’t apparent to an average reader. For example, The Jungle Book stories are riddled with references to the concept of belonging. It raises whether membership in a society is gained solely by birth or whether societal factors play a role in it.
Non-critical readers would have missed this and will take the story as a fantasy-fiction piece created for pure entertainment purposes.
The novel, many argue, was Kipling’s way of expressing his take on his status in the society, a white imperialist born and raised in India. The book can be considered an opportunity for the reader to gain an insight into British colonial practices in Kipling’s time. (Source: The Conversation)
What Happened to King Louie’s Character in the Live Action Films?
Due to a legal dispute with Gia Malone, Louis Prima’s widow, King Louis was not on the release of the live-action versions of The Jungle Book. Instead, he was depicted as Giantopithecus and voiced by Christopher Walken. This was not the only change made. The filmmakers changed the species because, in the newer versions, the movie was set in India, where Paleontologists found Giantopithecus. Orangutans were not accurate for the film. (Source: The Guardian)