Richard Sherman said he and his brother aimed for a jazz sound, with a Dixieland-like melody. The instrumentals were originally recorded by Prima—who also played the trumpet—and his band, Sam Butera & The Witnesses, but the music was replaced by one written by the film's composer, George Bruns, and orchestrated by Walter Sheets. The "scat dialogue" between Baloo and King Louie was the result of two recording sessions. Louis Prima recorded first, with the intent that Baloo—played in his recording by Butera—would simply repeat what Louie scatted, but Phil Harris decided not to imitate Prima's recording and made up his own. The song was released the same date as the motion picture itself.
"I Wanna Be Like You" was covered by British recording artist Robbie Williams featuring British recording artist Olly Murs for his tenth studio album Swings Both Ways (2013). Production of their rendition was handled by Guy Chambers. However, in the liner notes Robbie Williams incorrectly attributes the original to Phil Harris, and says how much he admires Harris (p. 4 of notes in Deluxe Edition).
In 2009, "I Wanna Be Like You" was used in a British anti-smoking public information film. It showed children copying everything their parents did (for example, boys putting shaving cream on their faces, girls dressing up in their mothers' best clothes and both genders washing the car), and "I Wanna Be Like You" is playing throughout the advertisement, but it stops when a girl puts a crayon to her mouth in imitation of her mother smoking. It stops with the voiceover saying, "If you smoke, your children are more likely to."
The Robbie Williams/Olly Murs collaborative cover appears in season 3, episode 9 of United Kingdom television drama, Stella.
In 2015, "I wanna be like you" was featured in season 1, episode 7 of the Aquarius television drama.