King Louie

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King Louie
The Jungle Book character
King Louie singing "I Wan'na Be Like You".
First appearanceThe Jungle Book
Created byMilt Kahl, Frank Thomas, John Lounsbery, and Walt Disney
Voiced byLouis Prima (The Jungle Book)
Jim Cummings (TaleSpin, The Jungle Book Groove Party, Jungle Cubs (as an adult))
Jason Marsden (Jungle Cubs season 1)
Cree Summer (Jungle Cubs season 2)
Christopher Walken (2016 live-action film)
In-universe information
SpeciesBornean orangutan
Gigantopithecus (2016 film)

King Louie is a fictional character introduced in Walt Disney's 1967 animated musical film, The Jungle Book. Unlike the majority of the adapted characters in the film, Louie was not featured in Rudyard Kipling's original works. King Louie was portrayed as an Orangutan who was the leader of the other jungle primates, and who attempted to gain knowledge of fire from Mowgli, to become more human.

King Louie was voiced by famed Italian-American and New Orleans native Louis Prima in the original 1967 film. Initially, the filmmakers considered Louis Armstrong for the role, but to avoid the likely controversy that would result from casting a black person to voice an ape, they instead chose Prima, a white singer.[1] Prima considered playing King Louie as one of the highlights of his career and felt he had become "immortal" thanks to Walt Disney and the entire studio.[citation needed]

Following a legal dispute with Prima's widow Gia Maione up until her death in 2013, King Louie was absent for the whole 2000s until the release of the 2016 live-action/CGI Jungle Book film, where he is depicted as a Gigantopithecus, and is voiced by Christopher Walken.

Jungle Book (1967)[edit]

Although the Disney adaptation is based on the Kipling stories,[2] the character King Louie does not appear in Rudyard Kipling's original book, as orangutans, the species as which he is portrayed, are not native to India in real life. It is also stated by Kipling in the original that the Bandar-log, or monkeys over which King Louie rules, have no effective leadership, let alone a king.[3] In the book, Mowgli is abducted by a band of nameless and leaderless bandar-log monkeys, but the rest of the scene plays out very differently from Disney's version. While no orangutans ever appeared in the Kipling's original Jungle Book, he did mention an orangutan in his unrelated short story Bertran and Bimi.

Bill Peet's original story for the film did not feature King Louie, but did feature a larger monkey without a tail, who was perhaps meant to be their king. Peet left The Walt Disney Company on January 29, 1964, due to a dispute he had with Walt Disney regarding the contents of his script, so his ultimate vision for the king of the Bandar-log remains unknown.[4] Development of the story continued following Peet's departure, with his darker story giving way to a new emphasis on lightheartedness and jazzy tunes.[5]

Popular jazz and swing performer Louis Prima was cast as King Louie, based on the suggestion of Walt Disney Records president Jimmy Johnson that Prima "would be great as a foil" for Phil Harris as Baloo.[6] Prima received the audition in 1966,[7] and the antics of him and his band during the audition performance inspired the animators.[8] For example, the segment where King Louie and the monkeys line up in a parade came from Prima and the band members doing the same thing.[9] Personality was also given to Louie by Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, and John Lounsbery, three of Disney's Nine Old Men who animated the character. Kahl animated Louie's interaction with Mowgli, Thomas his solo song and dance portions, while Lounsbery animated his memorable scat duet with a disguised Baloo.

Although King Louie is absent in the second film The Jungle Book 2, a shadow puppet of him can be seen at the very beginning of the movie, and Baloo implies that he left the jungle.

Other appearances[edit]


In the Disney animated television series TaleSpin, Louie (voiced by Jim Cummings) is a fun-loving orangutan who wears a Hawaiian shirt, a straw hat, and a lei. He owns an island nightclub, restaurant and hotel called "Louie's Place", located near but outside the protection of the city of Cape Suzette. It also serves as a refueling station/pit stop area for pilots. Louie is Baloo's best friend (unlike in The Jungle Book, but like in the later Jungle Cubs) but sometimes can be competitive with him when it comes to women, treasure-hunting and, on occasion, in business and monetary matters. His hold on the island is somewhat tenuous, though through his own ingenuity and the aid of his friends he has managed to avoid losing it (in the episode "Louie's Last Stand").

Jungle Cubs[edit]

In the Disney animated television series Jungle Cubs, Louie (voiced by Jason Marsden in Season 1, and Cree Summer in Season 2) is a juvenile orangutan and Baloo's best friend. He is very physically active, spending a great deal of his time in trees and eating bananas. Prince Louie (as he is referred to in the show) wants to become king of the jungle one day, and when any man-made objects turn up he immediately shows great interest. Jim Cummings voices the character as an adult on three animated segments featured on the VHS releases of the series.

1994 live-action film[edit]

A slightly different version of the character appeared in Disney's 1994 live-action film. Once again, he is an orangutan (portrayed by a trained Bornean orangutan named Lowell), and is the 'leader' of a group of monkeys that make their home in an abandoned human city. His name arises in this version from the vast wealth that humans left behind in the city, and in particular to his habit of wearing a crown similar in appearance to that worn by the King of France, Louis XIV. Kaa appeared to serve him, being summoned with a clap of his hands, Louie using Kaa to ward off or even kill intruders, the latter for his own amusement. At first, he acts a rival to Mowgli, but later warms up to him after seeing him defeat Kaa. Louie would later on appear during the battle between Mowgli and Captain William Boone (Cary Elwes), as he is seen cheering for Mowgli. After Mowgli defeats Boone, Louie happily applauds Mowgli for a job well done before summoning Kaa, who then kills Boone in the moat.

2016 live-action film[edit]

King Louie, in promotional material for The Jungle Book (2016)

Christopher Walken voiced King Louie in Disney's 2016 live-action film.[10] He is portrayed as far more sinister and antagonistic than his original incarnation. This version of Louie is a Gigantopithecus, an extinct species of great ape, because orangutans themselves are not native to India. In an interview regarding the character, Christopher Walken described King Louie as standing around 12 feet tall, and "as charming as he is intimidating when he wants to be".[11]

In the film, Louie offers Mowgli protection from Shere Khan in exchange for the secret of making fire, which he and his fellow Bandar-log plan to use to take over the jungle. While accommodating and friendly at first, Louie quickly becomes spiteful and impatient, refusing to believe Mowgli's protests that he does not know how to make fire. He is briefly distracted by the appearance of Baloo, allowing Mowgli to be rescued by Bagheera.

However, they are spotted by one of Louie's pig-tailed macaque servants, and Louie orders the trio to be captured. Emerging from the temple, Louie finds his Bandar-log too preoccupied fighting Bagheera and Baloo to capture Mowgli, so he goes after the Man-Cub himself. Blocking Mowgli's escape, Louie tries to coerce him into staying whilst antagonizing him with the revelation of Akela's death. Mowgli refuses to believe this, infuriating Louie into chasing him through the temple. During his rampage, he destroys several of the pillars supporting the temple, causing it to collapse over him.

During the credits, Louie is shown emerging from the rubble, and performs "I Wan'na Be like You" with slightly modified lyrics.

Fables comic series[edit]

King Louie appears in the Fables comic series published by Vertigo Comics and he is only referred to as King. He is one of the revolutionaries who wish to overthrow the Fabletown government out of resentment at the apparent second-class status of Fables. Due to his peripheral involvement, he is given a sentence of hard labor—twenty years, reduced to five years conditional on good behavior.[citation needed]

In Fables, Louie is wrongly described as a "Kipling" character; on his official forums, Fables author Bill Willingham cited Louie's appearance in Fables as "a very good example on why it's best to go back to the source material before one embarks on a major story, rather than rely on often faulty memory of which characters were original canon and which weren't."[12]

Other appearances[edit]


The characterization of King Louie has frequently been cited as an example of racial stereotyping in Disney films.[13][14][15] However, in his 2004 book The Gospel According to Disney, Mark Pinsky asserts that a child in the current environment (as opposed to in the late 1960s) would not discern any racial dimension to the portrayal. Pinsky also relates Orlando Sentinel's film critic Jay Bogar's assertion that "the primates could be perceived as representing African Americans in a time of turmoil, but [that Bogar] saw no racism in the portrayal."[14]


  1. ^ Weinert-Kendt, Rob (June 20, 2013). "Cutting Through a Cultural Thicket. 'The Jungle Book' Comes to the Stage". New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  2. ^ Pinsky, Mark I. (2004). The Gospel According to Disney. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-664-22591-9. Retrieved November 10, 2008.
  3. ^ Janice., Greene (2001). The jungle book. Kipling, Rudyard, 1865–1936. Irvine, CA: Saddleback Pub. p. 13. ISBN 1562542915. OCLC 51213343.
  4. ^ Michael., Barrier, J. (2007). The animated man : a life of Walt Disney. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 276. ISBN 9780520941663. OCLC 148004284.
  5. ^ McLean, Craig (April 25, 2016). "The Jungle Book: the making of Disney's most troubled film". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  6. ^ Tim., Hollis (2006). Mouse tracks : the story of Walt Disney Records. Ehrbar, Greg. (1st ed.). Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 89–90. ISBN 1578068487. OCLC 61309354.
  7. ^ Thomas., Clavin (2010). "ACT III I Wish You Love". That old black magic : Louis Prima, Keely Smith and the golden age of Las Vegas (1st ed.). Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781569768112. OCLC 719387479.
  8. ^ "Louis Prima". Biography. A&E Television Networks. April 2, 2014. Archived from the original on May 16, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  9. ^ Scott, Mike (April 15, 2016). "For 'Jungle Book' purists, you just can't spell primate without 'Prima'". Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  10. ^ "Christopher Walken to voice King Louie in 'Jungle Book' remake – The Times of India". Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  11. ^ Annika Harris (March 21, 2016). "First Look: Lupita Nyong'o, Idris Elba & Others In 'The Jungle Book'". UPTOWN Magazine. Archived from the original on May 14, 2016. Retrieved May 28, 2016.
  12. ^ Re: Questions for Bill 2009 Archived March 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, at Clockwork Storybook; posted June 18, 2009; retrieved December 7, 2012
  13. ^ Bell, Elizabeth; Lynda Haas; Laura Sells (1995). From Mouse to Mermaid. Indiana University Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-253-20978-8. Retrieved October 16, 2008.
  14. ^ a b Pinsky, Mark I. (2004). The Gospel According to Disney. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-664-22591-9. Retrieved October 16, 2008.
  15. ^ Schiappa, Edward (2008). Beyond Representational Correctness. SUNY Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-7914-7423-5. Retrieved October 16, 2008.