Kaa was loosely based on the character of the same name from Rudyard Kipling's book The Jungle Book. While the book character was considered a mentor to Mowgli, akin to Baloo and Bagheera, the film character is portrayed as a dangerous villain. This was most likely due to the developers' belief that the public of the time would not accept a snake as a heroic character.
- “It's like you said... You can't trust anyone!”
- ―Kaa to Mowgli
Kaa is a sly and seductive character, speaking with a soft, often entrancing tone to either lure his victims into a weary, dreamlike state or manipulate them into bestowing their trust, thus allowing him to devour them unexpectedly. He furthers this by the use of his iconic ability to hypnotize his prey with his eyes, rendering them enchanted and under his command. A powerful and dangerous ability, Kaa is a feared member of the jungle, as evidenced by his interaction with the often composed and fearless Bagheera. Such fear, however, does not resonate with the unofficial ruler of the jungle, Shere Khan the tiger, who Kaa holds a disliking for, believing the act of killing for pleasure, as opposed to survival, to be dishonorable. The two beasts are often at odds, though Shere Khan views Kaa as an "eyes and ears" of the jungle, relying on him to assist his quest in finding Mowgli at one point in the film, though the manipulative Kaa was able to steer even Khan in the wrong direction, further showcasing his intelligence.
While not as cruel and bloodthirsty as Shere Khan, Kaa is still a fairly villainous character. His first attempt to devour Mowgli was a casual means to eat and survive, but over time, his goal to eat the man-cub was mainly driven out of spite, evidenced by his lines "Just you wait 'till I get you in my coils!" Furthermore, he is perfectly willing to kill those who get in the way of his meals, as seen when he sadistically tormented, and nearly killed, Bagheera.
Though dangerous and cunning, Kaa is not without his faults, as he can be clumsy and easily sidetracked from his primary objective: to kill and eat Mowgli. This results in his interactions with the man-cub to often end in humiliation to some degree.
Kaa is a python that has grown to be extremely large in width. He was animated by Frank Thomas in his entrance appearance where he first met Mowgli and nearly ate him. Later on in the film, he was animated by Milt Kahl whose design for Kaa may be more iconic, being that his scene was longer and included his trademark song and Shere Khan's talk with the snake. Kaa also has a slight Wile E. Coyote-like facial expression.
Hypnosis/Mind Control: Kaa's most infamous power is his unique ability to hypnotize anyone through eye contact and make others follow his commands. This ability also works when someone sees his reflection in the water. Though despite this, it is implied that certain individuals of high willpower (or simply intelligence) can resist his hypnosis (as displayed by Shere Khan).
Kaa comes across Mowgli and Bagheera in the branches of a large tree that the pair has chosen to spend the night in. As Bagheera is nearly asleep, he is unaware of Kaa as he investigates Mowgli. Annoyed, Mowgli angrily tells Kaa to leave him alone. Bagheera sleepily orders Mowgli to go to sleep, as he has assumed Mowgli was speaking to him. Kaa decides to take advantage of the situation, and hypnotizes Mowgli, wrapping the boy in his coils, with the intent of devouring him. During the hypnosis and coiling, Mowgli tries to call for help but is silenced when Kaa wraps and tightens Mowgli's neck with his tail and then squeezes the boy with all his coils, from legs to neck. But Mowgli's struggles awaken Bagheera, and he is able to rescue Mowgli by hitting Kaa in the face just before Mowgli is eaten. However, Kaa is angered by the interference and begins to hypnotize Bagheera. By now, the coils around Mowgli unravel and he has awakened, and he shoves Kaa's massive coils off the branch, resulting in Kaa falling to the ground in a heap. While Mowgli awakens Bagheera by slapping him, Kaa begins to slither off, swearing revenge. However, his slithering is inhibited by a knot in his tail, which Mowgli laughs at.
Kaa later reappears coming across the now bitter Mowgli, who is lost in the jungle. He tries to hypnotize Mowgli again, who has learned from his last encounter and is wary of the snake. Mowgli tries to leave, with the response that he doesn't trust anyone. However, Kaa uses the boy's desire to stay in the jungle as a means of gaining his trust. Kaa is able to hypnotize Mowgli again and sleepwalk him into his coils while singing the song "Trust in Me".
Before Kaa can devour Mowgli, Shere Khan stops by after hearing Kaa's singing. As Shere Khan is looking for Mowgli, Kaa is forced to hide the boy. Kaa is able to trick Shere Khan into believing that Mowgli is nowhere in the area, despite Shere Khan choosing to inspect Kaa's coils. Shere Khan walks off to continue the search, leaving Kaa safe to admit his disgust for the tiger. When Kaa shivers after seeing the tiger walk off, his coils unravel like before and Mowgli awakens. Kaa takes a moment to pity the helpless Mowgli but reverts once he remembers his own intentions. At that point, Mowgli is able to push Kaa's coils to the ground. On the ground, Mowgli confronts Kaa and accuses the python of lying, which he wasn't. Kaa, assuring Mowgli that he indeed can't trust anyone, moves in to attack, but is once again stopped by a knot in his tail. Seeing Mowgli run off, Kaa apparently gives up trying to catch him as he slithers off again.
Kaa returned once again as the secondary antagonist but plays a relatively smaller role in the sequel than he did in the 1967 film and his name isn't even used at all. One night, Kaa appears when Mowgli meets up with Baloo near the beginning of the film. Like before, Kaa attempts to eat Mowgli but faces many accidents and injuries as he pursues them. Mowgli and Baloo remain unaware of Kaa's presence, and the two walk away unharmed.
Kaa angrily states that he never wants to see another Man-Cub again, but changes his mind after he comes across Shanti. Kaa manages to corner and hypnotizes the young girl. Before he can eat her, Shanti is saved by Ranjan, who pulls Shanti out of the way, beats up Kaa with a large stick which resulted in him swallowing down a large rock which Shanti was standing on and sends him sliding down a cliff to a coconut tree after Ranjan scares him. He is then encountered by Shere Khan in his search for Mowgli; Khan believes that Kaa knows about Mowgli's whereabouts (after hearing him say "man-cub"), but truthfully, Kaa has no idea where Mowgli is; but Shere Khan won't believe him and continues to threaten the python. To stop angering Khan, Kaa fearfully lies to the tiger that Mowgli is at the swamp, allowing him to flee. He isn't seen again for the rest of the film but is mentioned by Shere Khan when he arrives at the swamp where Mowgli is nowhere to be seen and angrily splashes the water saying "That snake lied to me!".
Kaa appeared as a much younger snake in the Jungle Cubs, with Baloo, Bagheera, Colonel Hathi, King Louie and Shere Khan. Unlike the movie, he is a protagonist, which interestingly, actually follows the original story, unlike the film.
As a younger snake, Kaa has yet to master hypnosis at his young age, usually failing or hypnotizing the wrong person by mistake. Kaa is more of the cowardly friend in the group, often being doubtful when an adventure is at hand. Most of the time, his fearfulness can be understandable, being that the children often find themselves in some of the most dangerous predicaments in their jungle. Kaa is often seen attempting to eat a local shrew with a wise-cracking persona. However, as the shrew is too clever for the snake, he ultimately fails in the end.
Many episodes revolve around Kaa, including one where his birthday arrived, and yet everyone forgot. To make up for it, they acted as if his hypnotism was excellent and pretended to be in trances. In the end, however, Kaa discovers this and breaks down. His friends comfort him and apologize, leaving all to be well.
In the Jungle Cubs: Born to Be Wild DVD, Kaa, as an adult, was the first character to be revisited by Baloo, Mowgli, and Bagheera. Here, he attempts to devour Mowgli whilst he rested, but Baloo foiled the snake by grabbing his tail and throwing him into a gorge.
Kaa makes several cameos in the show House of Mouse. In the episode "Ask Von Drake", he is seen being threatened by Shere Khan while Ludwig Von Drake sings a song. In "Turkey Day", Kaa was seen attempting to devour Mowgli after not receiving a turkey for dinner. In "Jiminy Cricket", he is seen sitting at a table with Baloo, Mowgli, Shere Khan and Bagheera. In "Max's Embarrassing Date", he is seen sitting a table with Sir Hiss. In "Goofy's Menu Magic", Kaa is seen having coiled and hypnotized Mowgli when Mickey mentioned the guests were getting hungry.
In Mickey's House of Villains, Kaa joins his fellow villains in taking over the House of Mouse on Halloween. He joins in the hostile takeover during the song "It's Our House Now!", while attempting to hypnotize Minnie, during which he briefly reprises "Trust in Me". He later stands by Jafar's side when he battles Mickey and soon enough flees with the other villains when Mickey and his friends defeat Jafar.
A snake-like character resembling Kaa made a cameo during the final scene of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with the other Disney characters.
A far more menacing incarnation of the character appeared in the 1994 live-action adaptation. He was brought to life using an anaconda but the bulk of his appearances were made using a mixture of CGI and animatronics. Kaa seemed to serve King Louie, killing any intruders to the city when the orangutan clapped his hands 9 times to summon him. Kaa attacked Mowgli inside the monkey city by tackling him into the moat and attempted to drown him, but Mowgli wounded him with a bejeweled dagger, the python is then seen fleeing in a cloud of his blood.
By the time Mowgli returns to the city with Captain William Boone (the main villain of the film) and Kitty, Kaa has fully healed from their prior confrontation. Mowgli flees with Kitty when he hears King Louie summoning the snake. Boone starts gathering as much treasure as he can, but suddenly notices that the monkeys have gone silent; Kaa suddenly appears, then scares the injured Boone into the moat, where the heavy load of treasure he is carrying weighs him straight to the bottom in a cloud of his own blood. Desperately trying to struggle free, Boone sees the skeletal remains of Kaa's past victims, just seconds before the villain finally meets his death by the snake.
The most likely reason for this change in adaptation is because, in the original story of The Jungle Book, the treasure within the monkey city was guarded by a cobra.
Kaa appears in the 2016 live-action film adaptation as the tertiary antagonist. Unlike in the previous adaptations, this incarnation of Kaa is a female, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. In this version, she is depicted as, like previous versions, as an Indian rock python, albeit of similar size to her book counterpart; some 30 feet long.
Kaa first appears when Mowgli stumbles upon her territory deep in the forest, after he is separated from Bagheera by the evil tiger named Shere Khan, where he discovers her shed snakeskin. After climbing into the trees and chasing animals that stole his food, Kaa begins to speak to him from above the trees before revealing herself to him.
Luring him in by promising to keep him safe, Kaa hypnotizes him and reveals that Mowgli came to live in the jungle because Shere Khan killed his father as they were traveling between villages, and that Bagheera later found Mowgli and brought him over to the wolves for protection. She also reveals to him the power of the "Red Flower" (fire) and its dangers in her vision. During her storytelling, she attempts to devour him, but a passing sloth bear named Baloo attacks Kaa and rescues Mowgli, freeing him in the process. Kaa isn't seen again for the rest of the film; it is unknown if Baloo killed her or she went away and never came back. During the end credits, however, she is heard singing her song, "Trust in Me".
In the US release of Mickey Mousecapade, a snake heavily resembling Kaa appears as a boss enemy.
Kaa plays a role in the game, where he sings his own original song, "A Mood for Food"; replacing "Trust in Me" as the villainous song meant to seduce a helpless Mowgli.
In Disney Universe, Kaa does not appear as an add-on character costume but appears as an accessory on a costume weapon.
In Kinect Disneyland Adventures, Kaa is only briefly mentioned by Mowgli during meet-and-greets.
In California, Kaa appears onscreen in Mickey and the Magical Map, during King Louie's section.
Kaa also appears in the Tokyo DisneySea version of Fantasmic!, floating about as he did in the Disneyland version. Also, he was featured in the jungle-inspired float in the former daytime parade Jubilation!, as part of its 25th-anniversary celebration.
In Disneyland Paris park, Kaa is seen in the castle spectacular Disney Dreams! during the "I Wanna Be Like You" section where he tries to hypnotize the shadow of Peter Pan. However, he failed when King Louie's ruins fell apart on top of him.
- In the original book by Rudyard Kipling, Kaa was one of Mowgli's friends and his wisest mentor. Throughout the book, Kaa was quite loyal to Mowgli and very protective of him, but in the film and following appearances, Kaa is a dangerous threat to Mowgli's life.
- The reason Kaa is an antagonist is because Walt Disney found it hard to believe that a snake would be well received as a protagonist.
- Ironically, Kaa has proven to be one of the movie's most popular characters, and one of Disney's most recognizable villains.
- Interestingly enough, the incarnation of the character in Jungle Cubs is by far the most accurate depiction of said character when compared to the original novels.
- Despite popular belief, Kaa is not a henchman to Shere Khan, being the fact that he does none of his evil biddings and the two appear to dislike each other. In fact, Kaa even sympathizes with Mowgli for a moment after he finds out Shere Khan intends to kill him for immoral purposes (while Kaa does technically have the right to eat Mowgli, since he is just a simple predator who wants food).
- In the books, Kaa and Mowgli have a deeper relationship. Initially, Kaa cared nothing about Mowgli and only saved him from the bandar-log because Bagheera lied to him that they insulted the python. However, once he meets Mowgli for the first time, the latter shows his gratitude for saving him. Kaa is surprised by his fearless attitude and begins to respect him for that. Later on, Kaa and Mowgli develop a brother-like relationship.
- Originally, Kaa was not going to be a villain in the 1967 animated film. Wolfgang Reitherman suggested that they should give that role to Tabaqui (Shere Khan's henchman from the books). However, Walt Disney turned down that idea as he wanted to refrain from using canine villains so shortly after releasing The Sword in the Stone.
- The scene where Kaa coils around Mowgli and pulls him up to his tree is reminiscent of a moment in the books, where Kaa traps Mowgli in his coils after mistaking him for a prey and pulls him closer (though he releases him once he realized his error).
- In the books and movies, Kaa is depicted as being an Indian Rock Python (Python molurus), a species that usually grows to 3 meters (9.8 feet). Kaa, however, is closer to 9 meters (30 feet long), much larger than normal for his/her species. The only snakes capable of reaching such sizes, in reality, are Green Anacondas and Reticulated Pythons, both of which can grow to such lengths and weigh from 200-500 lb.
- In the book, Kaa was able to hypnotize via dancing. Whereas in the Disney films, he does so via colorful spirals in his eyes. But in the book, humans are immune to Kaa's hypnosis while in the films his hypnotic powers appear to work on anyone who looks directly into his eyes. In the 2016 film, Kaa's hypnosis via color-changing patterns in her eyes remains and is further augmented with undefined psychic powers, as Kaa is able to show Mowgli a vision of the man cub's past.
- Kaa means "possession" in Hindi.
- Kaa is the second character who was originally voiced by Sterling Holloway and later taken over by Hal Smith and then Jim Cummings. Holloway also voiced Winnie the Pooh, another Disney character played by Jim Cummings.
- Coincidentally, when Jim Cummings voiced Kaa in the Jungle Book 2, he sounded like Pooh.
- Although Kaa is colored golden yellow in the original film and all of his other animated appearances, in The Jungle Book 2 however, he was a shade of green.
- Kaa was seen in concept art for the attraction Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom over at Walt Disney World, but did not appear in the finished project.
- During one of the attempts at the classic musical number "The Bare Necessities" from the second film, two prickly pears land on Kaa's head and one tiny pear on his nose, making him look like Mickey Mouse. This could possibly be an example of a Hidden Mickey.
- Though Kaa was not one of the ringleader villains in Mickey's House of Villains, he is featured on the cover of the DVD and VHS. However, he does assist in kicking Mickey and Minnie out of the club.
- Kaa is the only Disney villain voiced by Sterling Holloway. The other Disney characters Holloway voiced were protagonists (or anti-heroes, as with the Cheshire Cat).
- Even though Kaa is thought of as a villain, he is not actually malevolent as, like real life predators, Kaa simply desires to eat Mowgli for survival rather than selfish goals. So basically, he's doing what nature intended for him to do. Therefore Kaa is technically more accurately defined as a neutral character.
- Even though Kaa wants to eat Mowgli in the films, real life pythons do not usually view humans as a part of their food chain or prey in any way and usually do not attack humans unless threatened or provoked. Moreover, real Indian Rock Pythons are too small to eat a human; only the closely related Reticulated Python, African Rock Python, and the Green Anaconda are known to have tried to eat humans.
- Kaa's hypnosis faculty appear to be increased in 2016 film as he is able to see the past of Mowgli.
- Kaa is the second Disney character to be gender-swapped in the live-action version of their film. He was preceded by Jaq, who was a female mouse called Jacqueline in the 2015 version of Cinderella.
- The decision to make Kaa a female in the 2016 film was due to the need for gender diversity within the primarily male-driven cast of the 1967 animated film.