- “I wanna be a man, Man-Cub! And stroll right into town. And be just like the other men; I'm tired of monkeying around!”
- ―King Louie to Mowgli
Louie is an orangutan, inspired by Rudyard Kipling's classic novel. Louie did not appear in the book, however, because orangutans are not native to India. The original story for Louie started out quite differently, but he was eventually given the voice and personality of the late and famed jazz trumpeter and vocalist Louis Prima. Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas and John Lounsbery animated the character.
He sings the song "I Wanna Be Like You" after he kidnaps Mowgli and asks the boy to show him the secret of "red fire", so he and his followers can be like men. His feet act like hands sometimes, just like a real orangutan.
King Louie is a rowdy orangutan who was crowned King of the Apes. Unlike most characters in the film, Louie was created solely by the Walt Disney Company, and there was no ape king in the original novel by Rudyaed Kipling, on which the film was based, as mentioned above .
Around 2001, Louis Prima's widow sued the Walt Disney Company over the unauthorized use of her late husband's voice and public personal in past Jungle Book spin-off projects, as Jim Cummings's imitations of Prima featured in them were near perfect. In later years, Disney would continue to use Louie in theme park entities and other promotional material but refrained from having the character speak to avoid trouble with Mrs. Prima.
However, by 2010, these files were lifted, allowing Disney to once again have full use of the character, as evidenced by 2012's debut of the live show Wishes aboard the Disney Fantasy cruise ship, marking Louie's first speaking role (with newly recorded dialogue) since the 2000 video game The Jungle Book Groove Party.
As King of the Apes, Louie enjoys a lavished life in his palace among the ancient ruins of India, apparently living by his own law and order. Waited on by his monkey minions, Louie enjoys jazzy music, fun-filled parties, and a seemingly endless supply of bananas and other fruits. With a laid-back, fun-loving nature, similar to that of Baloo, Louie appears as a generally jovial member of the jungle, though his scheme to learn the ways of "man's red flower" is seen as scandalous; Bagheera referring to the ape as a scoundrel upon learning the motives behind his hopes of becoming a human.
Alternatively, it's possible that Louie simply desires more power; as while he claims to merely want to be a human, he expresses a very specific interest. Namely in "Man's Red Flower" - fire, is frequently alluded upon in the story as being something all animals fear. Louie takes advantage of Mowgli's naivety to attempt to convince him to learn how to make fire; should Louie get this knowledge, he could quite easily hold the entire jungle hostage and rule over it through fear, making sense of Bagheera's disgust over the matter. This theory is supported by Louie's verses during his musical number: "I've reached the top and had to stop, and that's what's bothering me!"; this indicates that his desire to be human stems from wanting more out of life, after having reached the highest point of success in the jungle—becoming king of the apes.
- King Louie may seem a little bananas, but this swinging orangutan just wants to be like you (and Mowgli too)!
King Louie first appears in Disney's 1967 adaption of The Jungle Book. He somehow learns that a Man-Cub is in the jungle on his way to the Man Village and wishes to stay. Louie sends his monkey minions to capture the boy. They do so with ease allowing Louie to attempt to live his dream. Using the musical number I Wanna Be Like You and promising Mowgli that he will be able to stay in the jungle for as long as he wants Louie asks him to reveal the secret to man's "Red Flower" (fire). However, Mowgli has no clue how to make fire. Louie believes Mowgli is being coy and continues to ask. Out of nowhere, a female orangutan (Baloo the Bear in a costume) appears and begins to scat and dance with Louie. Eventually, Baloo's outfit falls apart and a comical chase follows. During the chase, a supporter is destroyed, which leads to the kingdom collapsing. Louie is last seen standing in his ruined kingdom while Mowgli escapes with Baloo and Bagheera.
Not much is known of Louie after these events, but in a storybook follow-up, Louie and Bagheera tried to help Baloo deal with the fact that Mowgli is living in the Man-Village, implying that the three discarded the event and made amends.
King Louie did not appear in The Jungle Book 2, but a puppet of him can been seen in Mowgli's puppet show at the beginning of the film and was mentioned by Mowgli and Baloo when they traveled to the Ancient Ruins in the middle of the film. Their conversation follows:
- (Baloo and Mowgli travel to King Louie's ruins to hide from the Man-Village's residents who are searching for Mowgli)
- Mowgli: This is the perfect hideout? This is King Louie's place!
- Baloo: Was, kid, was; he's splitsville!
Louie's whereabouts were unknown, but according to Baloo, he and the monkeys turned the ruins into a hangout spot for the popular, party-loving members of the jungle. He was originally going to appear but due to issues with Gia Prima (the widow of Louie's original voice actor Louis Prima), his role was given to Flunkey.TaleSpin, Louie owns "Louie's", an island bar not far from Cape Suzette, where most pilots hang out and refuel their planes, especially Baloo. Squat, hairy, and always quick with a wisecrack or song, Louie is one of the most colorful characters a pilot will ever meet. The scat-singing, tree-swinging owner of Louie's Place, Louie has made a name for himself by transforming a remote South Seas island into a haven for weary cargo pilots the world over. With his outgoing personality and party-loving nature, Louie has become the friend and familiar of every thirsty hedgehopper from Cape Suzette to Thembria.
Little is known about Louie prior to the establishment of his club and rise to stardom-of-sorts. Reportedly raised in Cape Suzette, he has never mentioned anything about his family. In fact, Louie's only known relative is the wild, party-loving ace pilot Louise L'amour, five-time winner of the Scatmandu Championship Air Race (and one family tie Louie would prefer to forget).
Working as a small-time entertainer in Cape Suzette, Louie was a gifted musician and expert bartender. Drifting from one nightclub to the next, Louie and a group of friends performed a few numbers per night and mixed fruit-juice cocktails afterward. Eventually, Louie came up with an idea for a place of his own, a jungle-themed nightclub that would serve Louie's special blend of scat music and refreshments. It was a move several colleagues felt would ruin his career, but Louie was willing to take the chance.
Scrounging every last penny of his hard-earned savings, Louie acquired a remote island property in the middle of the South Seas, several miles away from Cape Suzette. Lush and unexplored, the island was the perfect setting for his dream club and was conveniently situated near local air shipping routes. Building around an old sailing ship wreck on the shore, Louie constructed his club piece by piece with the help of several friends and fellow band members. Five years later, Louie's Place has become the "garden spot of the South Seas" and its owner a celebrity among pilots everywhere.
Louie is a born musician, always marching to his own beat. Easygoing and carefree, he breezes through life much like his longtime pal Baloo. His specialty is band music and singing — particularly with scat lyrics — and Louie has been known to take the stage himself during overnight jam sessions at his club. Louie's life revolves around music and partying; even his speech has a rhyming, somewhat musical quality.
Louie is also an expert when it comes to bartending, a skill which he displays with remarkable speed and flourish. His fruit drinks and desserts are world-famous, especially his flaming "Krakatoa Special". He is also known for making delicious pizzas — although not with anchovies, the only food that Louie is allergic to.
Louie values good times and friendship above all else. Even though he barely manages to squeeze a living out of his club, Louie cherishes Louie's Place as the symbol of the things he holds dear — mirth, music, and good friends. No amount of money can replace that for him. While this means Louie has turned down several lucrative offers for his club, it also reveals him to be a very devoted and sentimental person.
Of course, Louie is never lacking in friends. He has a special place in his heart for the flyers who "stuck with him like a bad habit" through the first difficult years of his club, and made Louie's Place what it is today. He values their friendship, especially the friendship of his "main man" Baloo, Louie's oldest pal and one of his first customers. Baloo and Louie have been friends through thick and thin, sharing many adventures together during Baloo's days as a freelance pilot. Baloo still frequents Louie's Place as a regular customer, a favor which Louie is glad to return by overlooking Baloo's hefty tab.
Louie's friends have since broadened to include the whole Higher for Hire crew. They are special friends of Louie's, particularly Ms. Rebecca Cunningham — although she loudly and repeatedly claims there is nothing between her and that "pile of matted fur." Louie shares Baloo's weakness for beautiful women. While atrociously uncouth at times, around females Louie acts charming and gracious (and highly competitive if Baloo's interested in the same pretty face).
After five years, Louie's Place has grown from a deserted island into the single most heavily-trafficked spot in the South Seas. However, no matter how popular his club becomes, Louie will always be the same scruffy orangutan he is.
Louie appears as a young cub, referred to as Prince Louie, who dreams of being king of the apes. Louie also stars in the show alongside Baloo, Bagheera, Shere Khan, Hathi and Kaa who were all a group of friends. A fast-talking prankster, he takes the troupe from one madcap adventure to the next. Louie is a genius inventor and natural-born leader. This verbose orangutan always has something brewing, and is one of the founding members of the band "5 Bananas". His scats deliver positive messages, proving that he is more than just a goof-off and has the potential to someday be king.
The episode The Ape That Would Be King actually shows that Louie and his friends did not know about Louie's monarchy status until said episode. After the news swarmed around the jungle, everyone, even Baloo, felt Louie would make a lousy king. It is not until a volcanic eruption broke out that everyone was able to see Louie actually has the potential of protecting the jungle's inhabitants from dangers.
In the Jungle Cubs: Born to Be Wild DVD, Louie, as an adult, served as the narrator, telling the story of Mowgli, Bagheera, and Baloo's journey to the Man Village.
King Louie made several cameos in the animated series House of Mouse, usually sitting alongside Mowgli. He can also be spotted alongside the rest of The Jungle Book cast in the lobby during the opening theme song, "Rockin' at the House of Mouse".
In the episode "King Larry Swings In", there is a King Louie look-alike orangutan who is referred to as King "Larry" and is said to be Louie's identical twin brother. It was supposed to star Louie, but had to be changed so as not to upset Gia Prima (Louis Prima's widow).
Aside from this, Louie can be seen at the opening of the show. One episode even gave him a close-up cameo after a cartoon ended. Louie and Mowgli can be seen sitting at a table together in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse.
In the episode When Chaos Comes Calling of Aladdin, Genie turns into Baloo and fly in the sky of Agrabah with the Zingalow. In this scene, he also transforms Jasmine into Rebecca Cunningham, Abu into King Louie and Iago into Kit Cloudkicker. These transformations here are a reference to TaleSpin.
Live-action appearances1994 live-action movie. Once again he is an orangutan, and 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 9 claps of his hands. Louie uses 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 (the villain of the film), as he is seen cheering for Mowgli. After Mowgli defeats Boone, Louie happily summons Kaa, who then kills Boone in the moat.
King Louie is slated to appear in the upcoming 2016 live-action film adaptation, voiced by Christopher Walken. Instead of being an orangutan, this version of Louie will be a Gigantopithecus.The reason for the change was because real orangutans did not live in India, and Gigantopithecus fossil remains have been found in India.
In the game adaptation of the film, Louie kidnaps Mowgli and challenges him to a dance-off. Should he win, Mowgli must teach the orangutan the secret to Man's red flower. After Baloo rescues the boy and the temple collapses like in the film, Louie is left in the ruins until he retreats out of fear of an approaching Shere Khan.
King Louie reappears as a playable costume character in The Jungle Book Pack along with other characters from the film.
King Louie and his band are mentioned by Mowgli:
- “King Louie's monkeys are really good dancers. But Baloo's better.”
In Disneyland, Louie is seen in Mickey's Soundsational Parade, he joins Terk and Simba in the jungle section of the parade. He is also the first Disney character visited by the audience in the stage show Mickey and the Magical Map, where he performs "I Wanna Be Like You".
In Hong Kong Disneyland, Louie is seen in Flights of Fantasy Parade. He & Baloo join Tantor, Rafiki and Timon in the jungle section of the parade. He also appear in the stage show Mickey and the Wondrous Book in Storybook Theater, after he performing "I Wanna Be Like You", Mickey appears in the Wondrous Book and called him “阿叔” (in English known as "sir"), asked him about losing a snowman in his world.
In the Disneyland version of the show, King Louie along with several monkey dance on the floating barges as Kaa snakes around the stage. In Disney's Hollywood Studios' version, King Louie is briefly seen during the bubble montage. In the Tokyo DisneySea version, Louie is seen on the barges with his monkeys much like the Disneyland version.
- King Louie is an original character from Disney as orangutans are not native to India (only the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia), and King Louie never existed in Rudyard Kipling's original novel.
- King Louie was likely named after his late voice actor, jazz singer Louis Prima. Also, it is possible that the character's jazz-like song is a reflection of this fact.
- Another reason why he never appears in the book is because it is stated in said book that the Bandar-log has no king.
- King Louie calls Mowgli "cousin" because orangutans are apes as well as humans.
- Orangutan is Malayan, meaning "Man of the Forest."
- In Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, King Louie isn't exactly named "King Louie" until Mowgli notices a portrait of King Louis XIV of France wearing the exact same crown King Louie wears in the movie when inside the treasure room of his temple in Monkey City.
- King Louie's twin brother, King Larry, is a possible name switch of the American television and radio host, Larry King.
- Despite making a small appearance in the film, King Louie is arguably the second most popular character in The Jungle Book after Baloo.
- Before Louis Prima got the part, jazz singer and musician Louis Armstrong was first considered for the role of King Louie. Prima got the role instead of Armstrong, possibly to avoid controversy that would surround casting a black person as an ape.
- Louie's laughter when Baloo is tickling his armpits while the ape is attempting to keep the crumbling palace in place is reused exactly from Brer Rabbit in Song of the South.