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 Rudyard Kipling, on which the film was based. 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.
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 apparently 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.
Nevertheless, Louie is ultimately too lighthearted to cause any legitimate harm. After kidnapping Mowgli, both the man-cub and the King of the apes come to enjoy one another's company, to the point where Louie's fun-filled method of persuasion (a jazzy party with his monkeys) ultimately distracted from his quest to learn the ways of fire until Baloo and Bageheera arrived onto the scene.
In subsequent media appearances, such as More Jungle Book... Further Adventures of Baloo and Mowgli, Louie appears to have made amends with Baloo and Bagheera, regarding the incident with Mowgli, and even aided Bagheera in helping Baloo overcome his longing to reunite with the man-cub, after the latter returned to the Man Village.
After receiving word that a man-cub is being taken to the Man-Village, but wants to remain in the jungle, Louie sees this as an opportunity to finally succeed in his goal to learn the secret of "man's red flower" (the animal term for "fire"), and sends his bandar-log minions to retrieve him. The monkey minions kidnap the man-cub, Mowgli, and delivers him to Louie, who introduces himself as the boy's "cousin", with intentions on granting Mowgli his wish to stay in the jungle, so long as the latter fulfills his end of the bargain. Mowgli agrees, and through the song "I Wanna Be Like You", Louie laments his desire to become a man and asks Mowgli how to create the "red flower". Unfortunately for Louie, Mowgli has no knowledge of how to create fire or what he's talking about.
Louie believes Mowgli is just playing coy, and continues to seek answers, but he is soon interrupted by the sudden appearance of scat-singing, female orangutan. A distracted Louie becomes smitten and the two engage in a song and dance routine, though by the end of it, the female orangutan is revealed to be Baloo the Bear in disguise, having infiltrated Louie's palace alongside the panther, Bagheera, to rescue Mowgli. A chase ensues, and in the midst of the chaos, a supporter is destroyed, forcing Louie to abandon Mowgli for the sake of upholding his damaged palace. Baloo, however, tickles Louie to loosen the ape's grip, but the bandar-logs intervene to assist their king, only to destroy another supporter by accident. As Louie's kingdom falls apart, Mowgli escapes with Baloo and Bagheera, leaving Louie within the ruins of his fallen empire. He isn't seen again for the rest of the film.
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 does 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.
On the TV series 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 could also be spotted alongside the rest of The Jungle Book cast in the lobby during the opening sequence, and one episode even gave him a close-up cameo after a cartoon ended. He and Mowgli can be seen sitting at a table together in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse. Due to the above-mentioned lawsuit by Gia Prima (Louis Prima's widow), Louie never spoke in any of these cameos.
The episode "King Larry Swings In" features an appearance by King Larry, an identical orangutan stated to be Louie's twin brother. The episode was actually originally supposed to star Louie, but had to be changed so as not to upset Gia Prima.
In the Aladdin episode "When Chaos Comes Calling", 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.
A slightly different version of the character appeared in the Disney 1994 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. In the credits for this film, he is listed as "King Louis".
- “Kid, I got ears, my ears have got ears ...”
- ―King Louie
King Louie appears in the 2016 live-action film adaptation as the secondary antagonist, voiced by Christopher Walken. Instead of being an orangutan, this version of Louie is a Gigantopithecus. The reason for the change was because real orangutans are not native to India, and Gigantopithecus fossil remains have been found in India. In this incarnation, Louie is more sinister and villainous; though he can be suave, polite and charming, he can become impatient, spiteful and aggressive within moments, especially when things do not go his way. It is also clear that he plans to use the power of fire to take over the jungle. Christopher Walken also describes Louie as standing "around 12 feet tall".
King Louie appears when the Bandar Log monkeys, under his command, kidnap and bring Mowgli to him. He appears from the shadows of the innermost area of his temple home, introducing himself in a polite and charming manner, and offering fruit to Mowgli in order to curry his favor. He also says that he can protect the man-cub, but will only do so for a price; the secret to creating fire so that he and Mowgli can dominate the jungle. He even starts singing his song; I Wanna Be Like You momentarily to convince Mowgli into joining him. However, Mowgli does not know how to create fire, causing the Gigantopithecus to become more and more impatient and menacing. As he begins to lose his temper, Baloo the bear appears, having come after Mowgli. Louie orders the bear removed from the temple, but Baloo stalls and distracts him with various compliments and a desire to become a Bandar Log monkey, allowing Bagheera the black panther to sneak in and escort Mowgli to safety. However, the escape is thwarted when one of Louie's monkeys spots them. He orders the three captured and then chases them personally when they escape his forces. Louie then chases after Mowgli himself as his monkeys fight off Baloo and Bagheera and engages in a game of cat and mouse within the temple, revealing to the man-cub the death of Mowgli's friend and father-figure, Akela the wolf at the teeth of Shere Khan and saying that Akela's death was probably Mowgli's fault as part of his attempt to coerce the boy into staying with him. As Mowgli tries to escape, Louie breaks several of the support columns in the temple, causing it to collapse and crush him. Louie's Bandar Log minions try to dig him out of the rubble, while Mowgli, Bagheera and Baloo leave the temple.
During the end credits, Louie pops out of the rubble and starts singing his song again. While the monkeys rebuild the ruins, Louie accidentally knocks one of the pillars over. However, this maybe is only for the credits, as Shere Khan (who also died in the movie) is shown too, so King Louie's true status is unknown.
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 who states: "King Louie's monkeys are really good dancers. But Baloo's better."
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 the Disneyland version of Fantasmic!, King Louie along with several monkey dance on the floating barges as Kaa snakes around the stage.
Louie also appears in World of Color: Celebrate! during the celebration of animated films.
In Disneyland Forever, Louie performs "I Wanna Be Like You".
In Disney's Hollywood Studios' version of Fantasmic!, King Louie is briefly seen during the bubble montage.
In the Tokyo DisneySea version of Fantasmic!, Louie is seen on the barges with his monkeys much like the Disneyland version.
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.
- Despite the film taking place in an Indian jungle, orangutans do not inhabit India in real life. This is one of the reasons why King Louie did not appear in the original novel. It was also the main reason why his species was changed in the 2016 remake. However, despite this, the 2016 version of him still heavily resembles an orangutan; the only notable physical feature that gives away the fact that he is not a real orangutan is his huge size. However, this resemblance is not very surprising considering the fact that orangutans have been calculated to be the closest living relative of the prehistoric Gigantopithecus.
- King Louie is the third Disney character that was portrayed as a villain in a live action movie, the first was King Stefan and second was The Grand Duke. But Louie was already believed to be a villain by some Disney villain fans.
- 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 leaders.
- King Louie calls Mowgli "cousin" because orangutans and humans share common ancestry.
- 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.
- King Louie did not appear in The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story.