Saturday, May 23, 2015

King Louie Original Production Cel from "The Jungle Book," 1967

Original hand painted production cel of King Louie from "The Jungle Book," 1967; Set on a lithographic background; Size - King Louie: 6 3/4" x 7", Cel: 9 1/4" x 12", Image 8" x 12"; Unframed.

King Louie is the king of all primates in the Indian jungle and craves nothing more than to be a man. He somehow learns that a Man-Cub (Mowgli) is in the jungle on his way to the Man Village. Louie sends his monkey minions to capture the boy, which they do bringing him to King Louie. 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). This cel is from one of the most famous scenes in "The Jungle Book" film; King Louie (voiced by Louis Prima) singing "I Wanna Be Like You!"

Original production cel of King Louie.

King Louie is an original character from Walt Disney, as orangutans are not native to India (only the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia). In addition, King Louie never existed in Rudyard Kipling's original novel and was likely named after his late voice actor, jazz singer Louis Prima. Before Louis Prima landed the part, the iconic musician legend Louis Armstrong was first considered for the role. However, Prima got the role instead of Armstrong; possibly to avoid controversy that would surround casting an African American as an ape.

Milt Kahl was involved in the character design of Louie, but the job of animating him fell upon Frank Thomas. The Walt Disney animator Andreas Deja wrote about Frank Thomas and his animation of this exact scene:

"King Louie is briefly annoyed during the jungle jam session, when he notices that his sidekick "Flunkey" has joined in, taking some of the spotlight. Frank (Thomas) did all 58 drawings for the scene, there are no in-betweens. Throughout Louie is bouncing up and down to the beat of the music, so the overall motion is pretty involved. Because if the amount of work, there was no time to tie down the drawings. That task went to Frank's assistant Dale Oliver, who traced the poses on to new sheets of paper with thin, sketchy black pencil lines. Frank's drawings might not look as polished as you would expect, but they sure have a soul, and they communicate beautifully. I like the way Louie turns his head, as the upper cranium leads the move with the mouth unit following through. It's a great scene, completely alive!"

To view the scene in which this cel was used to create, click on the short video below: