If you're a fan of Disney's original Jungle Book and are eagerly awaiting the sequel, you may be disappointed to find out that one of its most prolific characters will be missing in action. That rambunctious son of a gun King Louie is no longer around to shake his groove thang. He has mysteriously vanished off of Island Disney never to be seen or heard from again.
Eyebrows were raised for the first time when viewers of Disney's House of Mouse saw a crazy ape appear to sing a little number. He looked like King Louie, so, boy, was it ever confusing when everyone on the show kept calling him King Larry. What gives? In short, Disney got slapped with a lawsuit and lost the rights to use the big lug from The Jungle Book unless it agreed to pay out some royalty fees. Disney, typically stingy, chose to instead banish poor Louie forever ("for-e-ver, for-e ver, for-e-ver"). It was nice knowing ya', buddy.
In 1999, Louis Prima's wife, Gia, sued Walt Disney for what she claimed were unpaid royalties stemming from Prima voicing King Louie and singing in The Jungle Book. Prima signed a contract with Walt Disney Productions in 1965, Jim Hill reports, which gave him $1500 a day for every day he did voice work on the feature film (his guaranteed minimum was $7500). Prima was also supposed to receive royalties from the sale of recordings from the The Jungle Book recordings.
Disney finally settled with Gia and her lawyers last year in May. Now, Disney can no longer imitate Prima's voice as King Louie because that could open up a whole other lawsuit. Obviously, that meant The Jungle Book 2 would continue without a mention of King Louie.
So what was up with King Larry? The House of Mouse crew had been working on a skit involving King Louie for some time. Dressed in Mickey's red shorts and wearing mouse ears, he and Mickey were to sing "I Wanna Be Like You" from The Jungle Book. Now, the team was faced with having to axe the beloved skit since they could no longer use King Louieit was his trademark song after all.
Eventually, the team reached a compromise with Disney's lawyers. A King Louie look-alike could appear to take Louie's place. Jim Cummings, who had been voicing King Louie since Prima died in 1978, was hired on to voice the newly created King Larry. Cummings, of course, couldn't imitate Prima's voice for Larry, so he instead came up with a new one that only resembled Louie's voice. Viewers were constantly reminded that the ape they were seeing was not
King Louie, and thus, no others lawsuits arose.
Beyond this one-time appearance, don't expect the imposter Louie to ever show his "cloney" ass again. It would be stupid to put him in The Jungle Book sequel, but more importantly (for Disney, not us), Disney didn't want to face further legal action from the Prima family. As far as the sale of the original Jungle Book and Prima recordings from the movie go, I have no idea if Disney will still legally be allowed to sell them without having to show the Prima family some green.
So alas, King Louie is the victim of Disney's greed. While I personally won't miss his annoying ass in the sequelI despised the character as a kidI hate when the entire cast doesn't return for part twos. It won't be the same with every other character from the film returning except for one. And it's not like he was a supporting monkey. Louie was the freakin' leader. Already, there's word coming from those who have seen some of the sequelit isn't finished yetcommented that it lacks the energy that the King Louie sequence brought to the original.
Disney fans can pass judgment themselves on whether or not the cheap bastards should have ponied up more dough to the Prima family to use Louie again. The film hits theaters this February.
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