The King of the Swingers
Louis Prima, a star since the 1930s, was known as “The King of the Swing” — so he was the perfect choice to play “The King of the Swingers,” aka King Louie, in Disney’s “The Jungle Book” movie.
In the book Mouse tracks: the story of Walt Disney Records, authors Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar tell the story of how Disneyland Records’ head honcho Jimmy Johnson got Prima for the movie:
“I felt that Louis would be great as a foil in the part of King Louie,” Johnson wrote, “so I recommended him to Walt, who at first was a bit dubious. But Louis really wanted the part, so he brought his entire band down to Burbank at his own expense to audition for Walt and the animators.
“They set up on one of the sound stages and went into their regular Vegas act. As part of the act, Louis’ drummer puts on a rubber ape mask and drums away with a whole fistful of sticks, flipping them into the air, catching them, then drumming all over the room on chairs, on the floor, on other instruments.
“It’s a hilarious bit, and the animators broke up… Some of the other antics of Louis and his crew also found their way into the film.”