Professors are demanding that the Walt Disney Company make a less racist version of the beloved cartoon film “Jungle Book,” which depicted a society of apes that was obviously meant to demean black people, according to academia.
Disney has plans to film a live-action remake of the 1967 film, which concerns an Indian boy, Mowgli, who is raised by wolves in the wild and finds friendship in a bear and a panther. Popular songs from the original movie include, “The Bare Necessities,” and “I Want To Be Like You.”
The later musical sequence has occasionally provoked controversy. Some, including media professors at Syracuse University and DePauw University, have insisted that the apes who performed the number are meant to represent a racist view of black people, according to Campus Reform.
The apes’ efforts to learn to be like humans is a racist metaphor for black people’s efforts to be more like white people, according to Amanda Bell of Yahoo Movies. The apes are, “Widely panned as exemplifying ‘negative racial stereotyping’ and connoting inequality between African-Americans and Caucasians,” she wrote.
The main problem? The ape leader, King Louie, was claimed by many to be a stand-in for the jazz musician Louis Armstrong, who was black.
“The original choice would have been offensive – Louis Armstrong animated as an ape,” said Robert Thompson, a media professor at Syrcause, in a statement. “The choice they went with had a minstrel show feel to it, also offensive.”
Bell suggested scrapping the King Louie character altogether. (RELATED: College Disciplines Students — One Black, One White — For Racial Joke)
Of course, King Louie was actually voiced by white Italian actor Louis Prima, straining the racial connotation. In the film, he asks for help learning to be a human from Mowgli, an Indian boy. Louie hopes that Mowgli will show him the secret of how to make “man’s red fire,” a literary stand-in for technological achievement with roots in Greek mythology.