Saturday, March 17, 2012

King Louie

There's no way this is going to be a brief post, I have too much good material of this character to share with you. The "King Louie" sequence in Jungle Book is one of my favorites.
I love the opening Multiplane truck toward the Ancient Ruins accompanied by atmospheric jungle rythms. The first handful of scenes with King Louie were animated by Eric Cleworth, who in my opinion did stronger work on the elephants.
Milt Kahl's comes in when Louie picks up Mowgli from the floor. As the song begins Frank Thomas takes over. Both animators go back and forth throughout the sequence, until the end when John Lounsbery animates the dance number with Baloo and Louie.
Louis Prima's slightly hoarse voice is just perfect for the character. The Sherman Brothers' song "I wanna be like You" gave Milt and Frank a lot of material to create his eccentric personality.
One thing I've been wondering about is why one detail, very typical of male Orangutans, is missing in the character design. They do have these unique skin flaps for cheeks, and neither Bill Peet, Ken Anderson nor Milt Kahl ever played with drawing those on Louie's face, during the design stage.
I assume that they considered them an unappealing feature and therefor left them out.
This is what I am talking about.



Here is how Bill Peet envisioned King Louie early on in production.



Milt Kahl finalized the character design 



Milt's sense for personality and inventive expressions is off the charts. There is something unique in every key drawing. The second one, looking up inside the mouth  leaves me speechless.
And the acting is really good, too.










Here he is animating the scene where Louie is about to "feed" Mowgli a banana.



I wished I had a photo of Frank Thomas working on King Louie. 
Frank's drawings aren't nearly as refined as Milt's, but the animation is sensational. There is amazing rhythm going through the character's body with beautiful overlapping action of his belly and fur.
I have most drawings from the following two scenes, and I promise to pencil test them soon.










28 comments:

  1. I love this post! Beautiful drawings here! I really like how you add these photos of the artists at work. Gives a glimpse into life at Disney back then...and Milt is even cracking a smile! Great stuff:)

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  2. Thanks for this post - Louie is truly an amazing character and one of a kind would be an understatement! The entire sequence is brilliant and beautiful and Jungle Book really is one of a kind in Disney history. Amazing! (I'm always curious as to what size the background paintings are - some of the ruin bgrounds are amazingly detailed - I imagine they had to be fairly big)

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  3. Thank you for doing this blog! Just, thank you!

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  4. wow, the drawings are so beautiful!! thank you for sharing!! :D

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  5. Do you know if King Louis was based on anyone Andreas? I shamefully little about Louis Prima to know whether its him we see in King Louis' movement.

    I can't wait to see a pencil test! Thanks, as usual, for sharing all this incredible stuff. Your archive must be almost as big as the Disney Archive!! :D

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    1. As far as I know there was no other inspiration for King Louie than Louis Prima's voice.

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  6. One of my favorite characters! i think it would have been fun to have seen some designs with the skin flaps on him, female Orangutans don't have these.

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  7. ! King Louis is one of my very favorite characters. I've always loved his pose right before he picks Mowgli off the ground - scratching his head with one hand, and sucking on a toe. Figures that it's Milt Kahl's first shot :)

    Thank you for this post - great way to wake up in the morning.

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  8. This is all wonderful stuff! Thanks alot for sharing!

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  9. Great As Always!! Quick Question..On rhythmic scenes to a beat, would the guys ever do all of the drawings themselves to keep better control? keeping rhythmic arcs in 3D clean require everything on 1's all of the time. Thanks up front.

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    1. I know that Frank Thomas did all drawings necessary for scenes in the song/dance sequence.
      Milt Kahl did almost all, inbetweens here and there were done by an assistant.

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  10. Wow, these are great!
    When I was little, I thought King Louie was kind of strange, and his character didn't appeal to me. But recently, I was watching the "I Wanna Be Like You" scene again and have found a lot of new appreciation for him. King Louie dancing – that seemed like loads of fun to animate!

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  11. This post is great! Love Jungle Book. Movie, Characters, STORY. All of it.
    Thanks Andreas for this blog. Keeps alive the Disney in me.

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  12. Hey Andreas. I might get a full time job soon, so I was wondering if you know if it's possible to work in Disney Animation without having a degree in anything. If I just submitted a portfolio that was really good could I still get hired?

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    1. I don't have the answer to that. Please refer to the Walt Disney Animation Studios web page.

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  13. I can appreciate Milt's work much more when it's on an animal character. What's really amazing is that clearly neither a human or an orangatan could have done too much live footage to use as reference for these scenes. Milt clearly had to do his anatomical research and just invent from there. I know he scorned rotoscoping or relying on live footage too much, and it's great to see a scene that clearly had to be imagined.

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  14. yup those are early drawings... Milt designed Louie's eyes small and Walt asked him to reduce them. It looks better with bigger eyes.

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  15. Thanks for sharing these terrific drawings. Milt's style was just wonderful. Jungle Book was the very first movie I ever saw in a theater as a kid. Good memories.

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  16. I'm just curious-- why are the first nine Milt Kahl roughs vertically oriented?

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    1. Those are xeroxes that belonged to Frank Thomas. He had copies made from Milt's original keys, and they came out this way.

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  17. Well, I'm pleased; for once I can provide a little insight!

    There are two forms of male orangutans: flanged and unflanged. The flanged male is the one you're referencing with the large cheek pouches. The unflanged male lacks though pouches (though still has the beard we see on the flanged male). A comparison of faces can be see at: http://coffeewithtowan.blogspot.com/2011/01/from-toddler-to-testosterone-facial.html This article is certainly more credible, but lacks a picture of the unflanged male: http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/orangutan/behav

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    1. Thank you for the info, Julie.
      This proves it once for all: Louie is an unflanged male.

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  18. Hello Andreas, I'm a big fan of your work. I'm 17 years old and animation intern here in Brazil, I'd love some tips for classic animation in my country is very underestimated. Basically I have difficulty in defining the key frames to deliver the exciting and it can finish the animation - as I always did the entire animation. THANK

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  19. Forgive me if I was not clear in the last post. Basically I have difficulty in defining the key frames to give the animator and he can finish the animation - as I always did the entire animation. THANK new rs

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  20. These drawings are incredible. Thanks so much for sharing them.

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  21. Milt Kahl (ala Mary Poppins): "Practically Perfect in Every Way."

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  22. I just stare at these drawings and am utterly amazed at all of it. There's so much to learn and study just in these drawings alone! Thanks again, Andreas!

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