Professors decry Disney’s ‘Jungle Book’ as racist, demand a less ‘offensive’ remake
Original film came out in 1967. Disney is prepping a live-action remake.
Professors say that King Louie, an ape who sings he wants to be like Mowgli, the human child, represents African-Americans wanting to be white.
Film is scheduled for a 2015 release.
Multiple professors have turned to the media to decry Disney's The Jungle Book as racist and demand that the live-action remake, which the company is currently discussing, be modified to make the film less offensive.
“One of the main reasons that 'The Jungle Book' needs to be rebooted is to fix the things that became controversial not long after it was released in 1967," Syracuse University media professor Robert Thompson said in an interview with Yahoo Movies.
Critics have stated that the scene where the ape character, King Louie, sings "I want to be like you” to the human character, Mowgli, he is not just a cartoon animal wishing to be human. Rather, Louie represents an African-American stating that he wants to be a member of the white race, which is represented by Mowgli.
The Mowgli character is not white, and the King Louie character was voiced by Italian-American Louis Prima, not an African-American.
But Thompson said the song is racist regardless of who sings it, because it has a jazzy tone similar Louis Armstrong’s music.
"The original choice would have been offensive — Louis Armstrong as an ape," Thompson said. "The choice they went with had a minstrel show feel to it, also offensive.”
DePauw University professor Jeffrey M. McCall said he also believes that King Louie is a blatantly racist character because he speaks differently than other characters.
"The King Louie character can have his speaking mannerisms updated in a way that suggests he speaks in a manner similar to other characters," he said.
"[The film] can be updated with a keener eye to avoiding stereotypical language or behaviors that could be translatable to ethnic definition," he added.
The movie is scheduled for release in 2015.
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