Early Disney Films Part 1
Ape King Louie, Louis Armstrong, and Louis Prima
While Prima was used within the film's audio recording, my analysis is centered around audio
and visual subliminal associations. Subliminally speaking, the movie Jungle Book, which
premiered in 1967, is well centered around racial stereotypes. This being the case the racial
aspects of the film guides the subliminal associations established and perceived throughout
This being said I do not believe that Prima would be subliminally associated, on a global level,
with the Ape for the following reasons:
1. Racial stereotypes have always sought to establish Blacks or African-Americans as a
sub-species or sub-human. It has been common for racist to refer to African-Americans as
apes or monkeys. Prima is not African-American.
2. The statements made by the Ape in Jungle Book movie are associated with a need for the
Ape / African-American to be looked upon as a human being; to be accepted into to society as
the equal to human beings.
3. By all Jazz musical standards, Prima was a lesser musician when compared to Armstrong
therefore possessing a lesser subliminal imprint.
4. Louis Armstrong is the most recognizable Jazz musician of all time and is a world figure.
This being the case, most viewers would not make a subliminal association between the ape
and Prima. Rather, given the racial stereotypes presented in Jungle Book, the viewer is led to
subliminally associate the Ape with Armstrong via name, musical style, racial ascriptions,
language use, voice inflection, and global recognition.
I should also mention that Louis Prima was what musicians call "a musical clone" in that his
style of singing, the tone of his singing, the material used within his stage show, even the way
he moved, was a direct cloning of the Jazz legend Louis Armstrong. In this sense, Prima used
Armstrong as his musical archetypal blueprint to which firmly establishes Prima as a lesser
version of Louis Armstrong (no disrespect to Prima intended here).
One other interesting point that I should make here is that Prima was a musician whose
appeal was race specific meaning that he was revered by a small percentage of the white
population. Perhaps the use of Prima's music was intended to establish Prima, within the
minds of the white population, as a subliminal archetype for the Ape. Prima was in fact,
Italian-American. But for the global population it is my contention that Armstrong was the
overwhelming subliminal association relative to the Ape character in Jungle Book, especially in
the minds of the global audience in general, and in the minds of African-Americans in
particular. Furthermore, Louis Armstrong's appeal was global; holding global cross-over
appeal. This being the case it is likely that Armstrong was meant to function as a subliminal
association to the ape in the minds of a global audience.