I saw the Disney film The Jungle Book when I was about four and never understood why King Louis the Orangutan wanted to be a human like Mowgli so badly. Just recently, I listened to his song, "I Wanna Be Like You," again and found that the song is all about institutional inequality: Louis's desire to be human is impossible because of evolution, an institution of Nature that only allows populations, not individuals, to evolve; Louis is clearly voiced by a black man while Mowgli is voiced by a white boy; there's a line in the song that says Louis wants to "stroll right into to town/ And be just like the other men/ I'm tired of monkeyin' 'round"; Louis also has Mowgli refer to him as "Cousin Louis," acknowledging that they are related (by evolutionary standards), but Louis is still below Mowgli; therefore, the song is actually about a black man longing to be considered equal to white men. But at the end of the song, Baloo barges in to get Mowgli back, and twists the words of the song so that Louis sings "You'll see it's true/ An ape like me/ Can learn to be/ like someone like me." Baloo has turned the tables on Louis so that he will stay in his place. And then you consider that Baloo spends a lot of time alone with Mowgli, Mowgli wants to spend all of his time alone with Baloo, and Baloo is a Bear. But that's a whole 'nother can of beans...-Trombone Child
Except that King Louis is voiced by Louis Prima, an Italian-American.
Well, drawing on what I learned in World History Class in high school, I can think of one possible historically and socially based example of Fridge Brilliance there: Britain's former rule over India. Not very unlikely to be that, considering it's based on one of Rudyard Kipling's works.
The interpretation that Louis is an aspiring imperialist fits very well. It explains why Louis has a European name while everyone else has the Indian names from the books. In-universe, even, he could have chosen that name because the Europeans are the ones he would really want to imitate, with their greater dominance and technology.
Expanding on this, several of the other animals roughly align with the imperialist era. Bagheera a regional adviser not wholly hating the new men, and trying to help both fit in rough harmony. Shere Khan is the rabid nationalist, despising the "fire" that such men bring that threatens the traditional ways of the people. Kaa might be a reflection of the temptations of such a life, "going native" by being entranced over the new lands and customs.
I wonder how that interpretation explains the fact that the big # 1 thing King Louis wanted was not to know how to wear clothes, or how to walk like a man, but how to use fire. He wasn't so much interested in fitting in with humankind as he was interested in gaining their power. Even Shere Khan is afraid of fire. King Louis shifts from calling it "fire" to "red fire" to "Red Flower", which is what fire was called in the book. I always took his desire to be dominion over the other beasts, rather than being removed from their sphere completely (treated like a man).
Fridge Horror: What exactly do King Louie and his rather rambunctious minions plan to use "Man's red flower" for?
Because in his mind, the ability to make and control fire is probably the only thing that separates apes from humans?
Probably to kill Shere Khan. On a side note, how many animals has Shere Khan killed before this film? Good God, I hope any weren't as enjoyably awesome as Baloo!
Louie probably didn't think that far ahead. His "plan" probably went thus:
Step 1: Make fire.
Step 2: Become human.
Step 3: ???????
Step 4: Profit!
To be totally fair to Louie, the ability to make fire actually is a really significant power difference between man and ape. Being able to make and comprehend it opens the path to a whole lot of technological achievements.
If another species were to demonstrate the ability to make and control fire, it would definitely put them on the legal path to "personhood".
Why doesn't Kaa's hypnosis work on Shere Khan?
If I remember right, that was more a case of Shere Khan having good reflexes. He suspected Kaa might try to pull that trick, but then again, so did Bagherra- Shere Khan, though, was confident he could easily put a stop to it if he notices quickly enough, that's why he slapped Kaa down and told him to just stop wasting time with it, like he didn't consider Kaa a threat at all. He was focused on the information he wanted to get from Kaa, too, most probably- Bagherra was more busy trying to come up with something that could help both him and Mowgli, and he clearly thought of Kaa as someone to be reckoned with.
When he talks with Kaa, Shere Khan's eyes are at least four-fifths closed.
Remember the scene in the Disney-movie when Mowgli meets Baloo and they have fun? Well Bagherra groans once, claiming he can't bear this much stupidity. Baloo (at least in the Hungarian version) answers back with something like, "Who's talking stupidity, you house-cat??" Now, if you only saw the movie, this is just a funny bit. If you read the book, too, you know that Bagherra indeed was born in a cage in the court of a raj in Udipur and escaped to the jungle from there. Now, I doubt many knew this bit of Bagherra's past, or dared to mention it to his face, given that he was a respected but also slightly feared inhabitant of the jungle in the books, instead of the Butt-Monkey as in the movie.
The vultures are presented as sympathetic, but listen to their song: 'We're your friends to the bitter end!' Remember that vultures are scavengers by nature, and it's implied that they're hanging around waiting for something to die so that they have food:
And when you're lost in dire need
Who's at your side at lightning speed?
We're friends of every creature comin' down the pike
Shere Khan joins in on the last line because he's their friend: they eat what he leaves. At some point the vultures decide to help Mowgli, but there's every indication that up until they decide to do that, they viewed Mowgli as potential dinner.
And one more point. Imagine if Shere Khan really did kill Baloo. Not only would this be a whole lot sadder for our heroes, but the vultures would probably have to eat his body to keep the ecosystem clean.
In other words, they saved Mowgli to spare themselves the traumatic scenario of cleaning up their new friend's remains.
Examples from the 1994 live-action film
One has to wonder, how did Mowgli know Dr. Plumford would be capable of healing Baloo's bullet wound? Because he treated Mowgli's bullet wound from when Wilkins grazed him earlier.
Each of Boone and his men die a somewhat Karmic Death that reflects either their own follies or the follies of men.
Harley has always looked down on Mowgli as a "little brown brother", only to drown in great brown quicksand.
Tabaqui reflects the human folly of human wrath and violence. He tries to kill Mowgli with a giant boulder, but Mowgli throws the man's balance off and down to his death.
Buldeo represents the human folly of vindictiveness and goes after Mowgli on the technicality that Wilkins shot his leg mistaking him for 'the little man-cub'. Ironically, it's Mowgli who was wronged when Buldeo let the former's father be wrongfully devoured by Sher Khan. But Mowgli doesn't even know, or care for that matter.
And last but not least, Boone falls victim to the folly of Greed, where he's weighed down by his bag of treasure (and/or eaten by Kaa).
How was Boone planning on getting all of the treasure out of Monkey City? His reinforcements had all been claimed by either the jungle or the ancient ruins and he had no means of transporting all the gold.
Why would Boone want Mowgli dead before they've even found Monkey City?