What Kind Of Animal Is King Louie In 'The Jungle Book'? The Enormous Ape Isn’t A Work Of Fiction

Walt Disney's new Jungle Book movie is a fresh take on their nearly 50-year-old animated classic of the same name, but with a few modern updates. For one, the new film isn't animated, it's a hybrid of live action and some extremely sophisticated computer-generated imagery. It's also not a musical, though it does feature a couple of brief songs, it reaches for more of an action/adventure tone overall. And unlike the original film, the movie has taken strides to make the animals geographically accurate to their Indian setting. So with that being the case, what kind of animal is King Louie in The Jungle Book?

In the 1967 animated film, King Louie was an orangutan. But there is no King Louie in Rudyard Kipling's original Jungle Book stories, and more importantly, orangutans have never lived in India, where The Jungle Book takes place. So to keep all animals native to India, director Jon Favreau decided to change King Louie's species in the new movie to that of a Gigantopithecus — an extinct ape and close relative of the orangutan that lived in India from around five million years ago until they died out around 100,000 years ago. So with King Louie being a Gigantopithecus, does that explain his almost King Kong-like size in the film?

Not quite. While Gigantopithecus was the largest primate that ever lived, they didn't quite reach the proportions of the massive King Louie in the film. But they were pretty huge, reaching sizes of ten feet tall and weighing around 1,100 pounds. For comparison, that's nearly twice as tall and close to three times as heavy as gorillas, the largest apes today. Scientists believe it was their great size that caused Gigantopithecus to go extinct after a climate change turned their forests barren, and there simply wasn't enough food left to sustain them. However, there are a few out there who believe groups of the giant ape still survive today.

Some researchers of supposed giant, undiscovered primates like Bigfoot and Yeti claim that these legendary species are in fact not myths, but subsets of Gigantopithecus that have survived in remote areas. In order to accept the theory, after already accepting the possibility that Yetis might exist, one would have to also believe that Gigantopithecus walked upright (most scientists believe the opposite) and that they managed to spread out all over the world from their original South Asian range.

So despite his insane size, The Jungle Book's King Louie is indeed based on a real animal, albeit one that no longer exists... or does it?

Images: Walt Disney Pictures; giphy.com; rrrick/Tumblr