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The King and I is a 1999 American animated musical film romantic drama film produced by Morgan Creek, Nest, Rankin/Bass, and Rich Animation Studios, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The only Morgan Creek animated feature film to be made, and 26th to be distributed theatrically by Warner Bros., it was directed by Richard Rich. The film is loosely based on the life of the English school teacher Anna Leonowens, it portrays a fictionalized account of her historical encounter with the King of Siam King Mongkut, and royal court. The voice cast stars Miranda Richardson and Martin Vidnovic as Leonowens and Mongkut, respectively, with Ian Richardson, Darrell Hammond, and Adam Wylie. The score, songs, and some of the character names come from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's stage musical of the same name. Screenwriters Peter Bakalian, Jacqueline Feather, and David Seidler took creative liberties with the history and with the source material from the musical in an attempt to make the film palatable to all audiences.
The King and I was released on March 19, 1999 to mixed reactions from reviewers, who praised its musical score and songs but criticized its animation and story, while the film's racial overtones and artistic license received polarized responses. The King and I earned $12 million at the box office and it's gross was seen as a disappointment compared to that of other animated films released at the time. The film received five nominations including the London Critics Circle Film Award for British Actress of the Year for Richarson and the Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing in Animated Feature.
In 1862, a ship sails from London to Bangkok, on board are Anna Leonowens and her son Louis. The Prime Minister, Kralahome uses his powers of illusion to cause it to appear as if a massive sea serpent is attacking the ship as its battered in a storm. Anna with the help of Captain Orton manage to save Louis from drowning. As they approach the Captain fills Anna in on the political structure of the kingdom.
In the Grand Palace, in Siam, Anna witnesses King Mongkut receive the gift of a slave, Tuptim a young woman from Burma. Despite being promised her own house outside of the Palace, Anna is denied such. The King drags Anna to his workshop were he tests new inventions such as hot air balloons, and trains. Louis is taken on a tour of the armory by Master Little, who barely misses injury. The King's wives help Anna unpack despite her protests, this is when Anna sees Prince Chululongkorn and Tuptim getting to know each other in the courtyard. Anna who wants to leave since she won't be receiving the house, changes her mind after she meets the Royal Children, namely Prince Chulalongkorn.
With Kralahome still plotting to over throw the king, he write a letter to the British claiming Anna is in danger. Anna begins to teach the children only to learn they've never been outside the Palace walls. To give the hands on experience she takes all of the royal children all around the City to see how other people live, this in turn angers the king. It boils over into a fight with Anna still complaining about the house she was promised but didn't receive.
Chululongkorn meets with his father to discuss traditions, wanting to be with Tuptim but knowing his father would never allow it. Confused Kongkut goes to pray to Buddha. While he is the Kralahome uses his powers on the statues in the room to try and attack the king, which the king's black panther Rama fights off. When the Chululongkorn is kickboxing, Tuptim finally learns he his the prince and that their love is forbidden. But he tells her that he doesn't care about tradition and wants to be with her. Master Little learns of their relationship tells Kralahome who plans to use it to excite the king at the right time.
Anna goes to the king, he is troubled after learning the British are coming because he is allegedly a barbarian, which she knows isn't true. Anna advising the King to throw a banquet for the British when they arrive to show they are civilized. At the dinner, Kralahome mentions the Ivory pendant the king is supposed to wear, the one which he have to his son, who then gave it to Tuptim. When it is revealed Chululongkorn gave it away, Tuptim is brought in by guards. Dishonored by the relationship Kongkut threatens to whip Tuptim to death, but she and Chululongkorn escape into the jungle along with Louis.
While they're escaping Kralahome uses his powers to guide them through the Jungle across a rope bridge. The bridge collapses and Tuptim is swept away by the river. Mongkut using one of his Hot Air Balloons catches Tuptim, and saves everyone else. But on their journey back to the Palace Kralahome fires a firework destroying the Balloon causing it to crash to the ground. Everyone but the king was able to jump into a lake to safety, when Kralahome leaves victorious, Sir Edward and the royal guards get angry at him for trying to kill the King. An injured bedridden Mongkut lays in bed telling his son to be ready to lead Siam when he dies. Kralahome loses his position as Prime Minister, and his punishment would be permanently working the elephant stables by cleaning their dung with Master Little as his boss. He then gets beaten up by Master Little after getting angry about his last tooth falling out. But the King doesn't die, he heals and presents Anna with her house outside of the Palace walls, and the two of them dance.
After the success of Walt Disney Animation Studios' The Little Mermaid in 1989 Warner Bros. began to seek out animated films to distribute. Which led to them releasing The Nutcracker Prince and Rover Dangerfield, in 1990 and 1991, respectively. But it wasn't until the success of Disney's The Lion King, and all Hollywood studios began looking at getting into the animation field that the company began to develop animated feature films internally. In 1991 Morgan Creek Entertainment began a production and distribution deal with Warner Bros. In 1993 the company established Warner Bros. Feature Animation led by Max Howard to produce their own animated films while still distributing third party animated films. Warner Bros. distributed Thumbelina, and New Line Cinema distributed The Swan Princess in 1994, before releasing their first internally created feature film Space Jam in 1995. With the film a financial success, the next film was quickly underway Quest for Camelot. Arthur Rankin Jr. the head of Rankin/Bass Productions, who had been brought in to co-produce the film, was able to convince the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization who is in charge of the rights to their works that an animated feature film "would be a superb way," to expand the property.
Prior to the theatrical release of the Quest for Camelot it's writers David Seidler and Jacqueline Feather were contracted to adapt The King and I for Morgan Creek, to be released under the Warner Bros. Family Entertainment label. In 1998 it was revealed the plot had been "slightly altered" from the original musical "in the interest of family viewing." But no change could be made without approval by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, it was known that the family friendly changes would be a risk, but they hoped the film would "introduce a generation of younger people to the show, earlier than they might have been under normal circumstances" according to R&H President at the time Ted Chapin.
Design and animation
Each of the characters in the film were designed by a team of animators consisting of Bronwen Barry, Elena Kravets, and Michael Coppieters. The final design of each character had to receive final approval from James G. Robinson, the head of Morgan Creek Entertainment. Over one thousand animators were hired in over 24 countries across four different continents to hand draw each second of the film. Clean-up animation was contracted to Hanho Heung-Up in Seoul, South Korea.
The film debuted Friday, March 19, 1999, in 2,352 theaters, grossing $4 million dollars in its opening weekend - number six at the box office behind two other Warner Bros. films, Analyze This, and True Crime. The King and I played for 228 days in theaters, about 41 weeks.
Despite the underwhelming box office performance of the film, upon the home media release the film July 6, 1999 on DVD and VHS by Warner Home Video, it stayed in the top 20 of Billboards Top Kid Video Chart for over 15 weeks. Leading to The King and I going on to be the 16th best-selling children's video tape of 1999. The King and I was available on Amazon Prime when the streaming service premiered on August 1, 2011. The film was listed on iTunes for digital sale in 2010.
A soundtrack album was released on March 16, 1999 by Sony Classical Records. It was released on both CD and cassette formats. All the songs on the album were composed by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers. William Ruhlmann of Allmusic.com gave the album a rating of 3 stars out of 5, describing it as a "surprisingly adequate" soundtrack to a "badly received" film. He adds, however, that the "overly effusive vocal performances" and "overly busy arrangements" make it "by far the worst version of this music ever recorded", and cites the use of "nine different orchestrators" as a possible factor. He concludes by conceding that there is good singing on the album. John Kenrick in his article Comparative CD Reviews Part III, describes the 1999 recording as a "total disgrace" that sees "superb Broadway singers...labor against mindless cuts and gooey orchestrations". In a relatively negative review of the animated adaption, The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia does say that "some of the songs survive nicely, and the singing vocals throughout are very proficient".
The film was an complete box office failure. It took in $4,007,565 in its opening weekend, taking the #6 spot at the box office, but only managed to gross just under $12 million at the box office, and was overshadowed by the release of Doug's 1st Movie.
The film received mainly negative reviews with a 13% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Historian Thomas Hischak wrote that it was "surprising to think that the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization allowed it to be made ... children have enjoyed The King and I for five decades without relying on dancing dragons". Hischak, in his work The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film, and Television, says the film is "easily the worst treatment of any Rodgers and Hammerstein property". The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia says "whether or not one agrees about the 1956 film of The King and I being the best R&H movie, most would concede that [the] animated adaption is the worst". It notes that it is surprising that the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization green-lit the project, and adds that it is shocking how the source material could be made into such an "awful" movie, saying "geared towards children, the story is reduced to a carefree singalong with annoyingly superficial characters, cuddly animals, a forced love story, and a wasteland of scenes without wit or intelligence". It notes that the film seems to be a The King and I for kids, though points out that the original film has been "a kid-favourite for generations already, without the addition of supernatural elements such as dragons." Roger Ebert gave it 2 stars out of 4 and felt that animated adaptations of musicals have potential but found the film rather dull.
Due to the performance at the box office and the overwhelmingly negative reviews, the estates of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II have declared that there are to be no more animated features based on their musicals.
As of October 2014, Morgan Creek sold the domestic distribution rights and copyrights to their films to Revolution Studios for $36.75 million, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases all Morgan Creek's produced films that were distributed by the original distributors.
Sir Edward's Captain's design in this film, which notably has him resembling Rogers from The Swan Princess franchise.
Differences from 1944 novel, the 1951 musical, the 1999 film and the real life
Many differences that happens in the novel, in the musical and in the real life, and other differences that never happens in the 1999 film:
Master Little, Moonshee, Rama, Tusker, Tusker's father, Sir Edward's Captain, Steward, The Sea Serpent doesn't appear in the 1944 novel or in the 1951 musical, they both only introduced in the 1999 film.
In 1862, a strong-willed, widowed schoolteacher, Anna Leonowens, arrives in Bangkok, Siam (later known as Thailand) at the request of the King of Siam to tutor his many children. Anna's young son, Louis, fears the severe countenance of the King's prime minister, the Kralahome, but Anna refuses to be intimidated ("I Whistle a Happy Tune").
In the 1999 film, The storm was never seen in the novel and in the musical, It's only introduced in the prologue.
In the real life, the novel and the musical, Louis never had a monkey pet.
Kralahome is a serious man, he plays as neutral character in the novel and in the musical, in the 1999 film, he plays as the main villain.
Kralahome doesn't uses his powers of illusions with his magic thai golden gong in the novel or in the musical, Just only uses in the 1999 film.
Kralahome's magic thai golden gong doesn't appear in the novel or in the musical.
Kralahome had no minion in the novel or in the musical.
The Kralahome has come to escort them to the palace, where they are expected to live – a violation of Anna's contract, which calls for them to live in a separate house. She considers returning to Singapore aboard the vessel that brought them, but goes with her son and the Kralahome.
Several weeks pass, during which Anna and Louis are confined to their palace rooms. The King receives a gift from the king of Burma, a lovely slave girl named Tuptim, to be one of his many wives.
She is escorted by Lun Tha, a scholar who has come to copy a design for a temple, and the two are secretly in love. Tuptim, left alone, declares that the King may own her, but not her heart ("My Lord and Master"). The King gives Anna her first audience.
In the film, Moonshee steals the king of Burma's fruits, Moonshee is being chased by the royal guards, Louis grabs his monkey pet, Anna defends her son from the royal guards, the King interrupts it.
The schoolteacher is a part of his plan for the modernization of Siam; he is impressed when she already knows this. She raises the issue of her house with him, he dismisses her protests and orders her to talk with his wives. They are interested in her, and she tells them of her late husband, Tom ("Hello, Young Lovers").
The King presents her new pupils; Anna is to teach those of his children whose mothers are in favor with him – several dozen – and is to teach their mothers as well. The princes and princesses enter in procession ("March of the Royal Siamese Children"). Anna is charmed by the children, and formality breaks down after the ceremony as they crowd around her.
In the 1999 film, Louis and Moonshee are taken on a tour of the armory by Master Little, who barely misses injury, but in the novel, in the musical and in the real life, he doesn't go on a tour of the armory.
Anna has not given up on the house, and teaches the children proverbs and songs extolling the virtues of home life, to the King's irritation. The King has enough worries without battling the schoolteacher, and wonders why the world has become so complicated ("A Puzzlement").
The children and wives are hard at work learning English ("The Royal Bangkok Academy"). The children are surprised by a map showing how small Siam is compared with the rest of the world ("Getting to Know You"). As the crown prince, Chulalongkorn, disputes the map, the King enters a chaotic schoolroom. He orders the pupils to believe the teacher but complains to Anna about her lessons about "home". Anna stands her ground and insists on the letter of her contract, threatening to leave Siam, much to the dismay of wives and children. The King orders her to obey as "my servant"; she repudiates the term and hurries away.
The King dismisses school, then leaves, uncertain of his next action. Meanwhile, Lun Tha comes upon Tuptim, and they muse about having to hide their relationship ("We Kiss in a Shadow").
In the 1999 film, Prince Chulalongkorn falls in love with Tuptim, but he doesn't fall in love with her in the novel or in the musical.
Prince Chulalongkorn give away the royal pendant to Tuptim when Master Little watches them.
In her room, Anna replays the confrontation in her mind, her anger building ("Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?"). Lady Thiang, the King's head wife, tells Anna that the King is troubled by his portrayal in the West as a barbarian, as the British are being urged to take over Siam as a protectorate.
Anna is shocked by the accusations – the King is a polygamist, but he is no barbarian – but she is reluctant to see him after their argument. Lady Thiang convinces her that the King is deserving of support ("Something Wonderful").
Anna goes to him and finds him anxious for reconciliation. The King tells her that the British are sending an envoy to Bangkok to evaluate the situation. Anna "guesses" – the only guise in which the King will accept advice – that the King will receive the envoy in European style, and that the wives will be dressed in Western fashion.
Tuptim has been writing a play based on a book that Anna has lent her, Uncle Tom's Cabin, that can be presented to the guests. News is brought to the King that the British are arriving much earlier than thought, and so Anna and the wives are to stay up all night to prepare.
The King assembles his family for a Buddhist prayer for the success of the venture and also promises before Buddha that Anna will receive her own house "as provided in agreement, etc., etc."
The wives are dressed in their new European-style gowns, which they find confining ("Western People Funny"). In the rush to prepare, the question of undergarments has been overlooked, and the wives have practically nothing on underneath their gowns.
When the British envoy, Sir Edward Ramsay, arrives and gazes at them through a monocle, they are panicked by the "evil eye" and lift their skirts over their heads as they flee.
Sir Edward is diplomatic about the incident. When the King is called away, it emerges that Sir Edward is an old flame of Anna's, and they dance in remembrance of old times, as Edward urges her to return to British society.
The King returns and irritably reminds them that dancing is for after dinner.
After the play, Sir Edward reveals that the British threat has receded, but the King is distracted by his displeasure at Tuptim's rebellious message.
After Sir Edward leaves, Anna and the King express their delight at how well the evening went, and he presents her with a ring. Secret police report that Tuptim is missing.
The King realizes that Anna knows something; she parries his inquiry by asking why he should care: Tuptim is just another woman to him. He is delighted; she is at last understanding the Siamese perspective. Anna tries to explain to him the Western customs of courtship and tells him what it is like for a young woman at a formal dance ("Shall We Dance?").
In the 1999 film, Anna dances with the King in the end during the "Shall We Dance? Finale" song.
He demands that she teach him the dance. She does, and in that dance they experience and express a love for each other that they can never speak aloud. They are interrupted by the Kralahome. Tuptim has been captured, and a search is on for Lun Tha.
The King resolves to punish Tuptim, though she denies she and Lun Tha were lovers. Anna tries to dissuade him, but he is determined that her influence shall not rule, and he takes the whip himself. He turns to lash Tuptim, but under Anna's gaze is unable to swing the whip, and hurries away.
Lun Tha is found dead, and Tuptim is dragged off, swearing to kill herself; nothing more is heard about her. Anna asks the Kralahome to give her ring back to the King; both schoolteacher and minister state their wish that she had never come to Siam.
In the 1999 film, Prince Chulalongkorn, Louis and Moonshee stops the royal guards before to send Tuptim back to the Burma.
The King flies with his hot air balloon to go after Prince Chulalongkorn.
The bridge collapses and Tuptim is swept away by the river.
Prince Chulalongkorn jumps to the river to try to save Tuptim.
Mongkut using one of his hot air balloons catches Tuptim, and saves everyone else.
Kralahome angrily destroys his magic thai golden gong and goes in the fireworks tower.
Kralahomes shoots his fireworks in the hot air balloon, Prince Chulalongkorn, Tuptim and Rama jumps out from the burning hot air balloon into the river, except the King, because his hot air balloon falls down.
Kralahome leaves victorious, when Sir Edward and the royal guards appears, they get angry at him for trying to kill the King.
Several months pass with no contact between Anna and the King. Anna is packed and ready to board a ship leaving Siam. Chulalongkorn arrives with a letter from the King, who has been unable to resolve the conflicts within himself and is dying.
Anna hurries to the King's bedside and they reconcile. The King persuades her to take back the ring and to stay and assist the next king, Chulalongkorn. The dying man tells Anna to take dictation from the prince, and instructs the boy to give orders as if he were King.
The prince orders the end of the custom of kowtowing that Anna hated. The King grudgingly accepts this decision.
As Chulalongkorn continues, prescribing a less arduous bow to show respect for the king, his father dies. Anna kneels by the late King, holding his hand and kissing it, as the wives and children bow or curtsey, a gesture of respect to old king and new.
In the 1999 film, the King recovers from his arrogance and strictness, Anna appears and the King gives a new home for Anna, but outside the palace.
Kralahome loses his position as prime minister and his punishment would be permanently working the elephant stables by cleaning their dung with Master Little as his boss.
He then gets beaten up by Master Little after getting angry about his last tooth falling out.
In the real life, Mongkut (มงกุฎ, literal meaning: crown) was the second son of Prince Isarasundhorn, son of Phutthayotfa Chulalok, the first Chakri king of Siam (King Rama I) and Princess Bunreod. Mongkut was born in the Old (Thonburi) Palace in 1804, where the first son had died shortly after birth in 1801. He was followed by Prince Chutamani (เจ้าฟ้าจุฑามณี) in 1808. In 1809, Prince Isarasundhorn was crowned as Buddha Loetla Nabhalai (later styled King Rama II.) The royal family then moved to the Grand Palace. Thenceforth, until their own accessions as kings, the brothers (เจ้าฟ้า chaofa) were called Chao Fa Yai (เจ้าฟ้าใหญ่) and Chao Fa Noi (เจ้าฟ้าน้อย).
In 1824, Mongkut became a Buddhist monk (ordination name Vajirayan; Pali Vajirañāṇo), following a Siamese tradition that men aged 20 should become monks for a time. The same year, his father died. By tradition, Mongkut should have been crowned the next king, but the nobility instead chose the older, more influential and experienced Prince Jessadabodindra (Nangklao), son of a royal concubine rather than a queen. Perceiving the throne was irredeemable and to avoid political intrigues, Mongkut retained his monastic status.
Vajirayan became one of the members of the royal family who devoted his life to religion. He travelled around the country as a monk and saw the relaxation of the rules of Pali Canon among the Siamese monks he met, which he considered inappropriate. In 1829, at Phetchaburi, he met a monk named Buddhawangso, who strictly followed the monastic rules of discipline, the vinaya. Vajirayan admired Buddhawangso for his obedience to the vinaya, and was inspired to pursue religious reforms.
In 1833 he began a reform movement reinforcing the vinaya law that evolved into the Dhammayuttika Nikaya, or Thammayut sect. A strong theme in Mongkut's movement was that, "…true Buddhism was supposed to refrain from worldly matters and confine itself to spiritual and moral affairs." Mongkut eventually came to power in 1851, as did his colleagues who had the same progressive mission. From that point on, Siam more quickly embraced modernization. Vajirayan initiated two major revolutionary changes. Firstly, he fought for the people to embrace modern geography, among other sciences considered "Western." Secondly he sought reform in Buddhism and, as a result, a new sect was created in Siamese Theravada Buddhism. Both revolutions challenged the purity and validity of the Buddhist order as it was practiced in Siam at the time.
In 1836, Vajirayan arrived at Wat Bowonniwet in what is now Bangkok's central district, but was then the city proper, and became the wat's first abbot (เจ้าอาวาส). During this time, he pursued a Western education, studying Latin, English, and astronomy with missionaries and sailors. Vicar Pallegoix of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bangkok lived nearby; the two became close friends, and Vajirayan invited Pallegoix to preach Christian sermons in the wat. Vajirayan admired Christian morals and achievements as presented by the vicar, but could make nothing of Christian doctrine. It was then he made the comment later attributed to him as king: "What you teach people to do is admirable, but what you teach them to believe is foolish."
King Mongkut would later be noted for his excellent command of English, although it is said that his younger brother, Vice-King Pinklao, could speak it even better. Mongkut's first son and heir, Chulalongkorn, granted the Thammayut sect royal recognition in 1902 through the Ecclesiastical Polity Act; it became one of the two major Buddhist denominations in modern Thailand.
Chulalongkorn also persuaded his father's 47th child, Vajirañana, to enter the order and he rose to become the 10th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand from 1910 to 1921.
Accounts vary about Nangklao's intentions regarding the succession. It is recorded that Nangklao verbally dismissed the royal princes from succession for various reasons; Prince Mongkut was dismissed for encouraging monks to dress in the Mon style.
Some said, however, that Nangklao wished his throne to be passed to his son, Prince Annop, and that he gave his bracelet which had been passed down from Phutthayotfa Chulalok to the prince. However, Dis Bunnak switched the bracelet for a forged one, thus preventing Annop from inheriting the throne.
Prince Mongkut was indeed supported by the pro-British Dis Bunnak who was the Samuha Kalahom, or Armed Force Department's president, and the most powerful noble during the reign of Rama III. He also had the support of British merchants who feared the growing anti-Western sentiment of the previous reign and saw the 'prince monk' Mongkut as the 'champion' of European civilization among the royal elite.
Bunnak, with the supporting promise of British agents, sent his men to the leaving-from-monk-status ceremony for Prince Mongkut even before Nangklao's death. With the support of powerful nobility and the Great Power, Britain, Mongkut's ascension to the throne was ensured.
After his twenty-seven years of monastic life, King Mongkut voluntarily defrocked and ascended the throne in 1851, aged 47. He took the name Phra Chom Klao, although foreigners continued to call him King Mongkut. The king was well known among the foreigners, particularly some British officers, as pro-British. Sir James Brooke, a British delegation, even praised him as 'our own king', and showed his support of him as a new king of Siam. Having been celibate for 27 years, he now set about building the biggest Royal Family of the Chakri Dynasty. In the "Inside" of the Palace there was a veritable city of women—reports say three thousand or more. They were mostly servants, guards, officials, maids and so on, but Mongkut acquired 32 wives, and by the time he died, aged 64, he had 82 children.
His awareness of the threat from the British and French imperial powers, led him to institute many innovative activities. He ordered the nobility to wear shirts while attending his court; this was to show that Siam was no longer barbaric from the Western point of view.
However, Mongkut's own astrological calculations pointed out that his brother, Prince Isaret, was as well-favored as himself to be the monarch. So, Mongkut then crowned his brother as King Pinklao, the second king. As a prince, Pinklao was known for his abilities in foreign languages and relations. Mongkut also raised his supporter Dis Bunnak to Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Prayurawongse (Somdet Chao Phraya was the highest rank of nobility on a par with royalty) and made him his regent kingdom-wide. Mongkut also appointed Dis Bunnak's brother, Tat Bunnak, as Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Pichaiyat, as his regent in Bangkok. As a result, the administrative power of Siam rested largely in the hands of the two Bunnaks, Dis and Tat.
Upon his coronation, Mongkut married his first wife, Queen Somanat. However, Queen Somanat died in the same year. He then married his half-grandniece, Mom Chao Rampoei Siriwongse, later Queen Debsirindra.
In 1849, there were upheavals in the Shan State of Kengtung and Chiang Hung kingdom in response to weakened Burmese influence. However, the two states then fought each other and Chiang Hung sought Siamese support. Nangklao saw this as an opportunity to gain control over Shan states but he died in 1851 before this plan was realized. In 1852, Chiang Hung submitted the request again. Mongkut sent Siamese troops northwards but the armies were turned aside by the mountainous highlands. In 1855 the Siamese marched again and reached Kengtung – though with even greater difficulty. They laid siege on Kengtung for 21 days. However, the resources of the Siamese army ran out and the army had to retreat.
Accompanying the influx of Western visitors to Siam was the notion of a round earth. By many Siamese, this was difficult to accept, particularly by religious standards, because Buddhist scripture described the earth as being flat. The Traiphum, which was a geo-astrological map created before the arrival of Westerners, described "…a path between two mountain ranges through which the stars, planets, moon and sun pass." Religious scholars usually concluded that Buddhist scriptures "…were meant to be taken literally only when it came to matters of spiritual truth; details of natural science are revealed figuratively and allegorically." Mongkut claimed to have abandoned the Traiphum cosmology before 1836. He claimed that he already knew of the round state of earth 15 years before the arrival of American missionaries, but the debate about Earth's shape remained an issue for Siamese intellectuals throughout the 1800s.
During his reign, Mongkut urged his royal relatives to have "a European-style education." The missionaries, as teachers, taught modern geography and astronomy, among other subjects. Six years after Mongkut's death, the first Thai-language geography book was published in 1874, called Phumanithet by J.W. Van Dyke. However, geography was only taught in select schools, mainly those that were run by American missionaries with English programs for upper secondary students. Thongchai Winichakul argues that Mongkut's efforts to popularize Western geography helped bring reform to education in Siam.
Mongkut dies in October 1, 1868 in Grand Palace, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, Siam.