One of Disneyland's original attractions is getting a rewrite.
Walt Disney Imagineering announced today that it will be rewriting the Jungle Cruise attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom. The changes will see the addition of an animatronic Jungle skipper to the popular Adventureland attractions but will not include the stars of the upcoming "Jungle Cruise" feature film.
"As part of this story update, we’ll get to follow a Skipper and his passengers as their journey goes awry," said Walt Disney Imagineer Kevin Lively - who's also a former Jungle skipper. "That’s right, for the first time ever, the Skipper role will not only be that of a live, experienced and witty guide, but also represented by a show figure within the attraction itself. In fact, the expedition will be up a tree after their sunken boat splits apart and chimps board the wreckage, with monkey business ensuing."
"Fans of the Jungle Cruise attraction may recall some boats that used to make their way around the river but haven’t been seen for a while —especially the Mekong Maiden and the Kwango Kate," Lively added. "Ever wonder what happened to them? Well, you might go ape when you find out. Ultimately, the jungle gets the last laugh."
With its collection of animatronic animals and natives within show scenes themed to jungle locations around the world, Disney's Jungle Cruise never had much of a narrative. It was always a collection of jokes around the set pieces - with the Skippers often going off script to write gags of their own. While Disney created an overall narrative for its Jingle Cruise holiday overlay, the new Jungle Cruise script will provide the attraction's first full-time narrative arc.
But let's face it. That's not the reason that Disney is changing this 66-year-old classic. Disney is rewriting Jungle Cruise to remove negative depictions of indigenous people in several scenes of the ride.
"As Imagineers, it is our responsibility to ensure experiences we create and stories we share reflect the voices and perspectives of the world around us," WDI's Executive, Creative Development & Inclusion Strategies, Carmen Smith, said. "With Jungle Cruise, we're bringing to life more of what people love - the humor and wit of our incredible skippers, while making needed updates."
Many fans had thought that Disney might change Jungle Cruise to add the stars of its upcoming "Jungle Cruise" movie, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. Disney added Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow and other characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies to those attractions after the films' success. But sources with Imagineer said that the film characters will not be part of the Jungle Cruise rewrite.
Imagineering sources said that the company will reveal later more detail about the changes, which are scheduled for later this year. There are no plans to make changes at the Jungle Cruise-themed Trader Sam's bars or the Jungle Navigation Company Skipper Canteen restaurants, an Imagineering source confirmed. Nor will there be changes at the Jungle Cruise installations at Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland.
As for other attraction changes, Disney is revamping the Snow White ride at Disneyland, which is another of the 10 opening-day rides still in operation at the park. That new version will debut once the Anaheim park is cleared by the state of California to reopen. Last year, WDI also announced that it will retheme the Splash Mountain rides at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom to "The Princess and the Frog," removing characters and songs from Disney's deep-sixed, mistrel-inspired film "Song of the South."
For more on social justice in themed entertainment design, please read Can Theme Parks Get on the Right Side of History? from our 20 Great Reads for 20 Years of Theme Park Insider. And for more analysis of the Jungle Cruise changes specifically, watch for my column tomorrow in the Orange County Register.
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