Disneyland's revamped Jungle Cruise officially opens to park guests one week from today, on July 16. This morning, Disneyland previewed the updated attraction for invited reporters before soft opening the ride to guests.
Walt Disney Imagineering redesigned the popular Adventureland boat ride at Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom to remove offensive indigenous stereotypes, including the headhunter Trader Sam. In the new version, Sam remains a trader, but this time he is dealing in the "lost and found" detritus that Jungle Cruise guests have left behind on their journeys... rather than trading two heads of his for one of yours, as the old joke went.
Yet Sam's physical presence is nowhere to be seen on the actual ride now. Between reselling park guests' lost valuables and the markup on drinks at his bars in the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Polynesian hotels, Sam apparently is making enough bank that he doesn't have to show his face at work anymore.
Trader Sam's gift shop is the final scene in the ride, on which Imagineers have reworked pretty much the entire back half, starting with the "pole" scene after the African veldt, where it's explorers from around the world who find themselves "getting the point," rather than a group of native porters. Each of those explorers has a backstory, which Disney revealed earlier, and we covered in our post, Disney Doubles Down on SEA in Jungle Cruise Revamp.
SEA is Disney's Society of Explorers and Adventurers, which Disney first tied to the Jungle Cruise with the Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen restaurant that stands across the street from the Jungle Cruise at Walt Disney World. The story is that Alberta Falls, the granddaughter of the world-renowned SEA member Dr. Albert Falls, is now proprietor of the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd., selling tours to local visitors to make up from the loss of income shipping heaven knows what to heaven knows where up and down the river. In the previous post, Alberta Falls introduced the cast of explorers that we now get to see in the pole scene:
"This week, I have some esteemed passengers joining me from around the world for a private tour down the river. I'll be hosting a special cruise for a special friend of mine from Mexico, the renowned painter Rosa Soto Dominguez, as well as a noted botanist from Nova Scotia named Leonard Moss. I guess he is just trying to branch out with his studies. Also, I recently met Dr. Kon Chunosuke, an entomologist from Japan, who camped out alongside the river. Would you believe it, he is a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers just like my grandfather? It really is a small world, after all. Who knows what other visitors from around the world may arrive between then and now? For instance, my cousin Siobhan 'Puffin' Murphy from Ireland, may show up unannounced to take a birdwatching expedition! You just never know what to expect around here."
"Alberta had to run out to deal with some emergency and the only Skipper that was available was Felix. So he's the one who was assigned to take the VIP guests on this ride," Imagineer Susana Tubert explained to invited reporters this morning. "He's notoriously known throughout the Navigation Company as the new guy who has bad luck."
And Felix's bad luck strikes again, leaving him and his passengers scurrying to escape. "He's definitely the one on the bottom that's getting the point in the end," Tubert said.
"The heart of the attraction is still the humorous banter of the skippers, however we found ways to plus that up by putting in characters and putting our guests in these unexpected scenarios that they have to overcome," Tubert said. "What's fun is that, by the end of the ride, the guests and the skipper has realized that, in reality, it's the animals who get the last laugh. So that's a twist to our story."
See for yourself in our full, on-ride POV video of Disneyland's new Jungle Cruise:
The changes wipe out most of the set pieces from the second half of the attraction, including the village of dancing natives, the poison dart blowers, and, as mentioned, Trader Sam. Imagineer Kim Irvine talked us through the new scenes, starting at the pole.
"As you come around the corner, those hippos that have been threatening you with their wiggling ears and charging your boat have finally made purchase and been able to knock over a boat," Irvine said. "There is half of it floating there and a lot of their belongings floating through the water. Oh, I wonder what happened to the rest of the boat? Well, there it is, whipped around and lodged up against the shore and being taken over by the chimpanzees. Each one of them has gotten into the luggage and the packages on board - one is eating the man-eating plant that the botanist had collected, and another is painting with Rosa's paint, all over the boat. And then, of course, we've got the butterfly chimps, who have gotten into the entomologist's butterfly collection."
"Trader Sam still has his location at the end there. He's just out right now, collecting things that he's going to sell you in the lost and found," Irvine continued. "Little spider monkeys have taken over shop and are wrecking havoc on the Victrola and all the things that Sam has collected from past safaris along the way. Then, of course, we've still got Ellie, giving you her final goodbye while that spider monkey is madly trying to take your picture with the camera. So, definitely some humor and as Susana says, the animals get the last laugh."
My favorite detail Irvine revealed explains why the hapless Skipper Felix ended up getting surprised by those hippos. You will find it with a close look at that wrecked boat.
"The chimp that's holding the map upside down, that's that he's torn in half - it's actually Florida's jungle map, and that's why Skipper Felix got lost," Irvine said. "And in Florida, they have our California map, and that's why their Felix got lost."
As Susana Tubert said, the heart of Jungle Cruise remains the skipper and their spiel. Irvine said that Disney has provided skippers with options throughout the new spiel, so it's a different experience every time you ride - just as it has been for years in the jungle. The changes now just allow everyone to enjoy that humor, since Disney has removed the cringe-inducing scenes that had marred the back half of the ride.
While a few tweaks remain to be completed on Disneyland's new version before the ride opens officially, work is ongoing on Walt Disney World's version of Jungle Cruise, which has remained open to guests during its transformation.
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