Disneyland has revealed its course correction for its Jungle Cruise attraction in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World in Florida, which removes offensive racist portrayals of Indigenous peoples.
The changes to the popular ride, one of the original attractions overseen by Walt Disney himself when Disneyland opened in 1955, will officially debut in Florida and California on July 16, with visitors able to take the new cruise in the jungle during the smooth opening.
Disney Parks announced the changes in January following criticism of Jungle Cruise’s portrayal of indigenous peoples, promising a new attraction that “would reflect and value the diversity of the world around us.”
The result is the animatronic-filled attraction led by joke-telling boat captains, with an additional story that’s more inclusive and less race-insensitive in its portrayal of other cultures.
Tribal dancers, a spear-waving war team, and shrunken-headed merchant Trader Sam have been removed from the jungle cruise’s seven-minute journey. In the new version, the invisible Trader Sam character remains a trader, but now deals with lost and found items that fictitious guests left on their travels.
Disney World, Disneyland: Jungle Cruise updating depictions of indigenous peoples
During an introduction to Disneyland on Friday, Disney Imagineers said the attraction has been revamped several times since Walt Disney initially envisioned the 66-year-old ride to reflect Disney’s nature documentaries “True-Life Adventures” .
The new attraction features the Jungle Cruise skippers making jokes along the route depicting four rivers stretching from the Nile to the Amazon through the Irrawaddy of Southeast Asia and the Ganges of India.
As the spotlight remains on the skippers, Jungle Cruise now turns to a story centered around Alberta Falls, the new owner of Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. from Mexico, a botanist from Nova Scotia and an entomologist from Japan.
It’s this diverse group of explorers that has been added as characters literally to the top of Jungle Cruise’s revised scene featuring animatronic rhinos and hyenas.
“The idea was how to bring this idea of diversity and inclusiveness so that we can reflect not only our guests but our actors today,” said Susana Tubert, Creative Director of Walt Disney Imagineering, who is part of the team that oversaw the changes.
The doomed boat trip is built into the story of the ride starting even during the ride queue, with Easter eggs such as images of entomology butterflies hanging and a dispatch center for the radio control displaying the explorers’ boat as missing without radio contact.
There are surprisingly rare references to Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” film adaptation starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, which hits theaters on July 28. An exhibit features Frank Wolff (Johnson) and Dr Lily Houghton (Blunt) drying clothes hanging from a washing line, as well as discreet maps from the adventure film. Disneyland Resort PR spokesperson Michele Himmelberg said: “This is a case where the movie is actually based on the ride.”
The new story makes it clear that the amusement ride’s animatronic hippos sank the expedition, leading the explorers to be chased by wildlife. The expedition’s Mekong Maiden boat is overtaken by chimpanzees, who eat the botanist’s man-eating flower and play with the paintings of the late artist.
Trader Sam’s Lost and Found is the final scene of the ride. There’s a sign saying, “Back in 15 minutes, Sam.” But there is no sign of the withdrawn and controversial character.
“He’s just been out right now, collecting things he’s going to sell you in lost and found,” explained imaginary Kim Irvine.
The monkeys took over the location of the lost and found items.
“At the end of the journey you find that in reality it is the animals that have the last word,” Tubert said. “It’s a twist of our commute history.”