It was recently announced that the world-famous Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom would be getting some updates. It’s sometimes hard for guests to hear that their favorite attractions are getting changed in any way — especially if it’s a day-one attraction that Walt Disney was involved with. But did you know that there were many changes made to Jungle Cruise through the years, even during Walt’s lifetime? Let’s take a look at some of them.
Before we get to the version of the ride that opened with Disneyland, it’s remarkable to consider that Walt Disney originally wanted to fill his Jungle Cruise with live animals. Yup! No robotic figures for Walt.
At least, that’s what he wanted. Everybody thought he was crazy. It turns out he was just ahead of his time, as many years later we would get a version of Walt’s vision with the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. All he needed was a lot more land and money to make that dream a reality.
Once Walt accepted the fact that he would need to create the animals to inhabit the cruise, he was largely inspired by his “True-Life Adventures” films along with the movie “The African Queen.” If you’ve ever seen these films, you’re aware that they are very serious in tone, and that’s how the Jungle Cruise started. The skipper’s spiel was equally serious and the animals weren’t displayed in any comedic scenes. It was to be as if you were on a real jungle cruise with dangerous animals lurking around every corner. You can see what this was like in a clip from the “Walt Disney’s Disneyland” television show above.
In the early 1960s, Walt decided it was time for some big changes. He enlisted one of his Nine Old Men, Marc Davis, to make updates to the attraction. Davis had a knack for inserting comedy into his work, and it would be no different for Jungle Cruise. One of my favorite scenes from the attraction is the elephant bathing pool. It’s hard to believe that this wasn’t always part of the attraction.
Future updates would also include the safari camp with the iconic addition of a rhinoceros trying to “get his point across” to some adventurers being chased up a pole, a camp overrun by gorillas, and more. Gags like this, along with changes to the skipper’s spiel, made for a totally different kind of attraction. If Twitter had existed in the ‘60s, I’m sure Disney Parks fans would have had quite a few opinions about this drastic change in tone.
But those weren’t the only times that big changes came to this iconic attraction. In 1995, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye moved in next door to Jungle Cruise at Disneyland park. The comedy stayed, but the overall design and 1938 setting of Indiana Jones Adventure greatly influenced the tone and look of the Jungle Cruise queue, boats and setting, ensuring that it was all a cohesive experience within Adventureland.
This is the version of the attraction that I know best, so perhaps that’s the reason why I love it so much. It feels a bit strange whenever I see older photos of the attraction with the clean and sleek boat design. This most recent iteration of Jungle Cruise is certainly different from the original intention and attraction. For a ride that’s been around for over 65 years, it’s bound to go through some changes. Otherwise, it probably would have closed by this point.
As part of the recently-announced changes, Disney has said that there will be the addition of scenes, characters, and a more cohesive storyline. This is all being done carefully to not only improve the guest experience, but also remove some negative depictions that have been part of past versions of the ride.
When I initially heard about new updates coming to Jungle Cruise, I immediately thought that there would be some sort of tie-in with the movie starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt being released this summer. That isn’t the case, and I’m certainly not upset about that. I don’t think we need any Audio-Animatronics of The Rock in these jungles. Although, I fully expect for the skippers to say something like, “Ladies & gentleman, you’re in for a treat today. Take a look to your right and you’ll see the star of this summer’s blockbuster movie ‘Jungle Cruise.’” as the skipper proceeds to point to… a rock. *ba-dum-tss*
Overall, Jungle Cruise is still a popular ride in many of the Disney Parks throughout the world, but it has seen its share of changes through the decades. I’m excited to see what this next iteration will bring us (and hope for the return of Jingle Cruise in Disneyland).
What are some of your favorite changes to the attraction? Do you think you would enjoy the ride if it had a more serious tone? Leave a comment and let me know.
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Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.