Disney has made countless updates to its attractions over the years!
We’ve seen characters added to rides, like on “it’s a small world” in Disneyland and on Pirates of the Caribbean. We’ve seen complete overhauls of attractions, like with Journey Into Imagination with Figment and the upcoming Princess and the Frog re-theme of Splash Mountain. Now, Jungle Cruise, one of Disney’s most classic rides, is getting some changes, and we’re discussing all of them!
We reported earlier this year that the beloved Disney attraction, Jungle Cruise, will be getting a new storyline soon. Disney doesn’t yet have an exact timeline for this refurbishment (except for the fact that the changes will take place this year), but we received several details on what exactly will be happening to the ride, so we’re breaking it down today!
Why Are Changes Being Made?
First of all, WHY is Disney changing this attraction? Disney wants to ensure that guests from a variety of cultures around the world feel welcomed in the Disney parks and that the stories told through the attractions “are respectful of the diverse world we live in.” Imagineers also want guests to notice that they put time and care into the details of their projects, and they believe that some of the scenes on Jungle Cruise need to be refreshed to fit this perspective.
What Changes Are Being Made?
Disney Imagineering Creative Portfolio Executive Chris Beatty stressed in an interview with D23 that “This is not a re-envisioning of the entire attraction. It’s the Jungle Cruise you know and love, with the skippers still leading the way…” Beatty specifically mentioned the negative depiction of “natives” in the attraction as one of the scenes that would be changed.
Throughout the attraction, a few scenes will be added or redone to create a more cohesive storyline. Part of this includes introducing new characters to the ride, including another skipper and his crew. We’ll be getting more information on the backstory of the explorers from the famous rhino pole scene. Throughout the ride, guests will learn about where these characters came from and why they’re on this expedition in the jungle.
Each of these characters (which include a birdwatcher, an entomologist, a wildlife painter, a photographer, and the skipper), will have their own story and cultural heritage. Altogether, they’ll help create a better narrative for the attraction, all the while giving new joke material for your personal skipper!
And when you notice that the explorers are stranded, it makes you wonder — what happened to their boat? Well, you’ll find that in the attraction as well: it has been taken over by chimpanzees! (And they are going bananas!) Fun fact, the boat they’re taking over is the Kwango Kate, a boat that was specific to Magic Kingdom but hasn’t been seen in years. (I guess we know what happened to it now!).
One of the changes coming to this ride is to the classic Trader Sam scene. The original scene was removed from the Magic Kingdom Jungle Cruise in early April, and Disney has since announced a replacement. Trader Sam will be in charge of the river’s Lost and Found location…which he turns into a gift shop. But the jungle always has the last laugh, and monkeys raid his store while he’s away!
Disney is taking extra care to make sure any cultural changes are done in the proper light, including the changes with animals. Beatty said in his interview “It’s done in a way that celebrates diverse backgrounds and interests —that’s part of the rich storytelling, not something you poke fun at it.” They’ve been working with Carmen Smith, the executive for Creative Development and Inclusive Strategies, as well as Dr. Mark Penning at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, to make sure that these additions are as accurate as possible.
What About the Jokes?
As far as the jokes go, Disney will be keeping much of the classic humor that you know and love from this ride, including the famous “backside of water” moment. Any humor that is added will be in the tone of Marc Davis (the Imagineer who originally worked on Jungle Cruise), in order to keep the attraction as authentic and true to itself as possible. In fact, many of the changes are actually being written by a former skipper, Kevin Lively (a writer at Imagineering).
So…Who Are These New Characters?
Disney’s shared quite a few details about the new characters coming to the ride. The backstory is centered around Alberta Falls, granddaughter of world-renowned Dr. Albert Falls, the proprietor of the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. Alberta inherited the company following her grandfather’s mysterious disappearance, keeping his legacy alive.
We’ve also gotten a look at the new cast of characters: a motley crew that’s all connected to Alberta somehow! Those characters include the animatronic skipper Felix Pechman XIII, an acclaimed Canadian botanist (Dr. Leonard Moss), a celebrated Mexican artist (Rosa Soto Dominguez), Japan’s preeminent entomologist (Dr. Kon Chunosuke), and Alberta’s distant cousin Siobhan “Puffin” Murphy.
Will the Rock Be Added?
And if you’re afraid that Disney’s going to be re-theming the attraction to fit with the upcoming Jungle Cruise movie, don’t worry! “I’m sure the film is fantastic and we’re very excited about it, but integrating the film into our classic Jungle Cruise is not part of this effort.” Beatty shared. “Does that mean that as Imagineers we won’t put Easter eggs in there? We’ll definitely do that. But we are not adding a major storyline or character from that film.”
How Long Will the Ride Be Closed?
These changes will come to Jungle Cruise at both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park, and the storyline will be the same for both attractions. Beatty shared that they want the plot to be cohesive on both coasts, saying, “It’s been fun to look at the nuances between the two attractions and what makes them slightly different, but the scenes that we’re adjusting are the same.” In fact, Imagineer Kevin Lively explains that in the story, both skipper crews will actually be workin’ the same river, from the East and West docks. Pretty cool, right?!
But we know what you’re probably wondering…when will the Jungle Cruise close, and for how long? Well, we’ve got good news for you pun-loving, river-cruisin’ people! The Jungle Cruise will actually stay open throughout the reimagining. According to Imagineer Zach Riddley, the attraction is expected to remain open while the changes are implemented over the next few months. We’ll be keepin’ an eye out for the updates as they arrive!
There will always be changes coming to the parks as Disney continues to reevaluate its attractions and find what works, and what doesn’t. Throughout this process, their goal is to keep the “DNA” of Jungle Cruise the same, so that it will still be the same classic attraction fans love, just with a few enhancements.
We’ll be waiting for more details on this upcoming refurbishment, including a start date, so stay tuned to DFB for more information. We look forward to seeing the progress Disney makes with this fan-favorite ride!
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Do you ride Jungle Cruise when you go to Disney? Let us know in the comments!