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On July 17, Disneyland in Anaheim, California, celebrated its 66th birthday along with one of its opening day rides: Jungle Cruise. The brainchild of Walt Disney back in the day, the beloved, semi-snarky tour up the Amazon started as a serious faux-adventure for less worldly guests, and it has since evolved into the wink-wink experience it is today.
Now that the ride has inspired the latest Disney big screen blockbuster, Jungle Cruise starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, the Imagineers at Disneyland Resorts figured it was time to upgrade the experience with a narrative reframing and new visuals along the route.
SYFY WIRE was one of a few select outlets that got to experience the ride early before its July 16 grand re-opening. We also spoke with Walt Disney Imagineering Executive Creative Director Kim Irvine and Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Director Susana Tubert, who explained that this particular revision to the ride was a months-long collaboration between Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, (which will be upgrading their Jungle Cruise to match later in 2021).
“We want when guests come to the park not to just see the same ride over and over again,” Irvine said of the changes. “It's always fun to have the discovery of something new. So this time, we took advantage of the same stories that were there, the same threads, the same scenes, and enhanced them with some new things.”
When we began to explore our creative approach to refreshing the Jungle Cruise, we gave ourselves a couple of guiding principles,” Tubert added. “The first one was how important it was to sustain the comedic tone of the attraction. And then the second one was about looking for opportunities to find ways to bring an inclusive brushstroke across the attraction, but one that would feel relevant and also authentic and organic to the Jungle Cruise.”
The general mythology framing of the ride remains the same, but there’s a new backstory in regards to current management. As you experience the upgraded queue before boarding with supporting art and props, along with intel from your individual boat skipper, the story unfolds that OG proprietor, Dr. Albert Falls, has a granddaughter named Alberta, and she is the new proprietor of The Jungle Navigation Company. Alberta’s mom is a renowned artist from India, and her father is a British scholar, which means she has traveled all over the world.
“She's very cultural, she's very worldly, and she's made a lot of friends during her travels,” Tubert said of Alberta. “In fact, these friends were a little bit eccentric, and have come to visit her today, and to have this immersive experience as explorers in nature.”
According to Tubert, the new roll call of characters at play in the queue and the ride add the diversity historically lacking since Jungle Cruise's creation. "There's Rosa Soto Dominguez, who is a renowned artist from Mexico, and she's Alberta's really good friend," she detailed. "Then we have Dr. Leonard Moss, he's a botanist from Nova Scotia. Dr. Kon Chunosuke from Japan is an etymologist and also a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. And lastly is Alberta's cousin [Siobhan 'Puffin' Murphy], twice removed, but she's really been wanting to have this experience in the Jungle Cruise because she loves birds. She's a birdwatcher and she's a little bit ditzy, but she loves birds. That's her fascination. By embracing Alberta's passion to keep the legacy of her grandfather alive, and through the visit of these amazing explorers who have come from all over the world, we found a really organic and natural way to bring this point of view to the attraction that would feel truly organic in the Jungle Cruise."
"And the destruction that the riders encounter along the route is now grounded by the experience of those characters. The outcome of which, guests get to witness along the way," said Irvine, explaining the contextual history. "[Imagineer] Marc Davis put in 'The Lost Safari' going up the pole, but they were people we really didn't relate to. So now we know who these people are, because through the queue there are little Easter eggs for each one of these characters that helps you understand what their background is: the entomologist, the biologist, the bird watcher, etc. And when you come to that pole, you see that helpless safari that somehow has been kicked out of their boat and is now being trapped by the rhino."
"And as you come around the corner, those hippos that have been threatening you with their wriggling ears and charging your boat have finally made purchase and been able to knock over a boat," Irvine continued. "And Trader Sam still has his location at the end, but he's just out right now collecting things that he's going to sell you in the lost and found. The Navigation Company has tried to make a place where if you've dropped your hat or glasses overboard, you can go and find them. But he has put up his gift shop sign and is now going to sell them back to ya."
"And while he was looking for more lost and found things, those little spider monkeys have taken over the shop and are wreaking havoc on the Victrola. The animals get the last laugh," Irvine smiled.
But worry not, there's plenty of laughs to go around for everyone.
Jungle Cruise the ride is open now at Disneyland and Disney World. Jungle Cruise the movie debuts July 30 in theaters and on Disney+ Premier.