An elephant spouting water on Disney's Jungle Cruise
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Credit: Disneyland Resort

Theme Park News: Jungle Cruise adopts some much-needed updates and Disney fans feud with... Monty Python?

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Jan 26, 2021, 5:41 PM EST (Updated)

Welcome to Theme Park News, just as some big changes arrived on both coasts this week when Disney announced it will, at long last, remove culturally insensitive elements of its Jungle Cruise ride.

The comedically perilous romp through international waterways is a time-tested crowd-pleaser, putting employees' personalities on display as a delightfully corny "spiel" from onboard skippers makes for a fun and often varied experience, but in recent years had garnered attention for its glaring and outdated depictions of native people.

In the updated version, slated for later this year, the heart of the ride will remain — jokes, puns, and yes, "the back side of water" — as the script and scenes see changes with a throughline that had never been in place prior. In it, a Jungle Cruise skipper and four passengers find themselves on a bit of a troublesome expedition as their ill-fated cruise is showcased within the attraction itself.

The news of Jungle Cruise's changes marks the third time a Disney attraction has been updated for inclusivity in recent years. Pirates of the Caribbean reimagined its “bride auction” scene at Disneyland Paris in 2017 and Walt Disney World and Disneyland in 2018. Disney also announced plans to strip Splash Mountain of its racist roots on both coasts last summer, reclaiming the popular log flume attraction as an ode to The Princess & The Frog, a 2009 animated Disney film featuring the Mouse House's first-ever Black princess.

Disney's understanding that nostalgia should never outweigh offensive cultural depictions is commendable. Putting money toward something that doesn't directly draw crowds into the parks the same way a gargantuan Tron coaster will is a big deal, but showing a commitment to inclusivity is worthy of praise. No guest at a theme park should be made uncomfortable from outdated storylines or repugnant stereotypes on display. Nobody should feel marginalized in a make-believe world, and we hope every attraction with questionable content is similarly reimagined. (It's weird how Haunted Mansion, an all-ages attraction, has a scene where someone is hanging in a noose. It's weird!)

While plenty of fans have loudly praised the forthcoming changes, this week's news marks the first time an opening day Disneyland attraction, often considered sacred by die-hard fans due to Walt's input, will be seeing a cultural overhaul. Typically when these things happen, people really show their hand. Read: They show their intolerance. If it's mess you crave, one needs to look no further than Annual Passholder groups on Facebook at times like these, where fans are more than happy to sound off on the subject.

Credit: Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Fools abound, but the version of Jungle Cruise they're defending isn't even the one that debuted with Disneyland. As D23's article wisely points out, Walt's original orders for 1955's version was as a more serious trek; the laughs only came in its second iteration, helmed by Marc Davis. The Los Angeles Times also stresses that when the ride debuted, animals were “scarce,” vegetation had not fully grown in, and “many of the ride's most beloved scenes” were added in the '60s.

Interestingly, the changes are not being made to put the stars of Disney's eponymous blockbuster film, Jungle Cruise, at the forefront. Easter eggs from the movie, which stars Emily Blunt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are likely as per Imagineer Chris Beatty, but it's surprising the attraction won't be changed to reflect the film given its scale and summer 2021 release. Johnson, a fan of the ride, spent years producing and getting the eponymous film off the ground, but it's not like The Rock himself said the ride would be changing.

Oh wait…

Yeah. In an Instagram post from 2017 (linked above), Johnson wrote, “Being able to star in and produce #JungleCruise is a dream come true. BUT what takes this to the next level, is that we'll partner with Disney's brilliant Imagineers to help re-engineer and re-design the #JungleCruise ride in all the Disney theme parks around the world. A very special opportunity for us and our @sevenbucksprod to create an unforgettable and fun EXPERIENCE for families around the world.”

I'm not saying Disney's hiding a couple of facial scans of The Rock's mug deep in Walt Disney Imagineering, but as someone who was aghast to have potentially missed our chance for a series of Dwayne Johnson robots within the parks, I'm not giving up hope just yet.

​​​​​​(Give this man the Indiana Jones treatment! OK, back to business.)

We're thrilled with the news, applaud Disney for prioritizing inclusivity, and cannot wait for the new changes. The jokes will still be there, the charm will still be there, and the small but deeply-held concern over cast members making you feel like you could fall through that small gap between the boat and the dock while exiting if you don't hold their hand like you're in a school bus drill will, of course, still be there. And that's what makes this ride so special.

JOURNEY INTO... WHATEVER THIS IS

Rarely do we see something so major go down on Twitter that it becomes full-fledged Disney news but this week?! This week it happened.

Despite some of its loathed changes over the years, Journey into Imagination With Figment remains one of the most beloved attractions among die-hard Disney fans. Eric Idle, the legendary Monty Python comedian who stars as Dr. Nigel Channing on the ride, hopped aboard the give-no-f***s express over the weekend and headed straight for Figment lovers' hearts, revealing that he had never stepped foot on the attraction — and didn't even remember filming it.

And oh, it didn't end there:

When one Disney fan account tweeted an old promotional photo of Idle and Figment, the actor responded with a clarification. ​​​​​​"For very stupid people: When we film these things the animated little f***er isn't really there," his tweet reads.

All I'll say is: Patrick Warburton would never!!

LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!

- Well, this story about Universal filing a patent for queues is interesting.

- Festival of the Lion King will return to Disney's Animal Kingdom this summer.

- More Disney layoffs are apparently coming in March.

- This is a good week to reflect on recent and brilliant theme park memes.

- Watermelon Dole Whip!!

- The rabbit hole of theme parks and politics goes pretty deep.

- I love these Adopt-A-Pup souvenirs intended for Universal Studios Hollywood's The Secret Life of Pets attraction.

- With California lifting its stay-at-home order, Downtown Disney is allowing "socially distanced eating" once again.

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