As Disneyland gears up for its 66th anniversary on July 17, and with the arrival of the new live-action blockbuster Jungle Cruise at the end of the month, the original attraction on which the film is based is getting its moment in the spotlight with a redesign going live at the Anaheim park on July 16. Some of the changes seem intriguing, while others….well, others are definitely changes, for better or worse.
A few days ago, the Disney Parks YouTube account posted this video, offering yet another glimpse at the overhaul that the Jungle Cruise is receiving, both in Orlando and in Anaheim. The video implies an interesting challenge for Disney’s Imagineers, who want to keep the ride as classic as it ever was, but also make it more relevant and inclusive, two terms that come up often in the 150-second video. (It’s a notable challenge because, unfortunately, many of the elements which have kept the Jungle Cruise “classic” are also those that make it feel dated and/or racist.)
Perhaps more interesting were comments from Kim Irvine captured on Twitter by the Laughing Place blog, where she mentioned that the iconic “lost team up the pole” gag — in which we see a group of explorers dangling from a pole with a rhinoceros attempting to jab at them with its pointed horn — was limited because “we didn’t relate to them…each one of them is so carefully costumed to help us understand their stories.”
Change Comes for Us All
The Jungle Cruise is an attraction that has hung around the Disney Parks for more than six decades for a reason. It’s a quintessential blend of adventure and humor, of old and new technologies. But there’s no doubt that the ride has been antiquated and offensive in some respects for a long time. Change needed to come. But the balance of adding backstories where none existed, in an attraction that often lives or dies on the charm and personality of your boat’s specific skipper, with staying classic to that attraction’s roots feels like a task that Irvine and the team may not be up for.
The addition of backstory may well be so easy to ignore as to be invisible. And that’s fine. If the majority of guests will simply notice that, hey, the Jungle Cruise isn’t quite so backwards-thinking anymore, that’s a good thing. Hopefully the added elements are more carefully weaved in — plenty of fans are willing to see the Jungle Cruise change without unnecessary story shoehorned in.
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