The Rock Explains Why Disney Pushed Jungle Cruise Back An Entire Year

Dwayne Johnson in Jungle Cruise

With the movie release calendar at a standstill due to closed theaters, we had already seen a number of high profile movies like Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984, get delayed. It was obvious that, at some point, all the delayed films would need to find new release dates and that would cause ripple effects on the calendar for the next couple of years. Last Friday, Disney revealed its new plan for its various film divisions. A lot of films have been shuffled around, one was even moved out of theaters and on to Disney+, but one of the biggest time shifts happened to Disney's Jungle Cruise which has been pushed back a full year, to July 2021.

Most of the rest of Disney's films saw shifts of only a few months, Mulan that was set for April, now has the old Jungle Cruise spot in July. Black Widow moved from its May date to the spot being held by the next MCU movie in line, The Eternals. Most of the other films that are having their dates adjusted saw similar time shifts and so Jungle Cruise stood out with a much more significant jump, about 53 weeks.

What Dwayne Johnson Said About The Jungle Cruise Delay

Star Dwayne Johnson took to Instagram to let fans know about the change in the schedule, and he explained that the decision to wait a year came after serious talks with Disney, and the feeling was that they wanted to wait to release the film until things were not only back to normal, but until people felt confident about the world again. That meant waiting until a lot of other Disney business divisions, like theme parks and cruise ships, were back up and running. According to Johnson...

We had some tremendous conversations with ourselves, Seven Bucks, Disney leadership team about making sure that the Disney theme parks are fully operation, the Disney Cruise lines are fully operational, functional… but more importantly than that it was very important that everyone had an emotional confidence, not only here in the states but also around the world. That emotional confidence allows us to get our kids back to school. It allows us to get back to work, feeling good about that. Our Disney employees, our Disney team members to get back to work and spread that joy and happiness.

Dwayne Johnson's comments would seem to imply that both he and Disney as a whole just wanted to make sure that Jungle Cruise had the best possible audience, one that was open and accepting of the film. One that felt positive about the world again. Certainly, a confident audience gives the film the best chance of success.

While pushing Jungle Cruise off a year might seem like a lack of confidence in the movie, the reverse might actually be true. This is actually the second major delay for the film. Originally, the film was supposed to bow in October of 2019, but the film was pushed into the summer movie season, which felt like a vote of confidence from Disney that the movie belonged there. It could be that Disney thinks the movie is a potential hit, and possibly a potential franchise, but that the wrong release date might harm those chances.

Of course, the other thing that's happening is that Disney is spinning a lot of plates. Between Disney live-action, Disney animation, Marvel, and Fox, there are simply a lot of movies that Disney needs to find a home for, and Jungle Cruise is one of many. As The Rock explained...

There were a lot of conversations we had to have to get to this point. Obviously, Disney has an incredible slate of movies. Movies from Fox, they have their Marvel movies, they have their live action, they have their animation, there was a lot.

Why The Theme Parks Might Really Matter To Jungle Cruise

The idea that theme parks opening could impact a movie's release might seem disconnected, they're entirely separate divisions of Disney, but this is a ride based on a theme park attraction after all. One assumes that, along with the movie's release, there were plans for some significant promotion in the parks. In fact, Dwayne Johnson himself had previously said that the various Jungle Cruise attractions around the world would go through changes in conjunction with the movie. We've seen Captain Jack Sparrow become part of the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions, and it seems something similar could be in line for Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.

While things may have changed in the three years since he said that, it's quite likely that, with the parks closed down now and no work being done inside them, whatever was planned for the attractions is also on hold. The movie could, at least in theory, open whenever it wants once theaters are open, but theme park attractions take more time to get ready than that. And jumping into an attraction renovation and trying to get it done in a certain window to hit a movie release date isn't Disney's style. These things usually take their time, and so it seems likely that by pushing things off by almost exactly a year, the time table remains essentially intact, only the year has changed.

Dwayne Johnson's specific reference to the Disney Cruise lines might also imply cross-promotional plans there, which makes sense. The cruise lines frequently have special trips dedicated to Marvel and Star Wars, so a Jungle Cruise Cruise seems like an obvious opportunity.

Cruise lines, like theme parks, are shutdown and, more than likely, neither one of them are going to jump to back to "business as usual" on day one of returning to full operation. It's going to take time as many people slowly become confident enough to get on a cruise ship again or visit a crowded theme park. With the money that we know Disney is losing due to closed parks, it seems likely the company will want to wait to spend money on renovating attractions or cruise ships until attendance is back at levels that were seen before everything went nuts.

Dwayne Johnson's comments sound like he just wants to wait until life gets back to normal, but the reality may be that the theme parks and cruise ships are actually a key part of Disney's plan for the Jungle Cruise movie, and that's why his movie needs to wait an extra year.

As somebody who was truly looking forward to the Jungle Cruise movie, I'm certainly bummed that I have to wait a whole extra year to see it, but it feels like when it does come we're going to see a lot more than just a movie, and I'd certainly rather see everything else that comes with the movie not be rushed, so the longer delay here, if it is because of the parks, makes a lot of sense.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.