If you just heard the sound of thousands of people being indiscriminately furious, it's because Disney has announced that a classic Disneyland and Walt Disney World attraction is about to get a serious face lift. Following the announcement that Splash Mountain would get a retheme and move away from Song of the South, an even older attraction, the Jungle Cruise has now been announced as getting a significant update. Both theme parks will see this brand new update, which will transform the ride into a more cohesive story, but will still include the same humor, and also the back side of water.
Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Portfolio Executive Chris Beatty revealed the planned change to Disney's D23 website, where he explained that the Jungle Cruise isn't getting a complete redesign. Instead, it appears that many of the existing show scenes will remain. There are only a couple that are expected to change. Beatty explains...
We want to make sure everybody has the best time—that guests from all over the world can connect with the stories we share and that how we bring those to life are respectful of the diverse world we live in. And when they get off the attraction, they know that we have done our homework because these are the details that matter. When you look at the Jungle Cruise, as it is today, there are just a couple of scenes that don’t do that and needed a refresh.
While Chris Beatty doesn't go into what specifically will be changed, a new piece of concept art released shows a slightly modified versions of the sequence where a rhino has chased a group of explorers up a tree, so that scene will be remaining. In fact, the group of explorers, rather than just being a random group of people in one scene, will now be a part of a larger story. Each one of them will get their own backstory and cultural heritage, and, one assumes, merchandise.
One of the new scenes will show us what happened to the boat the explorers took down river, which feels like a bit of art imitating life. The Kongo Kate, another Jungle Cruise craft, will be seen against some rocks, where it has been taken over by some of the local inhabitants.
A redesign of the Jungle Cruise is actually not all that shocking. There have been hints ever since the upcoming movie was announced that such a thing might be on the way. Having said that, it doesn't appear that the movie itself will play a part in the new attraction. Chris Beatty went on to say that while the ride will likely include references to the film in the form of easter eggs, don't expect to see an animatronic Dwayne Johnson or Emily Blunt appear at any point...
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.
Anybody who is concerned that the new version of Jungle Cruise might lose any of the classic ride's magic probably shouldn't worry, if for no other reason than people who have a personal connection to the attraction are working on the new version. Walt Disney Imagineer Kevin Lively is a writer working on the project, and he actually was a Jungle Cruise skipper once upon a time, so you can be sure he will make sure nothing terrible happens to your favorite ride. Disney Parks released a video with Lively going over the changes.
While it's unclear what will be lost when the redesign is done, It's been confirmed that the ride will remove "negative depictions of native people." Both Trader Sam the headhunter and the African native characters are, without question, a product of a different time, and they haven't aged nearly as well as the rest of the attraction. Having said that, I wouldn't be shocked to see Trader Sam modified or replaced with a brand new character with the same name. Either that, or expect the bar at the Disneyland Hotel of the same name to also get an update.
This change is really no shock. It falls in line with other recent updates, like the announcement of the Splash Mountain re-theme or the removal of the Wench Auction from Pirates of the Caribbean. Times change and so do perspectives.
One other part that has been promised to stay around is the attraction's most classic joke, the "back side of water." But of course, with new show scenes, will require new skipper jokes, and there's nothing wrong with that. While many Jungle Cruise skipper lines have become classics, they all had to start somewhere, and so now a new generation of skippers will have a chance to make their own mark with some new jokes.
While the Jungle Cruise hasn't seen a major redesign in decades, the fact is the the Jungle Cruise has seen a significant evolution over the years. The attraction was a day one offering at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but in 1955 the Jungle Cruise was significantly lacking in jokes. The idea was that the ride would mimic an actual river cruise to look at actual wildlife and the skipper narration sounded more like something you'd here from one of the True Life Adventure Disney nature documentaries. Walt Disney actually wanted the ride to include real animals, but that idea was given up on when it was realized they'd be impossible to control.
It was only when Imagineer Marc Davis, who's sense of humor inspired rides like the Haunted Mansion, added updates later that the Jungle Cruise took on a more lighthearted tone. Jungle Cruise skippers no longer have a set script, instead, each one puts together their own using a combination of classic jokes along with whatever new ones they're trying out. It makes each ride on the Jungle Cruise both familiar and fresh.
While I'm sure some will be upset by this news, you can't update a classic attraction without drawing the ire of people who apparently feel Disneyland should be a museum and not a theme park, the fact is that the ride itself isn't actually changing that much, the core of it will still be there, just the story being told will be different. There's no word on exactly when this work will begin or when the update is expected to be completed.