Disney's theme parks are always changing; that's part of the mandate they were given by Walt Disney himself. While this frequently means additions to the parks, it also means changes are made to existing attractions. Often those changes are small updates in technology being added to new attractions. However, sometimes attractions can be completely replaced or given overhauls that drastically change what the attraction is. Disneyland and Walt Disney World are in the midst of some pretty significant changes, and not everybody is happy about that. But director James Gunn has some thoughts about one man in particular who ranted about the parks being too woke.
Last week a "commentary" item appeared on the Orlando Sentinel website where a man from Nevada complained about a trend of "wokeness" going on in the parks. The writer was upset that Disney Cast Members were going to be allowed to display some of their tattoos, or that changes were being made to popular rides like Splash Mountain and the Jungle Cruise. However, James Gunn, who has seen some of his characters adapted for theme park attractions, has his own opinion on that piece, the changes that are being made, and those who have a problem with them.
Amongst the various grievances in the commentary is the recent removal of Trader Sam, a character traditionally found in the finale of the Jungle Cruise. The character is an African "headhunter" among other things, and Disney has not hidden that some its motives in making changes to Jungle Cruise include dealing with some of the insensitive aspects of the attraction, which has been around since day one at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
James Gunn makes two points. The first being that, perhaps, if seeing a cast member tattoo or not seeing Trader Sam is that big a deal for him, the problem is his, and not anybody else's. And the other is simply that not seeing a single figure in a massive theme park attraction simply shouldn't have the big an impact on anybody. If Trader Sam not being part of the Jungle Cruise ruins your day, why is that?
James Gunn has his share of experience working with those that create these attractions. He was directly involved in the creation of Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout, at Disney California Adventure, which was one time that a popular attraction, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was given an entirely new theme. He's currently getting ready to film scenes for an entirely new attraction, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, which is expected to open at Epcot next year.
For what it's worth, Today Disney revealed that while Trader Sam as a character won't be back in the Jungle Cruise, the character isn't being entirely written out either. Concept art for a new finale scene shows Trader Sam's Gift Shop, a new location being added to the Jungle Cruise where Sam has apparently taken what is supposed to be the lost and found, and begun selling off the possessions that have gotten lost in previous expeditions. Sam will apparently be out hunting the jungle for new items, so he won't be seen in the "gift shop."
Whether this change will placate those unhappy with the removal of Trader Sam in the first place we'll have to wait and see, but I'm not sure anybody is too concerned. The company seems committed to making these changes, and thus far the reaction to the backlash from the Walt Disney Company itself seems to be on par with James Gunn's opinions here.
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis. Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.