Dwayne Johnson Did Some Deep Disney Research In His Preparation For Jungle Cruise

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise

Dwayne Johnson is a passionate guy, and one thing that he seems to be particularly passionate about is Disney. He hasn’t collaborated with the studio extensively in the past, with a resume that’s limited to The Game Plan, Race To Witch Mountain, and Pixar’s Moana, but each time he does develop a project with the company he is not shy about expressing effusive love for their legacy of family-friendly entertainment. This in mind, it should be of little surprise that Johnson got especially amped in the development of the upcoming Jungle Cruise – based on the amusement park ride of the same name – and it led him to go a bit above and beyond in his preparation for the film.

When the new movie was in production all the way back in 2018, I had the wonderful opportunity to join a small group of journalists to fly to Hawaii and visit the set, and during the trip we had the opportunity to chat with stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt between set ups. Johnson, who is a producer on Jungle Cruise in addition to being one of the leads, was asked about his history with the ride, and he explained not only his personal experience, but also how he came to understand its significance:

I love Disney and going to Disney, and the very first time I was able to go to Disney I was 26 years old. And this was Disney down in Orlando. I was just so amazed because I had always dreamed about going to Disney, we just never took family vacations when I was a kid. And I finally went, and I fell in love with the ride just like I fell in love with the park, and years later, we have this really amazing opportunity that I'm really grateful for.

Jungle Cruise was one of the original attractions when Disneyland was first opened in the 1950s, and in taking on the project Dwayne Johnson wanted to honor its notable history. The ride takes guests through a non-specific jungle, guided along the way by a pun-loving skipper, and in the development of the movie adaptation Johnson wound up personally doing some extra study in the Disney archives to ensure that all of the right steps were being taken with the project. Said the actor/filmmaker,

In terms of the research, the research was deep, man. But that was the fun part about doing a movie like this, where you're able to go and you're able to not only meet with the executives at first – that's at one level – but then you're able to go spend time with the Imagineers, a very special group, very creative, and go into the vaults at Disney. And, you know, you guys may know or may not know, but Jungle Cruise was a high priority for Walt [Disney] when he opened the park in 1955, and he was the very first skipper. So, I mean, for us it's pretty cool.

Now it’s Dwayne Johnson taking over the skipper role, starring in Jungle Cruise as Frank Wolff – a steamboat captain operating a struggling company providing tourists with thrills in the Amazon. Just as he is about to lose everything to his biggest competitor (Paul Giamatti), a major opportunity falls into his lap thanks to the arrival of Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her brother McGregor (Jack Whitehall). She is on an adventure to try and find the Tears Of The Moon, a legendary plant deep in the rainforest said to cure illness and break any curse, and while Frank recognizes the job as a suicide mission, his desperation and the promise of a big payday see him agree to take the Houghtons aboard.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Jungle Cruise also stars Edgar Ramirez and Jesse Plemons, and while it has taken quite a long time to arrive, it is now only a month away from coming out. As was announced back in May, the movie will be getting a day-and-date release in theaters and on streaming via Premier Access on Disney+ on July 30. Get excited – and to see everything else that is going to the service next month, check out our guide for July 2021.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.