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Disneyland's Jungle Cruise has been a popular attraction since the very first day that the park opened, and its Skippers are some of the most popular cast members you'll find in the park. With the attraction being over 65 years old there is a long line of former cast members who have helmed the boats. And one of the very first recently went with his family to see the new movie starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, and the result was hilarious and adorable.
Nathanial Free posted a short video to Twitter which shows his grandfather, Leonard O'Reilly, performing classic jokes from the Jungle Cruise ride while he's positioned next to Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt's cardboard selves in a movie theater lobby. O'Reilly was a Skipper himself back in 1956, just a year after the park and the ride opened. Check it out.
While there might be a select few whose time on the Jungle Cruise predates even Leonard O'Reilly, he would have been in the very first group to present the Cruise in its comedic form. The Jungle Cruise was originally inspired by Disney's True Life Adventure documentary films and it was originally presented in a more nature documentary sort of format. Later the ride was updated to provide more humor, and that's when the jokes really began to fly.
The Jungle Cruise movie is currently available on Disney+ for an additional charge. You can use this link to sign up for the streaming service.
And several of those jokes made their way into the Jungle Cruise movie starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. Whatever Mr. O'Reilly thought of the movie itself, it had to be a surreal experience to see the job he had when he was young turned into a big screen movie in the first place. It also had to be exciting for the man's family. Apparently everybody went to the movies to see the movie with him.
But the legacy of this family and the Jungle Cruise is perhaps even more interwoven than this. I happened to connect Nathanial Free on Twitter with Kevin Lively, a former Jungle Cruise Skipper himself and a current Walt Disney Imagineer, and in doing so learned a potentially remarkable piece of information. Apparently, Leonard O'Reilly wasn't the only member of the family to Skipper on the Jungle Cruise, as his twin brother Ronald had the job as well. Not only that, but according to Leonard, it was his brother who came up with the attraction's most classic line, the "back side of water."
While such a thing would likely be impossible to ever confirm, I suppose the joke had to start somewhere, and the idea that we could be looking at a connection to the one joke you're guaranteed to hear any time you ride the Jungle Cruise, is pretty awesome. Either way, the Jungle Cruise Skipper had an a remarkable cruise in life, one that I'm sure he doesn't take for granite.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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