If you’ve ever been on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland or Magic Kingdom, you’re probably familiar with the jokes. To board the beloved boat ride is to enjoy and endure a bevy of river related puns and dad jokes. Those bits have only changed in small increments since the Jungle Cruise first set sail. The skipper piloting the boat through the rivers of the world makes all the difference with their attitude and delivery. Silly as the ride can be, it has an outdated approach when it comes to the portrayal of Indigenous people. But that’s about to change. Disney announced Monday that major updates are coming to the classic attraction at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom.
It’s the latest of a couple rides to receive modern refreshes; others include Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain, which they’ve refocused to a story about Princess Tiana. As for Jungle Cruise, Walt Disney Imagineering will makeover the ride in a number of ways. Firstly and most importantly, via the OC Register, Imagineering is updating the scene with Trader Sam and his shrunken heads and the rhino chasing a safari group up a tree (you know the one, the rhino that always gets its point across).
Former Jungle Cruise skipper and Walt Disney Imagineer writer Kevin Lively shared some additional notes on the Disney Parks Blog. He shares concept art and the ride’s new story. He says, “As part of this story update, we’ll get to follow a skipper and his passengers as their journey goes awry. For the first time ever, the skipper role will not only be that of a live, experienced, and witty guide but also represented by a show figure within the attraction itself.”
Please note the giant “S” shaped pin Lively wears in the video. That’s the emblem of S.E.A., the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. The group has multitudinous connections in Disney’s theme parks around the world. And as Lively also worked on Disneyland’s Tropical Hideaway, which has S.E.A. Easter eggs, we can certainly hope he’ll weave that group and its history more overtly into this updated Jungle Cruise backstory. Maybe the new group of explorers stuck on the pole above the rhino, who all have different roles, will be noted members of S.E.A.
And if you’re worried about never hearing some of your favorite Jungle Cruise gags again, both the lovable and the groan-inducing, don’t fret. Imagineering’s Chris Beatty told D23 that they’ll be hanging onto many of the classic jokes the fans adore. That means the backside of water isn’t going anywhere.
The movie Jungle Cruise is set to open later in 2021, but you won’t see the Rock coming to the theme park ride. Beatty confirmed to D23 that they are not adding a major storyline or character from that film. You’ll likely spot some Easter eggs from the live-action movie though.
The reimagined versions of the Jungle Cruise should open at Magic Kingdom and Disneyland later this year. The latter park is currently non-operational due to COVID-19.