Everything You Need to Know About Jingle Cruise
For a limited time, a visit to Magic Kingdom will come with a special attraction. Disney has added their annual park overlay to Jungle Cruise, turning the sarcastic pun-fest into a more upbeat affair. Here’s a review of Jingle Cruise, the silliest of all Disney theme park overlays.
Did you know that Jungle Cruise wasn’t always funny? It’s true. During the earliest days of this attraction, one that opened with Disneyland in 1955, Jungle Cruise Skippers informed rather than entertained.
One of the seminal Disney programs of the era was their nature documentary series. Called True-Life Adventures, these films began in 1948 and ended in 1960. Disney created 14 over this 12-year span, many of which transferred over to ABC television programming after their theatrical runs. The Walt Disney Company earned three Oscars for their nature films.
Since much of Disneyland reflected the Disney entertainment library of the time, the company’s founder expected a nature-based attraction at his park. At the time, Uncle Walt even wanted live animals although his Imagineers talked him out of the idea. No one dared question the seriousness of Jungle Cruise at the time, though. Its purpose was educational.
Over the years, however, Skippers grew bored of the standard script. They drove by the comical props each day and slowly started to quip. The silliness of many sets became impossible for park officials to ignore. Plus, audiences loved the decidedly un-Disney snark. Everyone decided to lean into the hijinks, creating a new, pun-intensive script. Yes, the Jungle Cruise that you know and love today wasn’t the original plan. It’s a better one that evolved over time.
Five years ago, Disney changed Jungle Cruise once again, albeit briefly. During the 2013 holiday season, they tried something different. Imagineers added a new yuletide overlay to the attraction, renaming it Jingle Cruise. The sign even reflected the change, as a candy cane in the shape of the letter ‘I’ is positioned in front of the ‘U’ in Jungle.
The premise of the overlay is perfect. The skippers get homesick during the holidays, just like the rest of us. To stave off their depression, they decorate elements of the tour to show some festive spirit. During that first year, Jingle Cruise only had one major change from the normal ride. Its script was modified to tell more holiday-related jokes in lieu of the regular ones.
Over the past few years, Jingle Cruise has become a bigger deal at both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. In fact, Walt Disney World fans expressed outrage in 2017 when rumors indicated that Jingle Cruise wouldn’t take place. A month later, Disney allayed those fears by stating that it would return, causing many to speculate that the company ceded to popular demand. Fans are that passionate about the holiday overlay.
The 2018 Jingle Cruise Features
By this point, the Jingle Cruise set is extremely detailed. You’ll know from the ride queue that something is amiss from the regular Jungle Cruise. Some (intentionally) cheap Christmas trees are placed in front of the regular props. Colorful Christmas lights illuminate the walls. Most alarmingly, an ethanol dispenser has its name altered to read “EthaNOEL Eggnog”. You…probably shouldn’t drink out of that spigot.
There’s even a picture of Santa and a painted banner that says, “Santa PLEASE STOP HERE!” Hey, when you’re out in the wilds as an ambassador for the S.E.A., you worry that you might not appear on the North Pole’s radar.
The boats also have cute theming. They have new holiday names like Garland Gertie, Icicle Irma, Poinsettia Sal, Yulelog Lolly, Candy Cane Connie, Brrrrr Bertha, and Mistletoe Millie. The idea is that the Skippers used cheap paint and signs to alter the boats, adding to the yuletide spirit. Whether they did this for the customers is up for debate.
By the time you’ve boarded your Jingle Cruise journey, you’ll understand that it’s unlike any you’ve ever had on Jungle Cruise. All of the set pieces have special yuletide touches. There are Christmas cargo drops throughout the ride. The Sunken Cambodian Temple has somehow morphed into “Santa’s Workshop”, and the Trapped Safari pole is now the North Pole.
My favorite joke involves Trader Sam, who gets a Santa Claus outfit and a name modification. He’s Trader Sam-ta, and his new holiday offer is three heads for one! He’s offering a deal that will help you “get a head start on your holiday shopping.” His sign warns that inventory is *ahem* shrinking, though.
You can watch this video to see all of the special holiday touches for Jingle Cruise 2018 at Magic Kingdom.
The dirty secret of Jungle Cruise is that your ride experience depends entirely on the quality of your Skipper. Some cast members nail the timing of the jokes and elevate the experience. Others are having a bad day or have a style that doesn’t work well with the ride. Thankfully, the latter group is in the huge minority, and I’ve anecdotally noticed over the years that Skippers take a great deal of pride in their jobs.
In some Disney groups, you’ll find former Skippers who honestly grade their own performances on the social media videos of them. They know that some of their rides are better than others, which is understandable for what’s effectively a live stand-up routine three times an hour.
I mention all of this as I lead to the fact that our most recent Jungle Cruise ride was legitimately the worst of my entire life. The guy had a weird style that came across as sarcastic and sneering. It just wasn’t very Disney, and we had kind of avoided the ride for a while because of it. He had turned us off of Jungle Cruise.
Fast forward to November 1st, and my party was walking through Adventureland when we realized that Jingle Cruise was open. We had totally forgotten this, as it happened in the middle of our trip. Excitedly, we dropped all plans and rushed into the line queue…which was totally empty. So, we were in the best possible mood when we boarded Brrrrr Bertha and headed down the path of the Jingle Cruise.
Even if we hadn’t been in a great mood, however, I’m confident that we would have had the best possible ride. Our cast member, Faith, was clearly relishing in the opportunity to do the new script for the ride overlay. It was a beautiful night, and she was in the holiday spirit. She turned our 10-minute trip into a comedic delight, winning over the entire boat with her puns and delivery.
Faith was one of the best Skippers I’ve ever had, and I’m also a huge fan of the Jingle Cruise script, too. It’s exactly the refreshing change that an overlay needs to succeed. I’m actually in favor of Disney doing this several times a year, keeping Jungle Cruise exciting with surprising dialogue instead of the stale stuff that many of us know by heart.
Whether you’ve ridden Jingle Cruise before or will enjoy it for the first time, I’m confident that the 2018 iteration, the best one yet, will warm your heart. If it can’t put you in the holiday spirit, you must be a real Scrooge.