Behind the Attraction: Jungle Cruise
Imagine if you wrote a song. Then, a few years later, Bruce Springsteen created something with similar lyrics and a guitar hook.
Well, that’s kind of what Behind the Attraction on Disney+ is for me.
After all, I wrote a book called Behind the Ride that’s about, you know, Disney rides. I’m not just making this up! You can buy it on Amazon.
So, you can guess how I felt when I learned that The Rock and ex-wife/production partner, Dany Garcia, were doing a show with the same premise.
I’m easily replaceable.
Anyway, since I do have some familiarity with the subject matter, I’m a decent (but easily replaceable) choice to recap the episodes.
So, today, let’s go behind the ride attraction to learn about the history of Jungle Cruise.
I Love Paget Brewster
You know talented actress Paget Brewster from her 15 years as one of the stars of Criminal Minds. She’s also the guest star who came between Joey and Chandler on Friends.
I know her as the female lead on Andy Richter Saves the Universe, a criminally underrated comedy. But however any of us knows her, we can all agree on one thing.
Paget Brewster is hysterical.
For this reason, Brewster qualifies as the perfect choice to provide the narration for a Jungle Cruise discussion.
She’s having the time of her life quipping through the episode. Even if you aren’t interested in other episodes, you should watch this one to appreciate her effort.
Think of her as your Skipper on this enlightening trip down the river on Jungle Cruise, which is partly an episode about park history and partly an ad for the theatrical release.
The Rock even appears to profess that he fantasizes about working as a Skipper on an actual Jungle Cruise ride.
As Disney fans, we’re happy to see The Rock and hear Paget Brewster. However, we’re here for the ride stuff, right? So, let’s focus on that.
The History of Jungle Cruise
According to this episode, the origin of Jungle Cruise circles back to Walt Disney’s drive to excel.
The animator wasn’t content to draw Bambi and other animals with animation movements. Instead, he filmed creatures in the wild to study their behavior.
This decision led to countless rolls of film that Uncle Walt repurposed into Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventure stories, several of which won Academy Awards.
Yes, you may think of him as an illustrator, but much of Disney’s early Academy Awards success came from live-action movies. They, in turn, inspired Jungle Cruise.
Walt Disney wanted to build a theme park where families could come together in a safe and welcoming environment.
With Jungle Cruise, families could do something that was otherwise unpopular in the 1950s. They could travel to other parts of the world without leaving the park!
Guests would careen from the South Pacific to Africa to Eastern Asia on the same impossible boat ride.
Of course, the ride would take place in Anaheim, California, a place that lacked the resources for many of these sets.
Disney employees Harper Goff, Bill Evans, and others had to find trees, rocks, and other vegetation to make a jungle look plausible near the urban sprawl of Los Angeles.
Also, Uncle Walt had to create a boat path through a pile of dirt. All Disney needed was water, trees, and animals.
Speaking of animals, Walt wanted the real thing. Thankfully, his Imagineers talked him down, convincing him that fake critters would be more manageable.
In a demonstration of kismet, the team from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea won an Academy Award for their work on the 1954 release.
However, they were unemployed during the lead-up to Disneyland’s 1955 debut. So, Disney hired them to create the mechanical animals at Jungle Cruise!
The Evolution of Jungle Cruise
MickeyBlog has previously mentioned that Disney didn’t intend Jungle Cruise as the ultimate Dad Joke ride.
Instead, on the opening day of Disneyland, Walt Disney bragged on Adventureland, the majestic landscape that transported guests to foreign lands.
As 90 million people watched, Disney showed off the animals at Jungle Cruise, which he saved for last. Yes, Uncle Walt considered this ride his greatest achievement at the time.
Alas, people found the True-Life Adventure less than adventurous. The Skippers told stories and facts about the exotic animals. It was kinda dull for repeat viewings.
This statement may seem heretical, but you should relate. Do you like Living with the Land’s infotainment section at the start? Exactly.
The Jungle River Cruise (as some ads called it) told one “joke” at first, and it was the kind that causes strangers to walk away from you at a party.
So, Disney brought in a ringer, Imagineer Marc Davis, the life of every party. Davis recognized the problem and decided to imbue Jungle Cruise with humor.
The ride that you know and love comes from him. Even now, Disney employs some of the same storytelling that Davis introduced.
You know the spraying elephants and laughing hyenas? Yup, Davis required new animals capable of funnier movements.
In fixing the previous problem, the Imagineer worried that he’d added another one. As a result, guests couldn’t see all the spraying elephants on a single boat ride.
Davis’ concern was music to the ears of Disney. Guests must re-ride Jungle Cruise multiple times to experience everything! Davis had plussed the ride!
The Modern Jungle Cruise
Davis did more than revolutionize the look of Jungle Cruise. He also started the spiel that has become the most iconic part of the ride.
The episode discusses the pros and cons of puns (spoilers: there are no pros to puns) before ultimately embracing the joy of the Dad Joke.
Ride footage shows some Skippers adding their spin to unforgettable jokes like “Dr. Albert Falls,” “he looks dead…tired,” and “the back side of water.”
Interestingly, Behind the Attraction doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable elements of Jungle Cruise.
As you know, Disney’s Fifth Key has led to a change in several ride elements on Jungle Cruise.
Specifically, Trader Sam has lost his previous identity as a headshrinker. He’s now an adventurer instead.
However, the Imagineers discuss the initial version of Trader Sam, which I hadn’t expected.
Still, the highlights of the episode stem from early footage of ride construction.
Similarly, the commentary from people who worked on Jungle Cruise is exhilarating to any Disney fan.
But the best part is studying the joy on Walt Disney’s face as he wears his Skipper hat and steers the Jungle Cruise boat.
The reason why we’re still in love with Disney theme parks more than 65 years later is that Walt Disney was a kid at heart, just like us.
Feature Image: Instagram/The Rock