Disneyland has revealed its course correction for its Jungle Cruise attraction in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World in Florida, that removes racially offensive depictions of Indigenous people.
The changes to the popular ride, one of the original attractions overseen by Walt Disney himself when Disneyland opened in 1955, will be officially opened in the Florida and California locations on July 16, with visitors able to take the new Jungle Cruise during the soft opening.
Disney Parks announced the changes in January following criticism of the Jungle Cruise portrayal of Indigenous people, vowing a revamped attraction that would "reflect and value the diversity of the world around us."
The result is the animatronic-filled attraction led by joke-telling boat skippers, with added story that is more inclusive and less racially insensitive in its depiction of other cultures.
Tribal dancers, a war party waving spears and shrunken head dealer Trader Sam have been removed from the seven-minute Jungle Cruise journey. In the new version, unseen character Trader Sam remains a trader but now dealing in lost-and-found items that fictional guests have left behind on their journeys.
During a Disneyland introduction Friday, Disney Imagineers said the attraction has been revamped many times since Walt Disney originally envisioned the 66-year-old ride to reflect Disney's nature documentaries "True-Life Adventures."
The new attraction features Jungle Cruise skippers cracking jokes along the ride representing four rivers ranging from the Nile to the Amazon to the Irrawaddy of Southeast Asia and the Ganges of India.
While the spotlight remains on the skippers, Jungle Cruise now delves into a backstory that centres around Alberta Falls, the new proprietor of the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. who is friends with the international members of a hard-luck safari of explorers — including an artist from Mexico, a botanist from Nova Scotia and an entomologist from Japan.
It's this diverse group of explorers who have been added as the characters literally up the pole in the revised Jungle Cruise scene featuring animatronic rhinoceros and hyenas.
"The idea was how do we bring this idea of diversity and inclusivity so that we can reflect not only our guests but our cast members today," said Susana Tubert, creative director of Walt Disney Imagineering, part of the team who oversaw the changes.
The doomed boat voyage is worked into the ride's storyline starting even during the ride's queue, featuring Easter eggs such as hanging entomology butterfly pictures and a radio control dispatch center displaying the explorers' boat as missing without radio contact.
There are surprisingly sparse references to Disney's Jungle Cruise film adaptation starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, coming to theaters July 28. One display features the drying clothes of Frank Wolff (Johnson) and Dr. Lily Houghton (Blunt) hanging on a wash line, along with discreet maps from the adventure film. Disneyland Resort public relations spokesperson Michele Himmelberg said: "This is a case where the movie is actually based on the ride."
The new story makes clear the ride's animatronic hippos sunk the expedition, leading to the explorers being pursued by wildlife. The expedition's Mekong Maiden boat is overtaken by chimpanzees, who are eating the botanist's man-eating flower and playing with the missing artist's paints.
Trader Sam's Lost and Found is the ride's final scene. There's a sign posted stating, "Back in 15 minutes, Sam." But there is no sign of the removed, controversial character.
"He's just out right now, collecting things that he's going to sell you in the lost and found," Imagineer Kim Irvine explained.
Apes have taken over the lost and found location.
"By the end of the ride, you find that, in reality, it's the animals who get the last laugh," said Tubert, "That's a twist to our ride story."