Ride Review: Disneyland's 'New,' Cringe-Free Jungle Cruise

July 9, 2021, 10:01 AM · Disneyland's revamped Jungle Cruise officially opens to park guests one week from today, on July 16. This morning, Disneyland previewed the updated attraction for invited reporters before soft opening the ride to guests.

Walt Disney Imagineering redesigned the popular Adventureland boat ride at Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom to remove offensive indigenous stereotypes, including the headhunter Trader Sam. In the new version, Sam remains a trader, but this time he is dealing in the "lost and found" detritus that Jungle Cruise guests have left behind on their journeys... rather than trading two heads of his for one of yours, as the old joke went.

Yet Sam's physical presence is nowhere to be seen on the actual ride now. Between reselling park guests' lost valuables and the markup on drinks at his bars in the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Polynesian hotels, Sam apparently is making enough bank that he doesn't have to show his face at work anymore.

Trader Sam's gift shop is the final scene in the ride, on which Imagineers have reworked pretty much the entire back half, starting with the "pole" scene after the African veldt, where it's explorers from around the world who find themselves "getting the point," rather than a group of native porters. Each of those explorers has a backstory, which Disney revealed earlier, and we covered in our post, Disney Doubles Down on SEA in Jungle Cruise Revamp.

SEA is Disney's Society of Explorers and Adventurers, which Disney first tied to the Jungle Cruise with the Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen restaurant that stands across the street from the Jungle Cruise at Walt Disney World. The story is that Alberta Falls, the granddaughter of the world-renowned SEA member Dr. Albert Falls, is now proprietor of the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd., selling tours to local visitors to make up from the loss of income shipping heaven knows what to heaven knows where up and down the river. In the previous post, Alberta Falls introduced the cast of explorers that we now get to see in the pole scene:

"This week, I have some esteemed passengers joining me from around the world for a private tour down the river. I'll be hosting a special cruise for a special friend of mine from Mexico, the renowned painter Rosa Soto Dominguez, as well as a noted botanist from Nova Scotia named Leonard Moss. I guess he is just trying to branch out with his studies. Also, I recently met Dr. Kon Chunosuke, an entomologist from Japan, who camped out alongside the river. Would you believe it, he is a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers just like my grandfather? It really is a small world, after all. Who knows what other visitors from around the world may arrive between then and now? For instance, my cousin Siobhan 'Puffin' Murphy from Ireland, may show up unannounced to take a birdwatching expedition! You just never know what to expect around here."

"Alberta had to run out to deal with some emergency and the only Skipper that was available was Felix. So he's the one who was assigned to take the VIP guests on this ride," Imagineer Susana Tubert explained to invited reporters this morning. "He's notoriously known throughout the Navigation Company as the new guy who has bad luck."

And Felix's bad luck strikes again, leaving him and his passengers scurrying to escape. "He's definitely the one on the bottom that's getting the point in the end," Tubert said.

"The heart of the attraction is still the humorous banter of the skippers, however we found ways to plus that up by putting in characters and putting our guests in these unexpected scenarios that they have to overcome," Tubert said. "What's fun is that, by the end of the ride, the guests and the skipper has realized that, in reality, it's the animals who get the last laugh. So that's a twist to our story."

See for yourself in our full, on-ride POV video of Disneyland's new Jungle Cruise:

The changes wipe out most of the set pieces from the second half of the attraction, including the village of dancing natives, the poison dart blowers, and, as mentioned, Trader Sam. Imagineer Kim Irvine talked us through the new scenes, starting at the pole.

"As you come around the corner, those hippos that have been threatening you with their wiggling ears and charging your boat have finally made purchase and been able to knock over a boat," Irvine said. "There is half of it floating there and a lot of their belongings floating through the water. Oh, I wonder what happened to the rest of the boat? Well, there it is, whipped around and lodged up against the shore and being taken over by the chimpanzees. Each one of them has gotten into the luggage and the packages on board - one is eating the man-eating plant that the botanist had collected, and another is painting with Rosa's paint, all over the boat. And then, of course, we've got the butterfly chimps, who have gotten into the entomologist's butterfly collection."

"Trader Sam still has his location at the end there. He's just out right now, collecting things that he's going to sell you in the lost and found," Irvine continued. "Little spider monkeys have taken over shop and are wrecking havoc on the Victrola and all the things that Sam has collected from past safaris along the way. Then, of course, we've still got Ellie, giving you her final goodbye while that spider monkey is madly trying to take your picture with the camera. So, definitely some humor and as Susana says, the animals get the last laugh."

My favorite detail Irvine revealed explains why the hapless Skipper Felix ended up getting surprised by those hippos. You will find it with a close look at that wrecked boat.

"The chimp that's holding the map upside down, that's that he's torn in half - it's actually Florida's jungle map, and that's why Skipper Felix got lost," Irvine said. "And in Florida, they have our California map, and that's why their Felix got lost."

As Susana Tubert said, the heart of Jungle Cruise remains the skipper and their spiel. Irvine said that Disney has provided skippers with options throughout the new spiel, so it's a different experience every time you ride - just as it has been for years in the jungle. The changes now just allow everyone to enjoy that humor, since Disney has removed the cringe-inducing scenes that had marred the back half of the ride.

While a few tweaks remain to be completed on Disneyland's new version before the ride opens officially, work is ongoing on Walt Disney World's version of Jungle Cruise, which has remained open to guests during its transformation.

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Replies (23)

July 9, 2021 at 5:10 PM

How am I supposed to enjoy myself at Disneyland if I can't experience the beloved racist imagery of my youth?

New scenes look great! The ride turns, however, on whether you get a captain who's into it. So often they're aren't, and they just repeat their jokes in a over-rehearsed, mushmouthed way that makes it hard to even hear what they're saying.

July 9, 2021 at 6:58 PM

It’s not just race stuff: they also removed the classic gorilla holding the rifle toward its head.

July 9, 2021 at 7:23 PM

At 2:13, you can see in the background a gorilla pointing a rifle at its face.

July 9, 2021 at 7:41 PM

I think the use of words like "detritus" is a magnificent improvement.

More later.

July 9, 2021 at 7:48 PM

"No one saw Skipper Felix and his crew going up a pole, being chased by a rhino, right? [If] no one saw it, that means no one has to do any paperwork."

As a former theme park employee, that bit hit.

July 9, 2021 at 11:35 PM

Again, the monkeys on the boat gag is so natural, I can't believe it took this long to do it.

July 10, 2021 at 11:18 AM

I think the changes are fine, I would point out a weakness in the story setup though, usually there is a build up in the sequences of a story, for example in the former Jaws ride at Universal Orlando, you see the sunken boat first, which builds the suspense, then you see the shark afterwards. Here you see the explorers up the tree first, then the sunken boat pieces, then the other half of the boat with the chimpanzees. Maybe it's a minor point, but I think it would have been stronger story-wise to see what happened to the explorers AFTER you see the sunken boat. IMO it would have been better to move the tree with the rhino to the spot where you see the bug crates, then put another gag where the rhino is currently. Also a minor point - there are a lot of monkeys/chimpanzees now, I feel like I want to see more of something else.

July 10, 2021 at 1:30 PM

The skippers have little point now, if they’re just reciting a script, they might as well play prerecorded narrations. With the offensive parts removed, telling the skippers to keep the jokes G rated should be enough. Too bad its not,

July 10, 2021 at 2:41 PM

I will take the original. Disney is the ultimate WOKE company pandering to the Left figuring it will help revenues. Longer term this will backfire.

July 10, 2021 at 4:24 PM

@davehr: "Sir, this is an Arby's..."

July 10, 2021 at 5:55 PM

“The skippers have little point now, if they’re just reciting a script, they might as well play prerecorded narrations.”

Uh, reciting a script literally has always been the skippers’ jobs. Skippers have been fired in the past for going off script.

July 10, 2021 at 9:49 PM

@davehr:

I’m trying very hard to imagine any scenario where a genial Jungle Cruise script change would “backfire” for the company enough to elicit any sense of alarm, outside of the Pepperidge Farm clinched-fists crowd sitting on their front porch rockers remembering the good old days. Why is it such an offense to remove an embarrassingly outdated and generic portrayal of a “native”? Jesus people, choose your battles man.

“This just in, breaking news at this hour, Disney stock prices continue to dip in the wake of the Jungle Cruise Bumble…”

Side note, everyone here is aware by the way that Disney is about to rollout a major motion picture themed to this very attraction? And not-for-nothing starring, you might wanna sit down for this part, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a Brown person of color, who also happens to be a charming and intelligent actor, and one of the most bankable stars on the planet…

July 11, 2021 at 3:39 AM

Overall I’m fine with the change, and it should have been done long ago, along with a lot of other changes and improvements. Going of script may not be allowed, but its not rare. I’m sure Disney’s gotten more strict in recent years. But its pretty ironic Disney’s dress code is now much simpler to allow for more personal expression, but going off script on an attraction that’s know for it could get a cast member fired. .

July 11, 2021 at 10:50 AM

I’m with Randy. Now that the offensive parts of the attraction are removed, there should be zero issue with skippers going off script as long as it’s appropriate. Part of the fun is that the experience is different every time and limiting them to an EXACT script ruins that. It would be quite easy to both allow skippers to be original and make it so that no one except someone looking to get outraged over nothing can be offended

July 11, 2021 at 8:19 PM

I always thought rule was they can go off-script but still need to have the jokes pre-approved like the old Aladdin show or Adventurer's Club.

July 12, 2021 at 10:15 AM

I never cringed on Jungle Cruise.

Robert, when you said this was a review, I was expecting you would say whether this is an improvement on the old version.

July 12, 2021 at 11:01 AM

When the word “cringe” is used to describe the old version, I would assume that means the new one is indeed an improvement.

July 12, 2021 at 12:25 PM

Thanks James. Exactly.

July 13, 2021 at 11:20 AM

By "improvement", do you mean the quality of the ride and the ride experience, or do you mean this version is more "PC"?

The latter is not an improvement. Rides are supposed to please Disney guests, not some left wing lobby group.

While we're on the topic, I never understood why they feel the need to mess with my Splash Mountain. They already buried Song of the South in some deep, dark cave where no one will ever see it again. Isn't that enough?

July 13, 2021 at 11:50 AM

@Still a fan - I guess you missed the elimination of "Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls" from the new Wishes intro. That change is even more progressive (left wing) than the purging of negative stereotypes and imagery from long standing attractions and resorts.

July 13, 2021 at 4:02 PM

C'mon, Still a fan, I'm a traditionalist, but this was a change that needed to be made just like the removal of the statues of Confederate leaders from public sites.

There's an old saying that history is written by the winners. In the case of the Civil War, that's not true. In order to achieve reconciliation, the North had to let the South write the narrative, and African Americans have largely paid the price of that false narrative. So, after more than 150 years, can't we all do better by getting rid of these ridiculous caricatures and symbols and move on?

July 14, 2021 at 2:42 PM

I get that there are racists out there.

But for people like "Still a fan" to get vocal about being angry about racist depictions being removed from a Disney attraction is next-level racism, just short of joining lynchings.

And them calling it "my" Splash Mountain just drives the point home. They think it's "their" Splash Mountain, and not "everybody's" Splash Mountain, which is what it should be.

Disney attractions should please EVERYBODY, not just jerks like "Still a fan." Trust me, "Still a Fan" (and you are NOT a fan if these changes bother you so much), Disney is better off without people like you. Please stop visiting so the rest of us can have fun without you waxing nostalgic about the "good old days" when you could be a racist jerk without being called out on it.

July 15, 2021 at 9:30 AM

Wow, that's all you have to say, lots of name calling? So if someone disagrees with YOU, that makes him a racist? I guess such lazy finger pointing is easier than actually thinking, right? That's all your post amounts to. You're kidding yourself that you've taken some kind of self righteous moral high road? Personal attacks, and labelling people, is reprehensible behavior, not to mention intellectually dishonest. Didn't your mother ever teach you that?

On any other forum, I could report you and have you kicked off the site for resorting to personal attacks. You see, they have moderators to stop such shameful behavior. How about it, Robert? How does Kenny Vee get away with crap like that post above?

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