When visiting Walt Disney World®, there is only one attraction that takes you across the globe in search of adventure, danger, and corny jokes. The world famous Jungle Cruise® has been a Magic Kingdom® Park must see attraction since opening day and is beloved for its rich attention to detail and ever corny skippers. So let’s take a cruise down the rivers of the world to find out just what makes the Jungle Cruise® so special.
During the conceptual stages in the development of Disneyland®, Walt Disney wanted to create an attraction based around real life animals. Disney had been filming the True-Life Adventure series which captured the spirit of adventure and the beauty of nature and brought it into viewers’ homes. Ultimately, the decision was made to not use live animals as they could not be counted on to provide a consistent show for guests, although thankfully, this concept was revisited and became the basis of Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. Once the decision was made to not utilize live animals, Imagineer Harper Goff suggested basing the attraction off of the movie African Queen, thus making it one of the first Disney attractions not based upon an animated feature film.
Thus, the idea of the Jungle Cruise® came to rest on audio-animatronic animals delivering consistent shows for guests who would truly believe they were deep in the jungle. Imagineer Wathel Rogers was brought in to create the mechanisms used in the animatronics which remain lifelike and convincing today. The creation of a lush jungle environment fell heavily to master horticulturist Bill Evans who was put in charge of designing the attraction’s many scenes to look as though they are truly on a different continent far away from civilization. In addition, Imagineer Marc Davis created humorous sketches and scenes such as the camp being taken over by curious gorillas. Through the collaboration of many talented individuals, the Jungle Cruise® made its debut sailing on July 17, 1955- Disneyland®’s opening day. The attraction also debuted on October 1, 1971 for Walt Disney World®’s opening day, as well as in Tokyo Disneyland® on April 15, 1983 and in Hong Kong Disneyland® on September 12, 2005.
While the attraction itself is a classic, the queue really shines, being filled to the brim with detail, humor, and artifacts. Expanded in 1994, it is designed as a British outpost on the Amazon River that is home to the Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. As guests move through the queue, they will come face to face with a moving tarantula, a dinner menu for the week which seems to feature quite a lot of chicken, and a sign honoring the company’s employee of the month- E.L. O’Fevre (say that one real fast).
Located throughout the queue and exit area are also dozens of shipping crates with the names and addresses of their recipients stamped onto the sides. These crates are not only great props, but an opportunity to pay unique tribute to the many talented individuals who helped make the attraction possible. Remember Imagineer Harper Goff who I mentioned above? He has a crate honoring him labeled “Goff’s Brand.” Bill Evans also has a tribute crate reading “Evans Exotic Plant Exporters 1313 Harbor Blvd Anaheim, CA 71755.” Not only does this crate honor Evans, it also features the address of Disneyland® and the zip code stands for July 17, 1955 which was Disneyland®’s opening date. Another barrel pays homage to Winston Hibler who narrated Disney’s True-Life Adventure films. His barrel is addressed to “ Dr. Winston Hibler- Special Arachnid Unit- Jungle Exploration Company Outpost #71755.” Once again there is that tribute to Disneyland®’s opening day! Wathel Rogers has a crate stamped “Danger! Please contact Wathel Rogers Animal Handler to enter live cargo holding area.” Fans of the defunct Adventurer’s Club which used to reside in Downtown Disney®’s Pleasure Island will recognize a crate addressed to the club’s once president Pamela Perkins. Finally at the exit of the attraction is a crate which reads “Ship To: Kenneth Annakin Director of Imports.” Annakin was the director of the Swiss Family Robinson movie, and underneath his name is also a tribute to Johann David Wyss who wrote the original novel.
Just look at all of that amazing detail to be found, and guests aren’t even on the attraction yet!
Upon reaching the loading dock, guests will be greeted by one of these twenty-seven foot alliterative boats which were updated in 1998 to look more rugged: Amazon Annie, Bomokandi Bertha, Congo Connie, Ganges Gertie, Irawaddy Irma, Kawngo Kate, Mongala Millie, Nile Nellie, Orinoco Ida, Rutshuru Ruby, Sankuru Sadie, Senegal Sal, Ucayali Lolly, Volta Val, Wamba Wanda, and Zambezi Zelda. Once onboard, guests will then meet their guide, entertainment, friend, and swimming instructor for the next three months, their one and only skipper. The Jungle Cruise® skippers are known for their over the top corny jokes which tend to leave guests groaning and smiling all the way down the rivers they explore.
Up first is the Amazon River where guests will encounter some beautiful butterflies which can have twelve inch wingspans. If they are lucky, guests might also encounter Schweitzer Falls named after the famous Albert…Falls. Next up is the Congo River where the skipper has arranged for a Pygmy welcoming party which has been mysteriously abandoned. While passing by the empty party, pay close attention to the three canoes along the shore- they resemble Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. Guests also come face to face with some curious gorillas that infiltrated your camp and caused some mayhem in the process.
Moving on, guests are lead to the Nile River, which I hear “goes on for Niles and Niles and Niles and Niles. Don’t believe me, you’re in denial”. The Nile area of the attraction is home to one of the most iconic scenes throughout all of Walt Disney World® – the African safari-like area showcasing lions, giraffes, and numerous other animals. A pesky rhino can also be found terrorizing some tourists who he scared up a pole. I bet they didn’t believe that rhinos can outrun a human, “but I think they’ll get the point in the end” (groan!). There is also a close encounter with some head hunters where guests should listen carefully for a rather strange clip of audio. When the three head hunters attack from the left side of the boat listen to their individual audio clips. The first two shout out war cries and the third one oddly shouts “I love disco!” Around this point in the journey, the skipper will point out part of an abandoned crashed airplane. The other half of that prop plane can actually be found in the Casablanca scene of the Great Movie Ride over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios®. Concluding the Nile portion of the attraction is the section that wows guests for generations to come – the backside of water!
After being awed by that display of nature, guests enter the final portion of the attraction in the Mekong River where they encounter a temple left in ruins by a recent earthquake. Inside there are treasures, monkeys, and a pretty creepy tiger. Along a column near the exit of the temple is also a Hidden Mickey comprised of Mickey’s profile. It’s a tricky one to spot though, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t find it on the first try. Once they make it through, guests are treated with the other iconic scene from the attraction – the elephant bathing pool. Just make sure to not get sprayed! The final encounter in the jungle, and my personal favorite, is with Trader Sam the local head salesman. He’s always got a great deal going – two of his heads for one of yours.
After Trader Sam comes the most frightening part of the attraction…the return to civilization. However, the corny jokes and classic scenes keep guests coming back again and again to experience this classic attraction. 2013 also marked the first year that the Jungle Cruise® experienced a holiday overlay turning it into the Jingle Cruise. If anyone experienced the holiday version be sure to let me know in the comments, I would love to hear what you thought.
So be it adventure, danger, or exotic locales guests can find it all on the world famous Jungle Cruise® in the heart of the Magic Kingdom® Park. So until next week, remember the first law of the jungle everyone – don’t be a zebra.
(Photos are from the writer’s personal collection.)
What is your favorite part of the Jungle Cruise®? Have you ever spotted that tricky Hidden Mickey? How about the Jingle Cruise? Be sure to let me know by leaving a comment below, I would love to hear from you!
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.