Hands down, one of the best things about visiting the different Disney Parks throughout the globe is not just experiencing the new, original attractions that those parks host but seeing the different and unique takes on similar attractions. Even if the difference is tiny, due to the time in which it was made, its native language or just how the attraction is experienced in a certain culture, no two attractions are the same, making each experience unique. Whenever I give advice to travelers who are coming to the Asian Disney Parks, I always give a list of attractions that I think they should do. On that list there are normally quite a few attractions that they would be familiar with, at least in name, yet I still tell them that I think they should visit the attraction here, as it provides a completely different experience.
In my opinion, nothing exemplifies the “same but different” concept — due to all these factors previously mentioned — more than the Jungle Cruise, thus the focus of this article (I will move on to different attractions in future articles, so if you have any ideas for attractions you would like me to cover, let me know!) will be comparing the similarities and differences between Jungle Cruises in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Hong Kong Disneyland.
History and Background
Already in Disneyland, Jungle Cruise was an opening day attraction for Magic Kingdom Park. It’s nestled nicely in its own corner of Adventureland. Set in a British outpost on the Amazon River, guests embark on a pun filled jungle adventure operated by the Jungle Navigation Co.
This is where the similarities exist between the two attractions. HKDL’s Jungle Cruise also was an opening day (September 12, 2005) attraction for the park. The attraction is also situated in the park’s Adventureland. The Jungle River Cruise is also operated by the Jungle Navigation Co., and as the attraction next to Tarzan’s treehouse, one is to believe that the time period of the attraction is similar to that of Magic Kingdom’s, yet that fact is a little less obvious.
The queues for both attractions are situated in the boathouse for the Jungle Navigation Co. However, bar that fact, the two queues differ quite considerably.
First of all, artifacts litter the queue for the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Cruise, providing Guests with an array of interesting things to look at and also help set the scene for the adventure ahead. In comparison, HKDL’s version has very little in terms of things to look at whilst you are in the boathouse.
This leaves a little to be desired in terms of storytelling. That being said, HKDL’s Jungle River Cruise tends to get away with this fact because the queue time for the attraction is considerably less than that in the other parks, meaning that you don’t have much time to look around as you travel through the boathouse anyway.
The other big difference in the queues for both attractions is actually the number of queues HKDL’s Jungle River Cruise has. Being a multi-lingual park, Hong Kong Disneyland’s attraction is performed in three languages: English, Mandarin and Cantonese. This means that there are three separate queues for the attraction. This is a nice touch as almost everyone visiting the park will get to experience the attraction in a language with which they are comfortable.
The Ride Vehicles
In both attractions, the ride vehicles are pretty similar. For both cruises, you board a boat complementing the era of the attraction. Each boat has a puntastic name concerning one of the world’s rivers. You can take a ride on such majestic boats as the Irrawaddy Irma, the Amazon Annie and my personal favorite, the Zambezi Zelda.
Although, HKDL has less boats and some of the names differ (Congo Connie vs. Congo Queen), everything else is pretty much the same.
Once you board your boat and your skipper greets you; here, all similarities of the two attractions end. There is a boat, there is water, there are animals and some similar animal animatronics, but the experience is completely different.
First of all, HKDL’s Jungle River Cruise has a completely different shape to its route. In HKDL you basically circle Tarzan’s Treehouse instead of venturing down a path that has the Jungle Cruise as its sole purpose. This means, that at the start of your ‘Jungle Cruise’ you could be delayed due to rafts crossing the water to get to the Treehouse. However, once you travel on past the Treehouse, the jungle thickens, and it starts to feel more similar to that of the Jungle Cruise in the Magic Kingdom.
I think the biggest difference between the different attractions is the tone that each one sets. If you are a big fan of the charm and puns of the US Jungle Cruises, HKDL’s adventure on water might not be for you. Gone are the majority of the puns and jokes throughout the river adventure, replaced more of an emphasis on action and adventure in the Skipper’s spiel.
This is primarily done for two reasons. Firstly, although the attraction is conducted in English, the Skippers who perform on the attraction are not western, so they are conducting the attraction in a second language. This means understanding timing, context and purpose of the jokes well enough to perform them could be a bit difficult for the Skippers. Secondly, the jokes in the Jungle Cruise are aimed at the humor of a western audience. Even though the Hong Kong version of attraction is offered English, the clientele that ride the English version of this attraction are from all over the globe. So even if the Skippers did perform the jokes that are in the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Cruise, they are far less likely to connect with its intended audience than they are in the Magic Kingdom. Thus, the attraction has a greater emphasis on action, to resonate with its audience more.
The difference between the two versions is never more apparent than it is in the rides’ finales. While in the Magic Kingdom, you pass Trader Sam who will offer you ‘two of his heads for one of yours’. This is not the case at HKDL. There is no Trader Sam, but there is an epic finale where your boat becomes trapped in a fight between water and fire gods. Yes, you heard me right and trust me, the attraction is worth it, just for the ending alone.
When I first started writing for WDW Radio, this article was one of the first ones I thought of writing. The manner in which different rides change due to the culture and ethos of a park is a subject that fascinates me and nothing exemplifies this more than the Jungle Cruise. Bar, the basic principles of the attraction, the two couldn’t be more different.
On one hand you have a joke filled romp through the jungles of the world, where the other is a more detail orientated and action packed trek through the jungle. Which, one is better? Now that’s a tough call.
In all honesty I don’t think one is ‘better’ than the other. They are just two different attractions. Yes, the comedy element is a massive part of what the Jungle Cruise ‘is’. But, it’s not a bad attraction without it, actually quite the opposite. I’m sure there have been times where you have been on the Jungle Cruise and the comedy just hasn’t landed. You don’t really get that in the HKDL version. For a diverse audience, it can be hard for some Skippers to connect, but with a shift in tone, what they are saying becomes less important, and the focus becomes what is happening around you.
What do you think? Have you ridden both of these attractions? Which one do you prefer? Do you love the Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom or is it a little too corny for you?
(MK Jungle Cruise sign, Trader Sam and nighttime photos from the personal collection of Andrew Prince. All photos other photos from the personal libraries of Daniel Morris and Sophie Parry.)
To learn more about Daniel and read his recent posts for WDW Radio, visit his author page by clicking the link on his name at the top of this post.