Disneyland Is Giving Another Controversial Attraction a Non-Racist Makeover

After years of complaints, the Jungle Cruise will no longer negatively depict native people
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Whenever Disneyland finally reopens, guests will enjoy a new and improved Jungle Cruise attraction, minus the dated caricatures and imperialist overtones that made it unseemly even when it opened in 1955, and which by today’s standards are just plain racist, the Los Angeles Times reports.

On the heels of Disney’s decision to retool its dated Splash Mountain attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World so that its theme is 2009’s The Princess and the Frog rather than 1946’s offensive Song of the South—not to mention electing to omit the latter film from the Disney+ library—the Mouse House announced Monday that the attraction will be overhauled so that it no longer depicts Indigenous people as aggressors and cannibals.

One of the few remaining rides whose creation overseen by Walt Disney himself, the Jungle Cruise was initially envisioned as more of an educational experience based on Disney’s own nature documentaries and 1951’s The African Queen when it debuted. In 1957, things started to get significantly less scholastic, however, when an spear-waving “war party” was added, along with the dark-skinned “Trader Sam” character who offered to trade tourists “two of his heads for one of yours.”

Although Disney creative development and inclusion strategies executive Carmen Smith didn’t go so far as calling the current iteration of the Jungle Cruise “horrifyingly racist” as one experience designer did, she readily admits it is badly in need of a cultural touch-up.

“As Imagineers, it is our responsibility to ensure experiences we create and stories we share reflect the voices and perspectives of the world around us,” Smith tells the Times.

Disney won’t divulge exactly what will we be done with Trader Sam and the war party to advance the Jungle Cruise beyond the Eisenhower administration, but the company is sharing other secrets.

Among the coming changes, the “trapped safari” vignette is being reworked so that it no longer depicts a white man chased up a tree by a rhino while native guides cower on the trunk below him. In the updated version, all the people about to get the horn are merely unlucky tourists from a previous river excursion.

In fact, the hapless adventurers will be a recurring theme when the ride reopens, including an abandoned Jungle Cruise boat that has been overtaken by chimpanzees. Designers hope that making changes and adding new characters will revitalize the attraction, while also providing the park’s guides with setups for their ever-stellar puns and dad jokes.

 

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“When we consider making changes to a classic attraction, we focus on ways to ‘plus’ the experience,” said Chris Beatty, creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering. “The skippers of the Jungle Cruise bring irreverent humor to guests of all ages, and we’re excited to be adding to that legacy—along with a new animated skipper figure—by celebrating their adventures and influence.”

The good news is that the updated Jungle Cruise will do away with “negative depictions of native people.” In less fun news—which Disney stresses—the updates being made to the Jungle Cruise attraction have nothing to do with the upcoming Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson/Emily Blunt movie of the same name.


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