Jungle Cruise ride updates

Yesterday, Disney announced that its beloved Jungle Cruise ride would be undergoing some updates. Naturally, speculation arose that some of those updates might involve adding depictions of Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, the stars of the studio’s upcoming live-action Jungle Cruise film – but in a new interview, an Imagineer executive threw cold water on those assumptions.

Speaking with D23.com, Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Portfolio Executive Chris Beatty was asked about the possible connection between the movie and these newly-announced updates, and he explained that the film is not influencing this decision at all:

“I’m excited about the movie, and having Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt be a part of that film. But these adjustments are really focused on enhancing the existing attraction storyline and addressing some areas that needed refreshing along the way. I’m sure the film is fantastic and we’re very excited about it, but integrating the film into our classic Jungle Cruise is not part of this effort. Does that mean that as Imagineers we won’t put Easter eggs in there? We’ll definitely do that. But we are not adding a major storyline or character from that film.”

So don’t expect to see an animatronic Johnson or Blunt standing on the shore.

“We want to make sure everybody has the best time—that guests from all over the world can connect with the stories we share and that how we bring those to life are respectful of the diverse world we live in,” Beatty continued. “…when you look at the Jungle Cruise, as it is today, there are just a couple of scenes that don’t do that and needed a refresh. But I want to make sure people know we are not changing the whole Jungle Cruise. This is not a re-envisioning of the entire attraction. It’s the Jungle Cruise you know and love, with the skippers still leading the way, and at the same time, we’re addressing the negative depictions of ‘natives.’ So that’s one of the scenes we’re going to go in and change.”

These updates will continue the Disney Parks’ efforts to make some of their classic attractions less overtly racist. After announcing last year that references to Song of the South would be removed from Splash Mountain in favor of a re-theme centered on The Princess and the Frog, Disney is now looking to get rid of the “negative depictions of native people” that can be seen in Jungle Cruise ride.

The L.A. Times points out that “a spear-waving war party was added to the Jungle Cruise in 1957,” which was the same time that the Trader Sam character – “a dark-skinned man today outfitted in straw tribal wear” – was introduced. Multiple Disney tiki bars have been using Trader Sam as their namesakes for years, but it’s unclear if those will be receiving the same culture updates as this ride or if they’ll remain a vestige of an older era. Disney expects these Jungle Cruise ride updates to be completed by the end of this year, but the L.A. Times notes that “details on potential tweaks to the war party scene and the Trader Sam finale have not yet been shared.”

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