7 Fun Facts about the Jungle Cruise

by | Apr 12, 2021 | Disney History, Lists and Trivia

Deep in the heart of the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland sits the headquarters of the Jungle Navigation Company. For nearly 50 years they have been leading tours to far flung destinations such as the Nile, Congo, Amazon, and Mekong Rivers. They’re a reputable company, and should you choose to go on one of their cruises, there’s at least a 50% chance you’ll make it back. Those are better than the odds of booking Rise of the Resistance!

Before you embark, perhaps you’d like to know a little bit about the Jungle Cruise adventures hosted by the Jungle Navigation Company. We at Celebrations are here to provide that info. So, without further ado, here are seven facts about the Jungle Cruise.


1. What’s So Funny?

One of the most distinctive and beloved features of the Jungle Cruise is the humorous banter of the Jungle Cruise Skippers. Their puns and witticisms have provided countless laughs over the years, but in the early days of the Jungle Cruise they were nowhere to be found.

When the attraction first opened in Disneyland (July 17, 1955) it was a much more serious affair. Instead, the Jungle Cruise was conducted in more of a documentary fashion such as the True-Life Adventure films that Disney began making in 1948.


2. Lions, and Tigers, and Bears!

I love the hydraulic creatures (and curiously, those aren’t true Audio-Animatronic figures, the delicate mechanisms inside actual Animatronics would never have been able to withstand the outdoor environment!) that are found in the Jungle Cruise, but like the jokes, they weren’t in the original plan. Walt Disney wanted real live animals in the attraction, but was dissuaded when he was informed that many were nocturnal. So, Guests would really only get to see them sleeping if they saw them at all. Another factor was the upkeep and care that would have been required for live animals. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. Guests who want to see live animals just need to pay a visit to Animal Kingdom.

As an odd side note, the Disneyland version of the attraction did briefly feature real alligators. They could be seen in the queue.


3. Straight From the Silver Screen

There were several movies that played a significant role in the creation of the Jungle Cruise. One came from Disney’s own True-Life Adventure films. The African Lion, which was actually released after the opening of the Jungle Cruise, was a large influence. The documentary, which took roughly 30 months to shoot, focused on the life of the lion and was filmed in Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda.

The other film which played a vital role in the attraction’s creation was John Huston’s The African Queen released in 1951 and starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Imagineer Harper Goff (who also played a vital role in the design of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) was a fan of the film, and it helped him create the story for the attraction. The tramp steamers found in the Jungle Cruise are similar to the boat found in the African Queen. However, instead of traveling along the Ulanga River (as they do in the movie) these boats would traverse the world’s most iconic rivers.


4. A Toy Story Reunion?

This summer, Disney will release a live action movie based on The Jungle Cruise starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Paul Giammati and more. It’s sure to be a rip roaring adventure, but it wasn’t the original idea for a Jungle Cruise film.

In 2011, it was reported that a Jungle Cruise movie starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen was under consideration. That’s right: the voices of Buzz Lightyear and Woody were going to set off on a jungle adventure together. The script was to be written by Roger S.H. Schulman (who wrote the film Shrek). That incarnation of the film was never developed, but fear not. Soon we’ll have a movie starring the Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment.


5. The Park Is Never Finished

Walt Disney once famously said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” That philosophy has driven Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and all of the other Disney properties ever since. Oddly enough, we may very well owe that mentality to the Jungle Cruise.

It is said that one day Walt overheard a family talking about the Jungle Cruise. One of the Guests said, “We don’t need to go on that ride, we’ve already seen it.” That one little comment spurred Walt into action. He got the Imagineers to work, revamping the attraction to keep it fresh. Marc Davis, the animator responsible for characters like Maleficent, Cruella deVille, and Tinker Bell, was asked to lead the revamp. Scenes like the elephant pool and the “lost safari” were added, as were the corny jokes that are such a key part of the experience for Guests today.


6. Ed Sullivan

Ed Sullivan is one of the largest figures in the history of American entertainment. So it should come as no surprise that his path would intersect with Disney at some point. In 1959, Ed Sullivan was featured in a 1959 Kodak commercial for their Brownie movie camera.

In the commercial, Sullivan goes for a ride on the Jungle Cruise, extolling the virtues of the Brownie camera and using the attraction to highlight some of the camera’s key features. For those curious, the Brownie was available for $74.50 (or for as little as $7.50 down!).


7. Jingle Cruise

Another beloved feature of the Jungle Cruise is its holiday overlay: the World Famous Jingle Cruise! During the holiday season, the attraction takes on a festive feel. There’s a Christmas tree in the queue, the tramp boats are renamed with Christmas themed puns, and items like wrapped parcels and fruitcake can be found scattered throughout the attraction. One of my particularly favorite features is the Santa Claus hat on the tarantula in the queue. Taking a ride on the Jingle Cruise has become one of our family favorite traditions when visiting the park during the holidays.

The Jungle Cruise is such an iconic attraction that there’s no way we could cover everything about it in a single blog post. We haven’t even gotten into the inside jokes, Easter eggs, and little details found when you actually take a trip on the Jungle Cruise. Next week we’ll take a look at some of these features. So, get ready for an adventure. Until next time, “Kungaloosh!”

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