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Thursday, March 04, 2021

Explained: Why is Disneyland making changes to the popular Jungle Cruise ride?

One of Disney’s oldest and most popular theme park attractions, the Jungle Cruise ride features a simulation boat ride down various rivers of Asia, Africa and South America.

Written by Ishani Patil |
Updated: February 2, 2021 7:46:26 am
jungle cruise ride, Disneyland, changes to jungle cruise ride, Disney theme park, indian expressIn this file photo, visitors take photos at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Jungle Cruise, one of the original Disney parks' rides, is getting a 21st century remodel in yet the latest update to a legacy theme park ride that has been criticized in years past for being racially insensitive. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin, File)

For years, Disneyland has been criticised for one of its original theme rides — the Jungle Cruise — being racially insensitive. The company has recently announced an overhaul, where it will remove what it describes as “negative depictions of native peoples” and instead “reflect and value the diversity of the world around us”. The new ride will contain a different storyline and updated animatronics.

What is the Jungle Cruise ride?

One of Disney’s oldest and most popular theme park attractions, it features a simulation boat ride down various rivers of Asia, Africa and South America. The passengers ride aboard a replica tramp streamer from 1930s Britain and are greeted by a skipper as the cruise descends into a jungle. During their journey, the passengers pass temples to Southeast Asian gods, safari camps and a native village from Africa. The ride is accompanied by audio-animatronic animals and is narrated with puns and humour by a Disney guide. The 1955 Disney documentary, The African Lion, about a pride of lions, and the film The African Queen served as inspirations. A Disney movie loosely inspired by the ride, also titled Jungle Cruise, will release this year. It is located at four Disney theme parks including Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland.

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Why is it said to be racially insensitive?

The ride, which first opened in 1955, had been criticised for its depiction of animatronic indigenous people as “savages or headhunters”. As the ride is ending, the passengers sail through groups of indigenous people in traditional clothes and headgear, brandishing spears. They are accompanied by a character named Trader Sam, who offers “heads” for sale. Another scene that has spiked outrage among audience shows tribal men struggling to crawl up a tree in order to escape from a rouge rhino, while a white adventurer is already on it.

What are the changes being made to the ride?

The changes set to take place regarding various racist aspects of the ride were announced via a blog on The Disney Parks website earlier this week. “The skippers are still leading the way, and at the same time, we’re addressing the negative depictions of the natives,” the blog said. It added that the company wanted to bring stories to life in a way that was “respectful to the diverse world we live in”. One of the changes being made is to the Rhino scene, from depicts indigenous people and shows a team of explorers running up the tree to escape from a rhino and a group of other animals. As a part of the enhanced storyline, each explorer will have their own story and cultural heritage. Other changes to the ride have not been specified as of yet, but it will not reflect the storyline of the upcoming movie.

Are there any other Disneyland attractions that have courted controversy?

Last summer, there were calls to change the Splash Mountain theme park ride over its ties to Song of the South, the 1946 movie many view as racist, prompting the Disney officials to recast the ride based on The Princess and the Frog, a 2009 Disney film with an African American female lead. Three years ago, Disney also eliminated a “Bride Auction” scene from its Pirates of the Caribbean ride as it was deemed offensive for it depicted women lining up for auction.

Ishani Patil is an intern with The Indian Express

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