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Disneyland Article
Jungle Cruise That Removes Racially Insensitive Depictions Adds New Story
USA Today
Bryan Alexander
Disneyland revealed its course correction for its Jungle Cruise attraction in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World in Florida that removes racially offensive depictions of Indigenous people.

The changes to the popular ride, one of the original attractions overseen by Walt Disney himself when Disneyland opened in 1955, will be officially opened in the Florida and California locations July 16, and visitors will be able to take the Jungle Cruise during the soft opening.

Disney Parks announced the changes in January after criticism of the portrayal of Indigenous people, vowing a revamped attraction that would "reflect and value the diversity of the world around us."

The result is the animatronic-filled attraction led by joke-telling boat skippers, with added story that is more inclusive and less racially insensitive in its depiction of other cultures.

Tribal dancers, a war party waving spears and shrunken head dealer Trader Sam have been removed from the seven-minute journey. In the new version, Sam remains a trader but is unseen, and the character now deals in lost-and-found items fictional guests left behind on their journeys.

During a Disneyland introduction Friday, "Imagineers" said the 66-year-old attraction has been revamped many times since Walt Disney originally envisioned the ride to reflect Disney's nature documentaries, "True-Life Adventures."

The attraction features skippers cracking jokes along the ride representing four rivers, ranging from the Nile to the Amazon to the Irrawaddy of Southeast Asia and the Ganges of India.

Though the spotlight remains on the skippers, Jungle Cruise delves into a backstory that centers around Alberta Falls, the new proprietor of the Jungle Navigation Co. who is friends with the international members of a hard-luck safari of explorers – including an artist from Mexico, a botanist from Nova Scotia and an entomologist from Japan.

The diverse explorers have been added as characters literally up a tree in a revised scene featuring an animatronic rhinoceros and hyenas.

"The idea was how do we bring this idea of diversity and inclusivity so that we can reflect not only our guests but our cast members today," said Susana Tubert, creative director of Walt Disney Imagineering, part of the team who oversaw the changes.

The doomed boat voyage is worked into the ride's storyline starting even during the ride's queue, featuring Easter eggs such as hanging entomology butterfly pictures and a radio control dispatch center displaying the explorers' boat as missing without radio contact.

There are surprisingly sparse obvious references to Disney's "Jungle Cruise" film adaptation starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, coming to theaters July 28. One queue display features the drying clothes of Frank Wolff (Johnson) and Dr. Lily Houghton (Blunt) hanging on a wash line, along with maps from the adventure film. Disneyland Resort public relations spokesperson Michele Himmelberg said, "This is a case where the movie is actually based on the ride."

The story makes clear the ride's animatronic hippos sunk the expedition, leading to the explorers being pursued by wildlife. The expedition's Mekong Maiden boat is overtaken by chimpanzees, which are depicted eating the botanist's man-eating flower and playing with the missing artist's paints.

Trader Sam's Lost and Found is the ride's final scene. There's a sign posted – "Back in 15 minutes, Sam" – but there is no sign of the controversial character.

"He's just out right now, collecting things that he's going to sell you in the lost and found," Imagineer Kim Irvine explained.

Apes have taken over the location.

"By the end of the ride, you find that, in reality, it's the animals who get the last laugh," Tubert said. "That's a twist to our ride story."

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