Disney is reimagining its Jungle Cruise rides at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California to address the "negative depictions" of native peoples throughout the attraction. The company announced that the ride, which is among the original attractions to open with Disneyland, will undergo a revamp to better "reflect and value the diversity of the world around us."
The company outlined the changes in a blog post on its Disney Parks website, which included concept art for the redesigned attraction. According to the post, the changes will "include new adventures that stay true to the experience we know and love – more humor, wildlife and skipper heart." The current ride features the captain of a ship, called a skipper, giving a "scenic and comedic boat tour of exotic rivers across Asia, Africa and South America." The new attraction will have more diverse tourists portrayed throughout the ride "along with a new animated skipper figure," according to Chris Beatty, creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering.
Some exciting enhancements are coming to the Jungle Cruise @Disneyland and @WaltDisneyWorld later this year! Here’s a first look from Walt Disney Imagineering at some of the “gnu” magic being added: https://t.co/9uYcdBZw1d pic.twitter.com/72Ffxr7y20— Disney Parks News (@DisneyParksNews) January 25, 2021
"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," Executive, Creative Development & Inclusion Strategist for Walt Disney Imagineering, Carmen Smith, said in a statement. "With Jungle Cruise, we're bringing to life more of what people love – the humor and wit of our incredible skippers, while making needed updates."
The attraction was partly inspired by the 1951 film The African Queen, according to The Guardian, and has long faced criticism for its inclusion of caricatures of indigenous people as well as a character, Trader Sam, who offers "heads" for sale. The ride also included insensitive language that refers to Indigenous characters as "savages." Backlash against the ride has played out on social media, where it has been labeled "legit jaw-dropping in its offensiveness." On Twitter, people called out "the whack colonialism in the tiki room and the racist caricatures in the jungle cruise," and called on Disney to "make the native people seen by their beautiful culture not as savages."
Disney's decision to redesign the ride comes just seven months after the company announced it was retheming Splash Mountain for similar reasons. The ride originally opened in Disneyland in 1989, three years after Song of the South's last theatrical release, and featured characters from the controversial movie. Backlash against the ride reignited amid protests against racism over the summer. Splash Mountain will now be rethemed as a The Princess and the Frog experience, picking up after the beloved 2009 animated film ended, with Princess Tiana and Louis, the trumpet-playing alligator, going on a new adventure.