Since the opening of Disneyland in 1955, the Jungle Cruise adventure ride featured racist and colonialist depictions of Indigenous peoples in Africa. Now, ahead of the upcoming film release of Jungle Cruise on July 30, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, the famed amusement park showcases a new version of the ride, sans the tribal caricatures.
Those who take a trip on the river through the replicated African jungle will no longer face head-hunting, spear-waving tribesmen who offer a trade of “two of his heads for one of yours.” Instead, chimpanzees and monkeys join the other animal animatronics in “slapstick” inspired scenes as the narrative for the ride shifts to the focusing on nature and the journey of a man who seeks to tame it.
“When we look at something and realize the content is inappropriate, and may perpetuate a misconception or a stereotype,” Carmen Smith, the head of inclusion strategies for Imagineering tells the LA Times, “Our intention is to take a look at it critically, and figure out a way to enhance it, to make the necessary changes so it is relevant.”
This is just the latest of many changes for the Jungle Cruise ride and many other rides at the park, as shifts have slowly been made to reflect the changes in our society. Jeanette Lomboy, the vice president who oversees the Disneyland Resort and Aulani, started at Disney as a ride operator in 1995, which was the first year Disney allowed women to lead a Jungle Cruise boat.
“Women weren’t allowed to be Jungle Cruise skippers,” Lomboy says. “To be honest, that I couldn’t be a Jungle Cruise skipper wasn’t something I realized when I was little. That, to me, was a shock. Women weren’t even allowed to work on the Jungle Cruise. But that to me is progressive change, and you move along.”
Yes, we will all move along knowing that the ride no longer enforces colonialist-centered stereotypes of Native people.