Story at a glance

  • The Jungle Cruise attraction in Disney’s Orlando and Anaheim parks features racist portrayals of Indigenous people.
  • The studio announced that it will reimagine the ride, which was built in 1955.
  • Disney did not directly address the racism in its announcement.

Disney is overhauling a major attraction to remove racist imagery after years of complaints. One of the original attractions of Disneyland, the "Jungle Cruise" is one of several attractions in the park that include racist depictions of Indigenous people. 

"In this particular case, Imagineers created a storyline that builds upon what people love the most while addressing negative depictions simultaneously," Disney said in a statement to USA TODAY. "Imagineers are addressing negative depictions of native people while adding a humorous storyline that follows the adventure of a Jungle Cruise skipper, his passengers and what has become of their boat and its contents. Guests will also find this group of adventurers to be diverse – in background and fields of interest."  


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The studio didn’t mention these “negative depictions” in a blog post announcing the changes, however, simply saying that they would “reflect and value the diversity of the world around us.” A similar announcement earlier this year also failed to directly address racist depictions of Black people in Splash Mountain, another “reimagined” attraction, but alluded to calls for change with promises of diversity and inclusivity. 

"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. 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," said Carmen Smith, a Disney executive, about the new Jungle Cruise ride. 


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The new creative concept takes inspiration from the jungles of Africa, with mentions and imagery of rhinos, hyenas, gnus and chimpanzees. The skippers, or guides, will also be represented in the attraction itself, leading an expedition that goes "literally" up a tree after the sunken boat splits apart and chimps board the wreckage. Some previous parts of the attraction will return, including the Mekong Maiden and Kwango Kate boats, with a twist. 

This isn't the first of Disney's attractions to get a remake, nor will it likely be the last, considering several of the studio's major films feature racist language and depictions that the studio is just now addressing. But Kim Irvine, the executive creative director of Walt Disney Imagineering, emphasized that "the Jungle Cruise has changed course many times over the years - always with the idea that the adventures along the river change from day-today."


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Published on Jan 26, 2021