Disney Parks are not only an iconic part of American culture, they are also a pillar of nostalgia and a beacon for where to find family-friendly fun around the world for both adults and children alike. This kind of presence and influence does not come without a profound social responsibility and accountability. That’s why when the LA Times reported that Disney had updated their famous Jungle Cruise ride at their Disneyland park in order to erase overtly racist, inaccurate, and hurtful depictions of indigenous African people, the news came as a long-awaited and much-needed change.
The Jungle Cruise ride has been both a Disney park staple and an increasing point of contention since its unveiling back in 1955. Admittedly so, 1955 was not the most progressive, informed, or accepting time in the United States’ history. The LA times referenced the ride’s initial opening as one filled with middle-aged Caucasian men that were all outfitted in plain suits. That description certainly reflects the social climate of the time. The original ride, as described by NPR, “…featured spear waving, head hunting Africans as part of the attraction.” The new iteration of the ride instead features monkeys and chimpanzees in various comedic scenarios.
The remodel had been in talks for awhile, but was recently completed just narrowly before Disney celebrated their first park, Disneyland’s 66th birthday on July 17th of this year. The revision, however, comes better late than never.
Disney themselves also announced on their blog that the change will also soon be taking place at their Magic Kingdom location in Orlando, Florida, as well. They went on to credit their Imagineering team, those who handle all of the design, development, and construction of the entirety of their rides and attractions, with initiating and implementing the enhancements. This could also indicate that similar changes will soon be taking place at their international locations, like Disney Tokyo, which is also home to the staple attraction.
Carmen Smith, the executive of Creative Development and Inclusion strategies in the Imagineering department at Disney, was also quoted on the blog stating:
As Imagineers, it is our responsibility to ensure experiences we create and stories we share reflect the voices the perspectives of the world around us.Carmen Smith
The overdue change also comes alongside the anticipated release of Disney’s Jungle Cruise movie that was inspired by the classic ride, which has had initially been in talks for over a decade prior and has now finally come to fruition and is scheduled to be released on July 30, 2021. The film features both Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson. The conveniently timed removal of the offensive portions of the attraction is sure to have a positive impact on the overall success of its big-screen counterpart.
The preservation of Disney’s six-and-a-half-decade-long reputation is finally being marked by an important and significant change that will exist as a model for the world’s populous as a whole. It’s a breath of fresh air and a clear indicator of Disney’s willingness to be adaptable and malleable to the constantly changing and improving pulse of the world. Jungle Cruise can now solidify its place in history alongside other previously revised rides like Pirates of the Caribbean.