Jungle Cruise Movie: Disney Ride Getting A Big Change

Here's everything we found out about Jungle Cruise, the new Disney adventure with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.

By Ross Bonaime

This article is more than 2 years old

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Ever since debuting on Disneyland’s opening day, July 17, 1955, the Jungle Cruise has been an institution when it comes to Disney parks. The Jungle Cruise has been a day one attraction at Orlando’s Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland. For sixty-five years, guests have taken a boat from the Jungle Navigation Company headquarters and visited with the many animals that reside along the river, complete with a skipper as their guide, at the ready with corny jokes.

Following in the footsteps of other theme park attractions that made the transition to film, like The Haunted Mansion, The Country Bears, Tomorrowland and The Pirates of the Caribbean series, the Jungle Cruise makes perfect sense as a film. A beloved Disney institution enjoyed for decades, it’s almost more surprising that it took this long for a film to come about.

In anticipation of Disney’s Jungle Cruise, here’s everything we know about the film, including its stars, the plot, and when it will be released.

Jungle Cruise Ride Getting Redone

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In anticipation of the Jungle Cruise movie, it looks like Disney will be retooling the ride. However, it is also clear that their reasons for doing this are two-fold. Not only will it act as a tie-in for the upcoming movie, but it is also an excuse for Disney to update the ride and remove some of its more problematic elements. A similar approach has been taken with Pirates of the Caribbean in the past. that ride also inserted Captain Jack Sparrow after the film series became a gargantuan hit. Could we also be seeing animatronics of Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson popping up in the new iteration of the famous ride? Or will this reworking only serve to erase the controversial facets of the ride?

Jungle Cruise In Production

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Disney gave their first look at Jungle Cruise at their D23 event in 2019, but the film has been in the works for far longer, having first been announced in 2004. The original iteration was supposedly going to take place in the twentieth century and would only loosely be based on the ride. 

In 2011, another version of the film was reported to be written by Shrek co-writer Roger S.H. Schulman, which would reunite Toy Story costars, Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.

However, Disney revealed the current interpretation of Jungle Cruise in 2015, over a decade after the initial reveal was made. 

Jungle Cruise began filming in Hawaii on May 14, 2018 and wrapped in September.

Disney’s official Instagram and Twitter accounts feature a collection of behind-the-scenes photos and information from the creation of Jungle Cruise that should build anticipation for the film’s upcoming release.


The Cast of Adventurers

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When the final version of Jungle Cruise was eventually announced, it came with the reveal that the film would star Dwayne Johnson as skipper Frank Wolff aboard his boat, La Quila. His co-star, Emily Blunt, didn’t join the cast until January 2018. Blunt will play researcher, Dr. Lily Houghton. 

Once Blunt joined the cast, the rest of the fantastic supporting cast seemed to fall right in place. In March of the same year, comedian Jack Whitehall signed on to play MacGregor Houghton, the brother of Blunt’s character. Soon after, American Crime Story’s Édgar Ramirez, Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemons and Quim Gutiérrez joined the cast as villains, while Paul Giamatti became attached to the project to play harbormaster, Nilo.

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The Team Behind the Scenes

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When Jungle Cruise was announced with Johnson as lead, Disney also stated that the film would be written by screenwriting team, John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. The duo have written for such varied projects as Cats & Dogs, Bad Santa and 2005’s Bad News Bears

In 2009, the directed and wrote their first film together, I Love You Phillip Morris, and would later direct such films as Crazy, Stupid, Love, the Will Smith-starring, Focus and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. They are currently attached to write and direct the tentatively-titled, Harley Quinn vs the Joker.

In 2017, it was announced that director Jaume Collet-Serra would helm Jungle Cruise. Collet-Serra’s early films skew more towards horror, with 2005’s House of Wax remake and 2009’s Orphan, yet over the last decade, he’s directed a variety of action films starring Liam Neeson, including Unknown, Non-Stop, Run All Night and The Commuter, and the Blake Lively film, The Shallows. Collet-Serra will also reteam with Johnson for the DC superhero film, Black Adam, also slated for release in 2021.

At the beginning of 2019, Disney announced that James Newton Howard was brought on board to score Jungle Cruise. Howard is no stranger to Disney, having scored many of Disney’s more action-oriented animated films like, Dinosaur, Atlantis, Treasure Planet, and such live-action films as Maleficent and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.


In a surprising reveal in August of 2020, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich stated that their song “Nothing Else Matters,” from 1991’s self-titled album, would be utilized in the film. In an interview with Collider, Ulrich said of the collaboration with Howard:

“James Newton Howard, the man, the myth, the absolute legend! Considering what’s he’s done, it’s an absolute honor to have done this with him, and we’re excited for the world to hear it. It’s kind of an interesting morph, because it’s kind of — and I don’t want to give too much of it away — but it’s a very unusual morph in that it’s kind of his arrangement of “Nothing Else Matters” that we’re playing. We wrote the song, but he took the song and rearranged it to fit something specific in the film — and obviously, I’m not going to give any of that away — but we then kind of took on his version of it. I think that’s all that should be said.”

The Plot of Jungle Cruise

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Jungle Cruise takes a more action-oriented approach than the original ride, with the trailer making the film look like a cross between Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and the 1951 Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart classic, The African Queen.

Blunt’s Dr. Houghton is a researcher seeking out the Tree of Life, a journey which takes her to the Amazon jungle, where she meets Johnson’s Wolff and his boat, La Quila. Wolff has been searching for this Tree for years to no avail, but with the aid of Houghton, they both might finally find what they’re looking for.

When Will Jungle Cruise Be Released

While Jungle Cruise was initially planned for release on October 11, 2019, it was then moved to July 24, 2020. However due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jungle Cruise is now slated for release on July 30, 2021. Dwayne Johnson announced via an Instagram video that the movie will release in theaters and for streaming on Disney+ simultaneously. Streaming the video will require a $30 premiere access pass.