The Quick 10: The Jungle Cruise

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Welcome to part two of “my brain went on vacation three days ago even though my plane doesn’t leave until tomorrow.” (Here’s part one from yesterday). Today we’re visiting the Jungle Cruise. Everyone turn around and wave good-bye to the folks back on the dock… They may never see you again. But then again, you probably never saw them before, either.

1. I’ve been known to drop a bad pun or two myself now and then, so it’s no surprise that my favorite part of the Jungle Cruise are the ridiculously bad jokes delivered with perfect apathy (“And now, we’re approaching beautiful Schweitzer Falls, named after the famous African explorer, Dr. Albert Falls.”) But those weren’t always part of the ride. When it debuted at Disneyland, the Jungle Cruise was actually a very serious trip through exotic locations. All of the funny scenes and jokes were added years later.

2. When Walt was first planning the attraction, he thought about using live animals. When a zoologist convinced him that many of the animals were mostly active at night, leaving daytime guests to exciting views of catnapping creatures, Walt opted for creatures he could control.

3. As he was known to do, Walt gave his television show audience a preview of what was being built in the park. Before the Jungle Cruise had water, Walt drove a Nash Rambler (one of the show’s sponsors, by the way) through the dry “riverbeds” to show off Schweitzer Falls and the crude mechanics of the animals.

4. According to legend, it’s the Jungle Cruise that inspired Walt Disney to view his parks as never complete and always upgrading. The story goes that Walt was strolling through Disneyland when he heard a young boy asking his mom to take the eight-minute trip through t e jungle. Not even slowing her stride, the mother replied something to the effect of, “No, we did that last time we were here.” Hearing that, Walt decided he had to keep changing and improving things in order to keep guests coming back.

5. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: famous Jungle Cruise Skippers include Kevin Costner, John Lasseter, Ron Ziegler (Richard Nixon’s press secretary), and the lovely Jen from Cake Wrecks.

6. How do you get the aesthetic provided by exotic plants without shelling out the big bucks for shipping them in and maintaining them? Just use Disney’s tactic: “plant” an orange tree upside down and let vines grow and twine around the exposed roots.

7. Another styling trick – that murky water you sail through is dyed brown, which is dual purpose. It’s a more realistic portrayal of swampy waters, of course, but it also conceals the fact that the cruise ships are on a track in a pool that’s less than four feet deep in most areas.

8. If you pay the money for a Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior airplane, you might as well get your money’s worth, right? Disney used the front half for the Casablanca scene in The Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios, then used the back half for the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom. You can spot it near the Hippo Pool scene.

9. You might think that getting the animals’ eyes to glow as you make your way through the Asian temple is a high-tech trick, but it’s really just the opposite. Their eyes are really just marbles painted with a reflective coating.

10. Everyone knows about hidden Mickeys – a little nod to the mouse hidden throughout the parks and rides. What I like even more are the other inside jokes scattered here and there, like the one outside of the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. A pair of crates sits bundled with some barrels as if it’s cargo ready to be shipped. A close look at the addresses reveals that one is going to “Thomas Kirk, Esq., M. Jones, Cartographers Ltd. Field Office, Island of Bora Danno”. The other is addressed to “Kenneth Annakin, Director of Imports, Wyss Supply Company, Colony of New Guinea.”
This is a reference to the Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson. Tommy Kirk played Ernst Robinson in the 1960 film, then went on to play the title character in the 1964 movie The Misadventures of Merlin Jones. James MacArthur, the actor who played Fritz Robinson, later played Danny Williams – you know, “Book ‘em, Danno” on Hawaii Five-O. So that’s the first crate explained. The second crate refers to Ken Annakin, the direction of Swiss Family Robinson, and “Wyss Supply” is a little wink to the author of the original book, Johann Wyss.

I’ll be Tweeting pics and updates starting tomorrow if you’re dying to take a little vicarious vacation!

February 23, 2011 - 11:36am
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