Disney Removes Culturally Insensitive Depiction Of Indigenous People From Jungle Cruise

The decades-old Disney attraction will be getting a new storyline this year.

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Disney has announced that changes are in store for the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, with the main impetus for the change being to address "the negative depictions of 'natives.'" In a post on the D23 website, Imagineering exec Chris Beatty describes what the changes will involve, and how the team is approaching updating a ride that was first installed at Disneyland in 1955.

As the D23 post points out, this won't be the first time the Jungle Cruise has been updated. Its first iteration was a more serious approximation of a jungle cruise, with much of its modern-day humor and storytelling designed around concept art by Disney legend Marc Davis, as well as additions by the staff member 'skippers' who are responsible for leading the tour.

Beatty has promised that the ride will stay faithful to both these sources of inspiration, with the new storyline being written by a writer who once worked as a skipper, based on the "rhino pole" image by Davis. Notably the pole scene will be updated in line with the Magic Kingdom's version of the scene, which has a cast of hapless explorers, rather than the original artwork and Disneyland version featuring a white explorer with four African porters.

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The scenes that are being changed involve groups of dark-skinned, mask-wearing, spear-brandishing "natives" who ambush the boat as part of the ride, as well as Trader Sam, a dark-skinned man offering shrunken heads for sale. The ride has long been criticized for depicting Indigenous people as primitive, threatening, and uncivilized, with the end of the ride then promising a "return to civilization."

"We want to make sure everybody has the best time—that guests from all over the world can connect with the stories we share and that how we bring those to life are respectful of the diverse world we live in," Beatty explained. " When you look at the Jungle Cruise, as it is today, there are just a couple of scenes that don’t do that and needed a refresh."

The post also specifies that the ride is not being updated to tie in with the upcoming Jungle Cruise movie, meaning you're not likely to see Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson joining the cast of animatronics anytime soon--however Beatty says the Imagineers may still include some easter eggs.

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