The attraction simulates a riverboat cruise down several major rivers of Asia, Africa and South America. Park guests board replica tramp steamers and are taken on a voyage past many different Audio-Animatronic jungle animals. The tour is led by a live Disney cast member delivering a humorous scripted narration.
Sources of inspiration for the attraction include a 1955 True-Life Adventure about a pride of lions, and the movie “The African Queen”. Imagineer Harper Goff referenced the African Queen frequently in his ideas; even his designs of the ride vehicles were modeled after the steamer used in the film. The project was placed on the schedule to open with the July 17, 1955 debut of Disneyland.
When plans began to develop, Bill Evans, the Imagineer responsible for landscaping Disneyland and most of Walt Disney World, faced the daunting task of foresting an entire jungle on a limited budget. Aside from importing many actual tropical plants, he made wide use of "character plants" which, while not necessarily exotic, could give the appearance of exoticism in context. In a particularly well-known trick, he uprooted local orange trees and "replanted" them upside-down, growing vines on the exposed roots. The clean water was dyed brown to prevent visitors from seeing the bottom of the “river”, which varies between three and eight feet deep.
Although Goff and Evans can be credited with the creation and initial design of the ride, Marc Davis, recognized for his work on venerable attractions such as the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, added his own style to the ride in later versions and Disneyland updates. The "Indian Elephant Bathing Pool" and "Rhinoceros Chasing Explorers up a Pole" were among his contributions.
In a popular story recounted by Jeff Lange, a writer for weblogging site Jim Hill Media, an experience at the Jungle Cruise helped bolster Walt Disney's obsession with the concept of 'plussing', or continuous improvement. The story claims that Walt overheard a mother visiting Disneyland telling her child that since they had been on the ride the last time they visited the park, they didn't need to ride it again. In horror, he put his Imagineers to work designing upgrades to the ride. Many similar variations of this story exist.
Embark on a cruise where hippos, elephants and maybe even a headhunter await your arrival.
Trek to a forgotten tropical jungle outpost—home to suspended cargo nets, wooden crates and lanterns, and faded marquee signs—and board a canopied tramp steamer for a tongue-in-cheek adventure led by a trusty skipper through some of the world’s most treacherous rivers.
During your 10-minute journey, encounter awesome wonders of nature amid some of the world’s most exotic locales. Highlights of your unforgettable adventure include:
The Amazon in South America - Drift past a canopy of green trees and flowering orchids where giant butterflies meet rushing waterfalls.
The African Congo - Tour an abandoned Pygmy site, glimpse a massive python and snap a picture of a camp overrun by curious gorillas.
The Nile River - Behold bathing elephants, angry hippos and hungry lions—but be on the lookout for a tribe of headhunters, recently spotted in the area.
The Mekong River - Explore an age-old shrine, home to baboons, cobras and other wild creatures.
The attraction was in the opening day roster of the park, and has remained open and largely unchanged in theme and story since then. Aside from alterations and maintenance changes, four completely new show scenes have been added to date. In 1995 the river channel was rerouted to make way for the queue buildings and entrance courtyard of the Indiana Jones Adventure.
While the current version and most previous instances have made use of a comedic spiel, filled with intentionally bad puns, the original intent of the ride was to provide a realistic, believable voyage through the world's jungles. The original spiel had no jokes and sounded much like the narration of a nature documentary. Starting with the Christmas season of 2013, Jungle Cruise was given a seasonal overlay called Jingle Cruise and was decorated with various Christmas decorations.
The queue and station are themed as the headquarters and boathouse of the Jungle Navigation Company, located in a (presumably British) colony of the 1930s. The queuing area is cluttered with appropriate props, such as pinned insects, an old radio on top of a bookshelf, and a chessboard with miniature animals and decorated shotgun shells replacing the pieces. The extended queue winds upstairs, underneath an Audio-Animatronic hornbill, and then downstairs again. Big band music from the 1930s plays overhead, punctuated by jungle-related news bulletins, helping to reinforce the setting and threading together the show scenes and boat.
Once aboard the boats, guests are introduced to their skipper and they head into the jungle, allegedly never to return. The first rivers simulated are the Irrawaddy and Mekong rivers, representing tropical Southeast Asia. The boats sail through a dense rainforest, and ancient Cambodian temple ruins where passengers see a Bengal Tiger, giant spiders, king cobras, and crocodiles. Passing a shrine to the elephant-headed Hindu deity Ganesha, the boats enter the Sacred Indian Elephant Bathing Pool where dozens of Indian elephants prance in the water and squirt water at the passing vessels.
The theme transitions to the rivers of Africa, and riders see a family of baboons, and a safari camp that has been overrun by gorillas. The boats careen past the dramatic waterfall, Schweitzer Falls, between two African Elephants, and large termite mounds. A tableau of the African Veldt follows, showing zebras, wildebeest, and giraffes watching a pride of lions feasting on a zebra beneath a rocky outcropping. Beyond the lion's den, an angry rhinoceros has chased a safari party up a tree. Antelope and hyenas watch from nearby. The skipper then pilots the boat into a large pool, disturbing a pod of hippos that signal their intent to attack the boat. Armed with a gun filled with blanks, the skipper fires into the air to frighten them away.
Drums and chanting are heard as the boats come to headhunter country. The vehicles pass a native village before sailing into an ambush by natives wielding spears, the sound effects for which are usually provided by the skipper.
The boats pass behind Schweitzer Falls (famously referred to as "the Backside of Water") to enter the Amazon River. Skeletal animal remains and warning signs featuring pictures of dagger-toothed fish forewarn the next show scene, where the boats encounter a swarm of leaping piranha. The guests then pass a pool of water buffalo, and meet shrunken head dealer Trader Sam before returning to the dock.
The baboons at the safari camp previously sat on the African termite mounds. A total of six lions have been removed since opening day: one that growled when the African Veldt was added, two lionesses from the Veldt that were fighting over a bloody strand of zebra meat, a lion and a lioness that each had a zebra leg in their mouth, and a dead lion hanging on a spit over a fire in the native village. Also removed from the Veldt were African wild dogs barking at the pride. The native village was originally a dense jungle filled with tikis, masks, and several more natives. Trader Sam previously wore a mask and a gorilla across the channel tried to grab his merchandise.
Starting in 2013, a holiday overlay was added themed to Christmas at both Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom with holiday-themed jokes and decorations on the boats, and holiday music on the radio station in the queue in the aptly-named "Jingle Cruise".
There are 12 vehicles, with a maximum of 9 in operation at any given time. The boats in 1955 were painted as clean, idealized replicas, but have since been given a more realistic theming reflecting the grunge and wear of actual watercraft due to the addition of Indiana Jones Adventure and its ruggedness.
The skipper introduces himself or herself, and begins to take the boat full of guests down the tropical rivers of the world. The ride starts out in the Amazon River, where the passengers encounter butterflies with one-foot wingspans, or as the skipper might say, twelve inches. The boat then passes Inspiration Falls, which transitions into the Congo River in Africa.
The skipper explains that there is a Pygmy welcoming party waiting for them, but when the boat arrives at the beach, the canoes are empty, and the place deserted. The skipper wonders what scared off the Pygmies, and they soon discover that it was a giant python. The boat then passes a camp that has been raided by gorillas, which transitions the cruise into the Nile River.
After encountering two elephants, the boat passes along the African Veldt, where numerous African animals watch a pride of lions eat their kill. The boat then passes a lost safari group that has been chased up a pole by an angry rhinoceros and are now trapped. The group then passes by another waterfall, Schweitzer Falls, and encounters a pool of hippos. They are about to charge the boat until the skipper scares them off. Ominous drums are heard as the group enters headhunter territory. Natives are seen dancing near the boat and guests soon find themselves in an ambush. They escape and proceed into the Mekong River.
They enter a temple which has been destroyed by an earthquake. Inside, baboons, cobras, and a tiger can be found. After they exit, they come across an elephant bathing pool where numerous elephants are relaxing in the water. The boat narrowly avoids being sprayed by water from one of the elephants. The cruise concludes after passing Trader Sam, the head salesman of the jungle, who offers two shrunken heads for one of the passengers.
The Walt Disney World Jungle Cruise is set as a depression era British outpost on the Amazon river, operated by the fictional company, The Jungle Navigation Co., whose advertisement poster is painted on the wall near the exit of the attraction. Albert Awol's broadcast is different than that of Disneyland's, being ride specific. Also unlike Disneyland, the queue no longer extends to a second level. The skippers at the Magic Kingdom no longer carry revolvers loaded with blanks in the wake of the September 11 attacks, as part of a beefing up of security resort-wide. These real guns have been replaced with realistic props that skippers wave to scare away animals that get in the way, and to prevent the hippos from attacking the boat. To sell the fact that the guns are being fired, a sound effect is triggered by the skipper and played over the PA system.
Each variety of plant throughout the attraction was carefully selected by landscape architect Bill Evans to ensure that the foliage would be able to endure Florida's unique climate: hot summers and relatively cool winters. The most difficult aspect of this was making sure these plants had the appropriate look and feel of traditional tropical plants in the equatorial jungle. During the Christmas season of 2013, Jungle Cruise was given a seasonal overlay called Jingle Cruise and was decorated with various Christmas decorations.
The queue of the Jungle Cruise is heavily themed with period artifacts, tools, gear, photos and more. It is intended to resemble an outpost where an exploration of the jungle rivers may be booked. It is divided into four main sections which may be opened or closed in sequence to accommodate crowd fluctuation. The queue was designed to wind about heavily so that guests may see all of the different artifacts in the queue. The most notable section of the queue is the office of Albert Awol.
The Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland attractions are very similar to each other, with the exception of a few minor differences. While the boats in the Magic Kingdom's attraction travel counter-clockwise, the boats at Tokyo Disneyland travel in a clockwise direction.
In Tokyo Disneyland, the station and surrounding area are themed to a more upscale African city, as opposed to an isolated jungle outpost. This version shares a station building with the park's steam train ride, Western River Railroad. The spiels in Tokyo Disneyland are delivered in Japanese and skippers bow to the audience after each joke.
In 2014, the attraction underwent a major refurbishment that included new effects in the temple, a full musical score, and an alternate experience for nighttime cruises. A new story focuses on establishing a "friendship with nature", with the Skipper keeping three animal totems in their boat: The Tiger of Courage, the Elephant of Wisdom, and the Monkey of Cleverness. Using one of these three totems and calling upon their matching animal spirits, the Temple's carvings are brought to life in a celebration with man's connection with nature, though as a consequence, the animal figures that were located here have been removed.
Disneyland Park Paris does not have any Jungle Cruise attraction, due to the cold temperature and weather of France. Because many copies of the original Jungle Cruise attractions exist in other French theme parks, French guests might be used to the experience and not find it exciting. An indoor jeep ride called Jungle Expedition was originally planned.
The shape of Hong Kong Disneyland's route is significantly different compared to the others, and circumnavigates Tarzan's Treehouse. A grand finale is included with a battle between angry fire and water gods. Three languages are regularly available: Cantonese, English, and Mandarin. Each language has a separate queue, allowing visitors to experience the journey in their preferred language.
The queue takes place in a small boathouse less elaborate then the boathouses found at the other parks. After winding through the queue, guests board one of the boats and meet their skipper who speaks either English, Cantonese, or Mandarin, to accompany the park's guests who speak many different languages themselves.
The boats then depart and head down the river, past Tarzan's Treehouse where the skipper tells guests to wave goodbye to the guests traversing the treehouse, for they will never see them again. The boats then drift past a mother Indian elephant and her calf playing in the water, followed by another elephant showering in a waterfall. A large bull Indian elephant emerges from the water squirting a plume of water at the boats with the guests narrowly avoiding the free shower.
The vessels then drift down a narrow stream past ancient Cambodian ruins which have been claimed by the jungle. Giant spiders and king cobras watch the boats as they move on. Up ahead several crocodiles are seen resting on a small beach, while a school of hungry piranha are jumping in the hopes of attacking the guests. The boats escape into Africa and they pass a large safari camp where several curious gorillas have discovered clothes, guns, hammocks, and books, as "Trashin' the Camp" plays on a nearby 1930s radio. The African Veldt comes into view where antelope, giraffes, zebras, and African elephants stare at the boats. The vessels then drift into a small pool where a pod of hippos try to tip the boat. Several feet ahead a rhino is seen chasing a safari group up a tree while several hyenas look on laughing.
Skulls and cloth impaled on broken bamboo sticks appears as tribal drums and horns fill the air. The skipper tells guests that they have entered head hunter country and must quietly sneak by. The boats slowly pass through the main village where several upright shields rest in the tall grass. A native notices the boats and all the shields now revealed to have head hunters behind them begin firing spears and poison darts at the boats as they narrowly escape into a rocky canyon. In the rocky canyon, the boats stop near two unusual rock formations that look like faces, revealed by the skipper to be the fire god and the water god who constantly feud over their differences. The fire god sets the river ablaze while the water god vomits a water bomb, causing the flames to die and the whole canyon to become a cloud of steam. The boats escape the canyon and pass a baby elephant before returning to the boathouse.
Albert Awol is a fictional Jungle Cruise boat captain and disc jockey for the Disney Broadcasting Company. Considered the "Voice of the Jungle", he broadcasts everything from news, to quizzes, reminders, weather, etc. on the DBC (Disney Broadcast Company). He also serves as a period disc jockey for the station, filling the airwaves with music from the 1930s depression era.
Albert Awol was added in 1991 to the Jungle Cruise during a refurbishment:
"Standing in the Jungle Cruise queue was a somber affair prior to the aforementioned 1991 rehab; once guests crossed the threshold they were faced with a series of twists and turns that led past bare walls, their fellow guests and occasional glimpses of the river. There was no background music at that time either, so if the queue was full it promised a fair amount of shuffling drudgery. Of course DL's Jungle Cruise queue is now closer to the full embodiment of how cool a ride's waiting space can be, but Florida's 1991 upgrade did include queue music interspersed with radio commentary by Albert AWOL, 'the voice of the jungle.' A considerable array of visual enhancements were also made at that same time, from a series of new destination-based wall murals to the artifact-laden 'office' in the center of the queue."
Albert's broadcast is projected not just over the Jungle Cruise queuing area, but over Adventureland as a whole, setting the time period. In Disneyland, Albert is replaced by "Jungle Radio." Various air personalities comment on the environment, the luminaries who are in the area (including references to the designers of the attraction - Harper Goff, Bob Mattey, Winston Hibler [True-Life Adventure films, upon which Jungle Cruise is based]). The music is a good deal slower in pace and tempo than the tracks used at Walt Disney World. The music was previously linked with the outdoor speakers at the Temple of the Forbidden Eye (Indiana Jones Adventure), however, two separate tracks of material with similar tone and some songs now exist. The Jungle Radio at Disneyland does connect the setting with the nearby Indiana Jones attraction, and ties in announcements that reference Indiana Jones, and the temple in which the ride is set.
There was a tribute to the ride in 2005 on an episode of the podcast The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd, as well as a Strong Bad E-mail entitled "theme park".
In the sing along songs video Disneyland Fun during "Following the Leader", Jungle Cruise made an appearance.
Jungle Cruise was parodied as Timon and Pumbaa's Virtual Safari on The Lion King Special Edition.
A stand up comedy show featuring only Jungle Cruise Skippers, called The Skipper Stand Up Show, has been doing shows in Fullerton, California since May 2006.
"Weird Al" Yankovic wrote and recorded a song titled "Skipper Dan" about a failed actor who ended up as a guide on a Jungle Cruise-type ride. The song is included on his 2009 digital Internet Leaks EP and his 2011 album, Alpocalypse.
Disney's "Fab Five" characters, cruise boat and the "River Expedition Company" boathouse were incorporated into an original painting and limited edition print offering by artist Randy Souders entitled "Jungle Cruise" created for the 1999 Official Disneyana Convention at Disneyland.
The Jungle Cruise is an announced Disney motion picture loosely inspired by the theme park attraction of the same name.
The film, originally scheduled for release in 2007, has experienced various delays and changes. Shooting of the film, originally scheduled for 2006, was cancelled. Moreover, the original screenplay by Josh Goldstein and John Norville was reportedly rewritten by Al Gough and Miles Millar. This original screenplay followed a group's riverboat journey through a jungle in search of a cure and was to have featured a contemporary setting. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen were set to star as a Skipper and a frustrated passenger respectively until this version was cancelled.
A new version of the project starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt was announced in 2017, with a planned shooting time in the Spring of 2018. This version of the project is described as a comedic action-adventure film in the vein of Indiana Jones and the attraction's original inspiration, The African Queen.