Turn around and wave good-bye to your normal Disneyland ride review as we cast off and head out onto the waterways of the Jungle Cruise.
This pun-laden guided tour of the jungle rivers of the world has been around since the opening day of Disneyland. At its simplest, it is a guided tour, by boat, through the jungles of Africa, Asia and South America. But any similarities to real life end there – except for the fact that the “jungle” of the Jungle Cruise is in reality a lush jungle of plant life after more than 60 years.
The guide is your Jungle Cruise skipper, whose patter of wise-cracking puns and jokes starts as you board the boat – aided by two other skippers working on the dock. After the boat is loaded, you are asked to turn around and wave to the receding dock as you leave civilization for the first part of the journey, down the Mekong River. This is the first of four rivers the cruise will visit – the others being the Nile, Congo and Amazon.
During the initial part of the journey, your skipper delivers some of the safety information, including that fact that you need to keep your hands and arms inside the boat as the crocodiles are “always looking for a hand out.” (The puns don’t get any better, folks.)
The first thing you see, besides the crocs, is an ancient Cambodian shrine, built by ancient Cambodian Shriners (says the skipper) under which is an immense Bengal tiger. You are told not to worry about the tiger being a threat to the boat’s passengers as it can jump 25 feet, and the boat is only 24 feet away from the shore. (If this was a podcast, we would insert the sound of a rim shot here.)
Next, you enter an elephant bathing pool, but don’t worry, all the elephants have their trunks on, says the skipper. This scene was one of the first, more comical, scenes added to the Jungle Cruise in the early 1960s by Disney Legend and Imagineer Marc Davis. Walt Disney wanted to constantly improve his theme park and, supposedly after overhearing a woman say that since her family had ridden the Jungle Cruise once that they did not have to ride it again, he added this scene and later, a scene in which an African safari is stuck up a tree with a rhinoceros at its base, all Audio-Animatronics animals of course – no real animals are used in the Jungle Cruise.
Following that are scenes with baboons playing with rifles, an overturned safari jeep commandeered by gorillas, the African veld with lions keeping watch over a sleeping zebra – OK, they might be eating the zebra. Then there’s a treacherous (according to the skipper) trip through a pool of hippos – don’t worry, they’re dangerous only if their ears are wiggling, and of course they are. The skipper tells you to cover your ears as two shots ring out from a pistol to scare the hippos away.
A canoe laden with skeleton heads is your welcome into headhunter country, where a village of headhunters is dancing around their latest capture. But they are a distraction from the headhunters on the other side of the river who suddenly rise up to attack. But this is Disneyland, and soon you are traveling beneath Schweitzer Falls, where you get to see the eighth wonder of the world (big drum roll please) – the backside of water! Wasn’t that amazing?
Now you take a turn onto the Amazon River, where you encounter man-eating piranha. Women and children have no need to worry as they are only “man-eating” piranha.
Right after that is Trader Sam. He holds up shrunken heads on which the skipper tells you that Sam is offering a deal: two shrunken heads for the price of one head … yours.
Now it is time for the most dangerous part of the journey: the end of your ride on the Jungle Cruise and the return to civilization.
Wasn’t that fun?