One of Disneyland’s last remaining opening-day attractions is the Jungle Cruise, which has been taking guests on pun-filled boat tours of lush animatronic wilderness since 1955. However, the creaky charm of its elephant and hippo animatronics has for decades been overshadowed by a pervasive, offensive streak of virulently racist imagery in the form of “tribal” characters scattered throughout the ride. On Monday, the Walt Disney Company announced that it is overhauling the ride in both Anaheim and Orlando “to make the attraction feel more inclusive and less racially insensitive in its depiction of other cultures,” the Los Angeles Times reports. Racist vignettes, including spear-waving cannibals and shrunken-head dealer Trader Sam, will be removed from the attraction, and its story line will be revamped with new animatronics and figurines depicting a past Jungle Cruise gone awry, with its tourists and skipper in comical situations.
Disney’s removal of what the company itself calls “negative depictions of native people” comes after news that it will retheme Splash Mountain to be a Princess and the Frog ride, removing imagery from Song of the South. The Jungle Cruise refurbishment also comes before the release of Disney’s upcoming Jungle Cruise movie starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, although Disney stresses that its ride changes are being made independently of the film and the ride will not feature, say, a creepy animatronic version of the Rock in a pith hat (they learned that lesson the hard way with the unfortunate Depp-ification of their Pirates of the Caribbean rides).
Disney Parks also released a video hosted by a current Imagineering writer and former Jungle Cruise skipper, giving “a first look at some of the ‘gnu’ magic” they’re adding to the ride, including concept art featuring 100 percent less racism. The changes are expected to be completed this year. If you enjoyed this article, my name is Rebecca and this has been the world-famous Vulture.com. If you didn’t, then my name is Carlye and this has been SyFy.