Is Disney's Jungle Cruise racist? 65-year-old ride to remove 'negative depiction' of natives as cannibals, savages

The Jungle Cruise at Disneyland parks in California and Florida is all set to get this makeover and will soon open for public


                            Is Disney's Jungle Cruise racist? 65-year-old ride to remove 'negative depiction' of natives as cannibals, savages
An artist's depiction of the revamped Jungle Cruise (Disneyparks)

Since 1955, Disneyland’s famous Jungle Cruise — a thrilling boat safari through a jungle with elements of attractions on both sides — has enthralled children and adults alike. However, keeping with the changing times, Walt Disney Co has finally decided to remove the racist and offensive depiction of native people from their cruise. 

Kevin Lively, an Imagineer at Disneyland park announced in a new video about the revamped Jungle Cruise that will comprise new and more interactive attractions.



 

The official announcement document also mentioned the removal of racially insensitive figurines and installations of native cultures, where these characters are portrayed as savages and cannibals. The Jungle Cruise at Disneyland parks in California and Florida is all set to get this makeover and will soon open for the public. 

What are the changes being done?

Recently, Disney has been on a spree to introduce updates on their age-old attractions at the theme parks, to make the amusement tableaus more inclusive and welcoming. For instance, recently the company declared that Splash Mountain, a structure inspired by the racist movie ‘Song of the South’, would be transformed into a ‘The Princess and the Frog’ theme, notably the movie with Disney’s first Black princess. 

Shortly after Disney announced the much welcome change, the Thinkwell Group that participated in the theme park design described the Jungle Cruise scenes as "horrifyingly racist", according to a report by Los Angeles Times.



 


The Jungle Cruise contained some cringe-worthy depictions of native tribes, mostly inspired by tribal communities from Papua New Guinea. They are shown in postures of attack or dressed in primitive garbs as well as cannibals. In fact, there is a Trader Sam character at the cruise, who is a dark-skinned man dressed in tribal wear.

The character supposedly will trade “two of his heads for one of yours”. Another war scene added in 1957 also exists to date, where people from native communities are shown to be engaged in a ‘spear-waving war party’, claims LA Times. 

All in all, the fun-filled cruise featured characters and scenes that presented Non-Americans as either primitive savages or subservient. The ride combines a geographical representation of Asia, Africa and South America together, where characters from these regions are depicted through an exotic lens, often mocked as dimwitted or presented to be violent.

How are people reacting to the changes?

In keeping with the updated, racially and culturally inclusive theme of the Jungle Cruise, the storyline will also be altered to uproot all the controversial elements. The new Jungle Cruise will have the visitors’ boat near-capsized and overtaken by chimpanzees. The Skippers, who are the guides for the tourists in the Jungle Cruise, will also have a bigger and more respectful role to play in this new version. 

However, the new changes will not be in adherence to the upcoming 'Jungle Cruise' movie starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, Disney categorically clarified. 

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt (Getty Images)

“This is not a re-envisioning of the entire attraction. It´s the Jungle Cruise you know and love, with the skippers still leading the way, and at the same time, we're addressing the negative depictions of 'natives',” Chris Beatty, Creative Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering said in an interview, according to a report by Daily Mail

However, the news about the changes received mixed reactions from the public. Many have welcomed the changes as "long due" while others are dubbing it "unnecessary". 

"I always loved the Jungle Cruise and rode it everytime I went to D-land. But it was for a relaxing boat ride through shady foliage and funny elephants, not for blatantly racist stereotypes. I want this ride to stay, and for the natives to go," an user wrote welcoming the move.



 

"Racusm: The inability or refusal to recognize the rights, needs, dignity, or value of people of particular races or geographical origins. Yes, we do have a right to determine what's racist or not. The Jungle Cruise boat ride is NOT racist," wrote another, deeming the changes unnecessary. "Disneyland to update Jungle Cruise after racism outcry" both sides of the coin are racist don't kid yourself by thinking otherwise," one user said.



 

 

 



 

"Disney: we’re being VERY SPECIFIC in saying that the changes to Jungle Cruise will not remove skippers and not be tied into the movie
DisTwitter: WHY ARE THEY FIRING ALL THE SKIPPERS FOR A THE ROCK AA??
Disney: no, we’re just being more inclusive!
DisTwitter: IT’S NOT RACIST!!"



 

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