Disney Updating 'Jungle Cruise' Following Criticism of Portrayal of Indigenous People

Rendering of Disney's Jungle Cruise

Disney's Jungle Cruise attraction will undergo major updates at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts, the company announced this week.

Intended to "reflect and value the diversity of the world around us," according to a Disney Parks Blog post, the Jungle Cruise will undergo a story update bringing "more humor, wildlife, and skipper heart" to the attraction.

Jungle Cruise's storyline is set during the 1930s and takes visitors down a river in Africa, South America or Asia, depending on the park. The ride portrays the history of British colonization and has been criticized for its animatronic depictions of indigenous people as "savages'' or headhunters.

Last year, fans called for the ride to be updated, according to entertainment site IGN, as it was revealed that Splash Mountain was getting a refresh for similar reasons of being outdated.

"As Imagineers, it is our responsibility to ensure experiences we create and stories we share reflect the voices and perspectives of the world around us," Carmen Smith, an Imagineer executive for creative development and inclusion strategies, said in a statement on the park's blog. "With Jungle Cruise, we're bringing to life more of what people love – the humor and wit of our incredible skippers, while making needed updates."

Rendering of Disney's Jungle Cruise

Riders aboard the Jungle Cruise will be swept up in a new immersive storyline that includes the skippers — the Disney cast members who narrate the attraction — and the passengers themselves.

"For the first time ever, the skipper role will not only be that of a live, experienced, and witty guide but also represented by a show figure within the attraction itself," Disney Imagineer Kevin Lively explained in a promotional video. "In fact, the expedition will be up a tree after their sunken boat splits apart and chimps climb aboard the wreckage, with money business ensuing."

Fans of the attraction may also recognize a few reminders of Jungle Cruise history, with former boats from the ride being incorporated into the new storyline.

The Jungle Cruise updates will go into effect later this year.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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