5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Jungle Cruise

Since 1971 when Magic Kingdom opened, Jungle Cruise has been a beloved and popular attraction. Inspired by Walt’s trips to South America in the 1940s and his love of animals, Jungle Cruise takes you on an adventure across four rivers – the Nile, the Congo, the Amazon, and the Mekong!

Like all Disney attractions, there’s a rich history and a lot of detail you might not be aware of! Here are a few of our favorite fun facts about the Jungle Cruise.

1. Real Animals?

That’s right, Walt Disney originally envisioned the attraction to have real animals on the banks of the river. As you can imagine, there were a few big problems with this idea – especially in the 1950s when the attraction was being designed for Disneyland’s opening. First, jungle animals are big and need a lot of space that they simply did not have in Disneyland. Second, most of the animals Walt wanted are nocturnal and prefer to sleep all day, which meant he couldn’t count on them to be visible throughout the day. And third, money. Disneyland was already very expensive and elephants and lions don’t come cheap.

The Imagineers eventually developed more than 130 mechanical animals for the Disneyland Jungle Cruise, and that same technology was used for Magic Kingdom’s version. But Walt’s dream of wanting real animals on display wasn’t over – thanks to technological advances and the success of the Disney World parks, Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998. Next time you ride Kilimanjaro Safaris, it’s pretty cool to remember that this was originally Walt’s idea almost 50 years before it opened!

2. A Jungle in Florida

Obviously a key part of the Jungle Cruise is the jungle! To create this lush and tropical environment, Imagineer Bill Evans worked for more than a year and used more than 500 different varieties of bushes, trees, flowers, and plants. There was one issue though – temperature control. That’s right – the “bitter” Florida winters are actually too cold for some of the plant life. To ensure the vegetation doesn’t die during the colder months, camouflaged heaters are turned on throughout the landscape.

To thank Bill for all of his work on creating the perfect jungle environment, the Imagineers left a very fitting tribute at the exit of the attraction. Check out the crate that these plants are potted in. It reads “Evans Exotic Plant Exporters LTD.” 

3. A Serious Exploration 

Did you know that when the attraction first opened the Skippers’ script was very informative and fact-based about the animals, much like Kilimanjaro Safaris? It’s hard to imagine this now, because the Skippers’ puns and jokes are one of the main draws to the attraction!

But yes, initially, the Skippers’ script was very straightforward and dry. However, to entertain themselves as they went round and round the river during their shift, the Skippers themselves started adding in little jokes. Rumor has it Walt heard this one day, and saw guest laughing and enjoying themselves. And at the end of the day, Disneyland was about entertainment. So the Skippers reworked the scripts to include puns and humor – the way we know and love them today!

4. Tastes Like Chicken

The Imagineers like to have a good time with the queues at various attractions, especially a humorous queue such as this! Check out this hilarious sign while you’re weaving through the line. It’s small and hanging so most guests miss it! The menu reminds us of the “Tastes Like Chicken… Because It Is!,” one of the popular dishes at the Jungle Cruise themed restaurant, the Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen.

This sign is one of many funny details in the queue, so use your wait time to find as many as you can.

5. Have I Seen You Before?

Jungle Cruise scene

Have you ever looked at the low man on the totem pole and thought, “Hmm, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”  Well, if you’ve ridden The Haunted Mansion, you have!

Next time you tour the home of 999 Happy Haunts, keep a lookout as you enter the graveyard. There you’ll see a shaken Gravedigger and his frightened dog. That’s right, the Gravedigger and this guy on the pole have the exact same face!

As you can imagine, it’s not easy or quick to create audio-animatronics figures. Often, Imagineers would develop one face, and then use the design over and over again to save time and money. With a quick change of wardrobe, wigs, and makeup, they figured we would never notice! Smart, huh?

Have you noticed these things at the Jungle Cruise before? Will you look for them on your next trip down the river? Let us know in the comments!

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Molly is a lifelong Disney enthusiast, and former Walt Disney World Guest Relations Cast Member and tour guide. Her Walt Disney World favorites include Festival of the Lion King, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Fantasmic!, Mickey-shaped pretzels and rice krispie treats, and anything with Buzz Lightyear! She lives in Orlando with her husband (who she met in Guest Relations) and their two rescue dogs, Kronk and Cruella de Vil (Ella for short!)

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2 Replies to “5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Jungle Cruise”

  1. On my very first visit to the World in 1976 (at 7 years of age) this was one of my favorite rides, and remains one of my favorites to this day! Vintage fun that hasn’t changed a bit.

  2. Another perfect ride. Fun for the whole family, just a Walt wanted all of his attractions to be.

    In the early 90’s, a group of former Jungle cruise skippers used to perform at a comedy club in Orlando. Also, there was intense competition between the skippers in writing their scripts. And plagiarism wasn’t taken lightly.