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Is ‘Jungle Cruise’ a Remake of ‘The African Queen’?

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Disney’s Jungle Cruise , which is out on Friday, July 30 in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access, takes its inspiration from the Walt Disney World ride of the same name, which has long been a fixture at the theme park. But the story of a skipper named Frank Wolff, played by Dwayne Johnson, who travels downstream with a British researcher, Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), definitely takes some other cues from the classic John Huston film The African Queen … Which has led many fans to wonder: is Jungle Cruise  a remake of The African Queen ?

Is Jungle Cruise a Remake Of The African Queen ?

In a word: no. But it does admit to drawing heavily from the classic film which starred Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. The original Disneyland Jungle Cruise ride, which opened in 1955, was designed by Walt Disney and Imagineer Harper Goff, who said he was inspired by the 1951 film, especially as they created the animals that the boat would travel past.

“Here’s a little context for you,” Johnson told Radio Times . “Jungle Cruise was Walt Disney’s baby. The ride has been around since 1955, which is when Disneyland first opened. It was Walt’s way of bringing a safari to people in the States; people who couldn’t necessarily go overseas or travel. I’ve been on the ride many times and it’s an incredible honor to bring it to life in this way. We also pulled inspiration from movies like The African Queen , Romancing the Stone and the Indiana Jones series.”

What Are The Similarities Between Jungle Cruise and The African Queen ?

In addition to the basic plot that sees a grizzled skipper transporting a slightly more refined lady downriver, both films are set during World War I. But while The African Queen took place (and was filmed) in Africa, Jungle Cruise is set in South America, though it was filmed in Hawaii and Atlanta. While both Blunt and Hepburn’s characters have brothers who appear in the film, Jungle Cruise gives Jack Whitehall, who plays MacGregor Houghton, a much more substantial role. And in both films, our protagonists are antagonized by German forces whom they are fighting with.

One major difference is that while The African Queen is based in reality, Jungle Cruise features a mystical Tree of Life that Dr. Houghton wants to find to harness its magical energy and healing powers. A glowing CGI tree in the middle of the jungle? That’s certainly one thing Bogey and Hepburn never crossed paths with in their time.

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Jungle Cruise

2021, Adventure/Action, 2h 7m

What to know

Critics Consensus

Its craft isn't quite as sturdy as some of the classic adventures it's indebted to, but Jungle Cruise remains a fun, family-friendly voyage. Read critic reviews

Audience Says

Funny, full of action, and an all-around good time, Jungle Cruise is a ride well worth taking. Read audience reviews

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Join fan favorites Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt for the adventure of a lifetime on Disney's JUNGLE CRUISE, a rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank's questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila--his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities--possessing the power to change the future of medicine. Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate--and mankind's--hangs in the balance.

Rating: PG-13 (Adventure Violence)

Genre: Adventure, Action, Comedy, Fantasy

Original Language: English

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Producer: John Davis , John Fox , Beau Flynn , Dwayne Johnson , Dany Garcia , Hiram Garcia

Writer: Michael Green , Glenn Ficarra , John Requa

Release Date (Theaters): Jul 30, 2021  wide

Release Date (Streaming): Aug 31, 2021

Box Office (Gross USA): $117.0M

Runtime: 2h 7m

Distributor: Walt Disney

Production Co: Flynn Picture Company, Walt Disney Pictures, Seven Bucks Productions, Davis Entertainment, TSG Entertainment

Sound Mix: Dolby Atmos

Aspect Ratio: Scope (2.35:1)

Cast & Crew

Dwayne Johnson

Frank Wolff

Emily Blunt

Lily Houghton

Edgar Ramírez

Jack Whitehall

McGregor Houghton

Jesse Plemons

Prince Joachim

Paul Giamatti

Verónica Falcón

Dani Rovira

Quim Gutiérrez

Sir James Hobbs-Coddington

Jaume Collet-Serra

Michael Green


Glenn Ficarra

Dany Garcia

Hiram Garcia

Scott Sheldon

Executive Producer

Douglas C. Merrifield

Flavio Labiano


Joel Negron

Film Editing

James Newton Howard

Original Music

Jean-Vincent Puzos

Production Design

Chris Hansen

Art Director

Set Decoration

Paco Delgado

Costume Design

Marisol Roncali

News & Interviews for Jungle Cruise

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Weekend Box Office Results: Jungle Cruise Sails Past Expectations With $34.2 Million Debut

Critic Reviews for Jungle Cruise

Audience reviews for jungle cruise.

Silly but enjoyable. Sort of dual remake of both "The Mummy" (1999) and the first "Pirates of the Caribbean".

jungle cruise movie original

Disney film that is enough to watch with the family and friends, but offers little return value. Between all the remakes of animated classics, Disney lacks a focus on new and fresh ideas. Jungle Cruise may not be the step in the right direction but it demonstrates they are still willing to take a risk. Blunt is well cast and she is rarely miscast, but it's Johnson who feels out of his element. The film is a mess of special effects mixed together with Pirates of the Caribbean. It's an odd choice the filmmaker and writers made for this mega budgeted film. I just don't understand why they make these films so massive and risk not turning a profit. This should've been a more character focused film with a splash of big adventure. I have heard they are planning a sequel, but I thought they closed this off well enough to avoid a sequel.

A great adventure film and while it is reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Mummy, it has some original twists and the humor makes the film. Blunt and Johnson are great and Plemmons looks like he is seventh heaven chewing up the scenery!. Well Directed and written. Enjoyable from beginning to end. 09-06-2021

Disney turned a theme park ride that mostly involved sitting into a billion-dollar supernatural adventure franchise, so why not try another swing at reshaping its existing park properties into would-be blockbuster tentpoles? Jungle Cruise owes a lot to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and actually owes a little too much for its own good. For the first half of the movie, it coasts on the charms of stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt and some light-footed visual misadventures. Then the second half turn involves a significant personal revelation, and that's where the movie felt like it was being folded and crushed into form to closely resemble the Pirates franchise. It gets quite convoluted and littered with lackluster villains, too many and too stock to ever establish as intriguing or memorable (one of them is a man made of honey, so that's a thing). I found myself also pulling away in the second half because of the inevitable romance. Their screwball combative banter between Johnson and Blunt gave me some smiles and entertainment and then, as they warm to one another, it sadly dissipated, as did my interest. The comedy is really labored at points. Johnson keeps referring to Blunt as "Pants" because she's a woman and she wears pants in the twentieth century. It was not funny the first time and it's not funny or endearing after the 80th rendition. The supernatural elements and curses feel extraneous and tacked on. With the Pirates films, at least the good ones, there are a lot of plot elements they need to keep in the air and you assume they're be able to land them as needed. The competing character goals were so well established and developed in those movies and served as an anchor even amid the chaos of plot complications and double and triple crosses. With Jungle Cruise, it feels like a lot of effort but also a lot of dropped or mishandled story and thematic elements. This feels more creatively by committee and the heavily green screen action is harder to fully immerse with. As a wacky adventure serial, there may be enough to keep a viewer casually entertained, but Jungle Cruise feels too beholden to the Pirates formula without bringing anything exciting or fresh on its own imagination merits. Nate's Grade: C

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Jungle Cruise Hero

Jungle Cruise

July 30, 2021

Action, Adventure, Comedy

Join fan favorites Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt for the adventure of a lifetime on Disney’s Jungle Cruise, a rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila—his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities—possessing the power to change the future of medicine. Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate—and mankind’s—hangs in the balance.

Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 2h 7min Release Date: July 30, 2021

Directed By

Produced by.


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Dwayne Johnson | Disney | Jungle Cruise | In theaters July 30 or order it on Disney+ Premier Access. Additional fee required. | poster

Join fan favorites Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt for the adventure of a lifetime on Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE, a rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton.

Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) and Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) from the Disney movie "Jungle Cruise".

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After it was pushed back from its original October 2019 release date to July 2020 before being pushed back another whole year, the time has finally come that we get to see Dwayne Johnson visit " the backside of water ." In Jungle Cruise , based on the popular Disneyland attraction of the same name, The Rock plays a sea boat captain enlisted to help guide an eccentric scientist, played by Emily Blunt , on a quest to find the Tree of Life during World War I. While it is easy to tell that this is destined to be one of the biggest 2021 movies with such huge stars in the lead, there are many other big names in the Jungle Cruise cast to look forward to seeing.

Dwayne Johnson (Frank Wolff)

Playing a hero named Frank who runs a slightly sketchy river tour operation until he's hired by Emily Blunt’s character for an entirely different purpose is The Rock. He first transitioned from wrestling to acting playing his father on That ‘70s Show before making his film debut in 2001’s The Mummy Returns as The Scorpion King.

He first became friendly with Disney with family films like The Game Plan before the Fast and Furious movies certified him as a franchise rejuvenator and box office draw. After the Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle star returns to the jungle again, he will re-team with Jungle Cruise director Jaume Collet-Serra for Black Adam (one of the most anticipated DC movies ), return to California for a Big Trouble in Little China sequel, and revisit Hawaii for Robert Zemeckis’ Kamehameha biopic , The King.

Emily Blunt (Dr. Lily Houghton)

It is actually surprising that it took until now for Dwayne Johnson and Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt (who plays Lily Houghton, a woman on a quest to find a mythical tree in the Amazon that can cure any ailment) to join forces. For one, she is also a Disney darling, with Mary Poppins Returns and others, and has led action-packed blockbusters like the A Quiet Place movies (directed by and co-starring her husband John Krasinski).

The British beauty first got America’s attention with 2006’s The Devil Wears Prad , which led to an impressively versatile career, ranging from sci-fi thrillers like Looper to dark indie dramedies like Sunshine Cleaning to light rom-coms like The Five-Year Engagement with Jason Segel. Blunt does not seem interested in granting many fans’ wish to see her play Invisible Woman in the Marvel movies , but could follow Jungle Cruise by reprising her Edge of Tomorrow role if the long-awaited sequel ever happens , that is.

Jack Whitehall (MacGregor Houghton)

Playing the role of MacGregor Houghton, the brother of Lily who accompanies her on the voyage is Jack Whitehall, who may finally make a splash with American audiences by starring in Jungle Cruise . This is not to say, however, that the British comedian does not already have a following in the States, having starred in 2016’s Mother’s Day , the hit Amazon Prime original miniseries Good Omens in 2019, and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (his first collaboration with Disney) a year earlier. Later in 2021, Whitehall will appear in the live-action Clifford the Big Red Dog movie and is slated to star in two very unique upcoming romance movies called Silent Retreat and Robots .

Paul Giamatti (Nilo Nemolato)

As Nilo Nemolato, who manages the port where Frank keeps his boat, we have Paul Giamatti , who has been acting since the ‘90s, appearing in bit parts in movies like Jim Carrey’s The Truman Show and the Saving Private Ryan cast before he earned his first Golden Globe nomination for 2004’s Sideways , which made him a household name. He has since become an Oscar nominee for Cinderella Man , a Golden Globe and Emmy winner for HBO’s John Adams miniseries, a Marvel villain (Rhino) in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 , a shady record producer in the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton , and even Santa Claus in 2007’s Fred Claus with Vince Vaughn.

Jungle Cruise marks Paul Giamatti's second collaboration with Disney after Saving Mr. Banks and his second collaboration with Dwayne Johnson after San Andreas from 2015. He. is also a series regular on Showtime’s Billions and will reportedly reunite with Sideways director Alexander Payne for The Holdovers .

Jesse Plemons (Prince Joachim)

Prince Joachim, the one who steals the arrowhead from Emily Blunt and attacks Dwayne Johnson's boat from a submarine in the Jungle Cruise trailer, is played by Jesse Plemons. He has has proved that he can play a good bad guy as Todd on the Breaking Bad cast , in one of the best Black Mirror episodes (“U.S.S. Callister”), in the dark comedy Game Night , Netflix’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things , and as a morally bankrupt FBI agent in Judas and the Black Messiah most recently.

Jungle Cruise could technically qualify as the latest of his multiple Disney projects, having appeared in Twentieth Century Fox’s Like Mike as a teen and Fargo - FX’s anthology series based on the 1996 Coen Brothers movie. The former Friday Night Lights cast member also worked with Steven Spielberg on Bridge of Spies , was directed by Martin Scorsese for The Irishman and the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon , narrated Vice , and his role in Antlers (one of the most anticipated upcoming horror movies ) will finally hit the screen in October. 2021.

Édgar Ramírez (Aguirre)

Also playing one of the villains in Jungle Cruise , named Aguirre, is Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramírez, who has played everybody from Gianni Versace to the role of Bohdi in the remake of Point Break after breaking out in Hollywood in a small The Bourne Ultimatum part. This led to getting second billing in the possession thriller Deliver Us From Evil , the lead in sports biopic Hands of Stone , and a few Netflix movies, including 2017’s Bright and the family comedy Yes Day in 2021. Following Jungle Cruise (his second film with Emily Blunt after The Girl on the Train ) Ramírez will reunite with his Zero Dark Thirty co-star Jessica Chastain in Netflix’s The 355 and has joined the Borderlands cast for Eli Roth’s film adaptation of the popular video game series.

Veronica Falcón (Trader Sam)

Portraying a gender-swapped version of Trader Sam - a classic character from the original Jungle Cruise attraction - is Veronica Falcón, who made her English-language debut in the 2007 thriller Not Forgotten years before starring alongside The Suicide Squad ’s Alice Braga on USA’s Queen of the South and on HBO’s Perry Mason series reboot later in 2020. The following year has been huge for the Mexican actress so far, from a small part on the Falcon and Winter Soldier cast , a large part on the Why Women Kill cast, and an appearance in the latest of the Purge movies , The Forever Purge . Falcón will next star on Ozark Season 4 , in The Starling alongside Melissa McCarthy and Timothy Olyphant, and Apple TV+’s Mr. Corman with creator and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Andy Nyman (Sir James Hobbs-Coddington)

Another British actor who could likely call Jungle Cruise the most high-profile credit on his resume to date (at least to American audiences) is Andy Nyman, who previously worked with director Jaume Collet-Serra on the Liam Neeson action thriller The Commuter in 2019. Much earlier, he starred in the original Death at a Funeral from 2007 , played The Tumor in Kick-Ass 2 , and appeared on Netflix’s Peaky Blinders as Winston Churchill. The co-writer, co-director, and star of Ghost Stories - one of the most acclaimed anthology horror movies in recent memory - also played a Jail Guard in Star Wars: The Last Jedi , had a recurring role in Amazon’s series reboot of Hanna , and starred in the Academy Award-winning biopic Judy in 2019.

It looks like the Jungle Cruise cast may help drive Disney’s latest theme park attraction-based movie toward a treasure trove of riches.

jungle cruise movie original


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Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.

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In the pantheon of Disney movies based on Disney theme park rides, "Jungle Cruise" is pretty good—leagues better than dreck like "Haunted Mansion," though not quite as satisfying as the original "Pirates of the Caribbean." 

The most pleasant surprise is that director Jaume Collet-Serra (" The Shallows ") and a credited team of five, count 'em, writers have largely jettisoned the ride's mid-century American colonial snarkiness and casual racism (a tradition  only recently eliminated ). Setting the revamp squarely in the wheelhouse of blockbuster franchise-starters like " Raiders of the Lost Ark ," " Romancing the Stone " and "The Mummy," and pushing the fantastical elements to the point where the story barely seems to be taking place in our universe, it's a knowingly goofy romp, anchored to the banter between its leads, an English feminist and adventurer played by Emily Blunt and a riverboat captain/adventurer played by  Dwayne Johnson . 

Notably, however, even though the stars' costumes (and a waterfall sequence) evoke the classic "The African Queen"—John Huston's comic romance/action film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn ; worth looking up if you've never watched it—the sexual chemistry between the two is nonexistent, save for a few fleeting moments, like when Frank picks up the heroine‘s hand-cranked silent film camera and captures affectionate images of her. At times the leads seem more like a brother and sister needling each other than a will they/won’t they bantering couple. Lack of sexual heat is often (strangely) a bug, or perhaps a feature, in films starring Johnson, the four-quadrant blockbuster king (though not on Johnson’s HBO drama "Ballers"). Blunt keeps putting out more than enough flinty looks of interest to sell a romance, but her leading man rarely reflects it back at her. Fortunately, the film's tight construction and prolific action scenes carry it, and Blunt and Johnson do the irresistible force/immovable object dynamic well enough, swapping energies as the story demands.

Blunt's character, Lily Houghton, is a well-pedigreed adventurer who gathers up maps belonging to her legendary father and travels to the Amazon circa 1916 to find the Tears of the Moon, petals from a "Tree of Life"-type of fauna that can heal all infirmities. She and her snooty, pampered brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) hire Frank "Skipper" Wolff (Johnson) to bring them to their destination. The only notable concession to the original theme park ride comes here: Wolff's day job is taking tourists upriver and making cheesy jokes in the spirit of "hosts" on Disney Jungle Cruise rides of yore. On the mission, Johnson immediately settles into a cranky but funny old sourpuss vibe, a la John Wayne or Harrison Ford , and inhabits it amiably enough, even though buoyant, almost childlike optimism comes more naturally to him than world-weary gruffness. 

The supporting cast is stacked with overqualified character players. Paul Giamatti plays a gold-toothed, sunburned, cartoonishly “Italian” harbor master who delights at keeping Frank in debt. Edgar Ramirez is creepy and scary as a conquistador whose curse from centuries ago has trapped him in the jungle.  Jesse Plemons plays the main baddie, Prince Joachim, who wants to filch the power of the petals for the Kaiser back in Germany (he's Belloq to the stars' Indy and Marion, trying to swipe the Ark). Unsurprisingly, given his track record, Plemons steals the film right out from under its leads.

Collet-Serra keeps the action moving along, pursuing a more classical style than is commonplace in recent live-action Disney product (by which I mean, the blocking and editing have a bit of elegance, and you always know where characters are in relation to each other). The editing errs on the side of briskness to such an extent that affecting, beautiful, or spectacular images never get to linger long enough to become iconic. The CGI is dicey, particularly on the larger jungle animals—was the production rushed, or were the artists just overworked?—and there are moments when everything seems so rubbery/plasticky that you seem to be watching the first film that was actually shot on location at Disney World.

But the staging and execution of the chases and fights compensates. Derivative of films that were themselves highly derivative, "Jungle Cruise" has the look and feel of a paycheck gig for all involved, but everyone seems to be having a great time, including the filmmakers.

In theaters and on Disney+ for a premium charge starting Friday, July 30th. 

Matt Zoller Seitz

Matt Zoller Seitz

Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large of RogerEbert.com, TV critic for New York Magazine and Vulture.com, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism.

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Film credits.

Jungle Cruise movie poster

Jungle Cruise (2021)

Rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence.

127 minutes

Dwayne Johnson as Frank Wolff

Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton

Jack Whitehall as McGregor Houghton

Edgar Ramírez as Aguirre

Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim

Paul Giamatti as Nilo

  • Jaume Collet-Serra

Writer (story)

  • Glenn Ficarra
  • Josh Goldstein
  • John Norville


  • Flavio Martínez Labiano
  • Joel Negron
  • James Newton Howard

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Disney’s Jungle Cruise Is Murder

Portrait of Bilge Ebiri

“The jungle,” Werner Herzog used to say, “is murder.” Although Disney’s Jungle Cruise is ostensibly based on the popular theme-park ride, one could say that it has taken Herzog’s immortal maxim as a kind of surface inspiration. “Know this about the jungle,” Dwayne Johnson’s riverboat captain Frank says early in the film, “everything you see wants to kill you — and can.” There are other Herzog callbacks in the film: The villains include the Spanish conquistador Lope de Aguirre (the subject of one of Herzog’s best-known films, Aguirre, the Wrath of God ) as well as an obsessive German aristocrat named Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), who seems to sport Herzog’s accent ; there’s even an extended gag at one point about the Herzogian way Joachim pronounces “jungle”: “chonk-leh.” Whatever. I chuckled. Sue me.

Herzog is an odd reference point, surely, but that’s also in keeping with the central tension in Jungle Cruise , between the darker, more intense and exciting movie it clearly wants to be and the mealymouthed CGI panderfest that it is. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra — a filmmaker previously known for gonzo thrillers like Orphan and The Shallows and some of the more compelling entries in the Liam Neeson dadsploitation subgenre — the picture might have amounted to something had it been able to deliver on the one essential element any kind of adventure (even one made primarily for kids) needs: a real sense of danger.

It didn’t need to be this way, surely. The opening scenes show some promise. We first meet the spirited Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) as she sneaks around in the back rooms of the Royal Geographic Society, looking for an ancient arrowhead that holds the key to finding a magic, all-healing Amazonian blossom called the Tears of the Moon. But it’s 1916, two years into the Great War, and there’s a sinister German aristocrat — the aforementioned Joachim, who may or may not be Kaiser Wilhelm’s son — also after this artefact.

In his previous works, Collet-Serra proved quite adept playing with screen geography, and he brings charm and energy to these early scenes of Lily maneuvering around this place while Joachim pursues her, each of them using the various objects around them. Similarly, when we meet Frank “Skipper” Wolff (Johnson), the captain of a decaying, rickety Amazon riverboat, we see him conning tourists into seeing fake sights such as a phony giant hippo, a rickety waterfall, and a group of supposedly savage natives whom he’s secretly paid off to scare the foreigners.

There’s a Rube Goldbergian verve to these early sequences, and by the time Lily and her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) have employed Frank to take them into the heart of the Amazon, you might be fooled into thinking that Jungle Cruise is poised to recapture the swashbuckling magic of classics like Raiders of the Lost Ark , The Mask of Zorro , the 1999 iteration of The Mummy , or the original Pirates of the Caribbean , with a little African Queen thrown in. It certainly liberally borrows from just about all of them.

But such films were also not afraid to scare us, to make us care about their characters by putting them in real danger. And here, Jungle Cruise sadly falls back on its corporate theme-park origins. It’s a safety-first kind of movie, seemingly too afraid to ever make us fear for our heroes. A jaguar that attacks early on quickly turns out to be Frank’s pet, Proxima (another aide in his many scams). It would probably constitute a spoiler to give more details about other elements that are initially presented as sources of fear but turn out ultimately to be harmless. (Even the supposedly psychopathic Prince Joachim comes off as weirdly cuddly at times, with Plemons playing him as a subdued bore. Why exactly is this movie set during WWI anyway? Were they afraid to make Joachim a Nazi?) It feels at times like the filmmakers are reluctant to suggest that the Amazon might actually be a dangerous place. Maybe that sort of thing makes for admirable messaging (does it?), but it certainly doesn’t quicken the pulse.

The exception to all this winds up proving the rule: When the aforementioned Lope de Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his men, who all supposedly vanished upriver in the 16th century, come back as a ragtag supernatural phantom army to fight our heroes, they’re clearly meant to provide the menace that the film has been so lacking. And to be fair, a flashback to how they got their curse is one of the film’s highlights; if nothing else, it gives Collet-Serra an opportunity to briefly show off his horror chops. But once these villains enter the story, their presence, even in its finer details and twists, so recalls the far-superior Pirates of the Caribbean that we might wonder if we’re just watching something created on the same software as that earlier picture, only with a different set of features selected from the drop-down menus.

Even so, derivativeness and predictability aren’t always fatal flaws. Jungle Cruise could have been saved had it at least provided some decent comedy and romance. On the latter front, Johnson and Blunt don’t have much chemistry. The film has a good idea in positioning them as opposing temperaments — the more bickering, the more chance of a spark, cinematically speaking — but even that winds up being half-baked. In the end, they don’t argue all that much.

Over and over, we can see the far superior movie Jungle Cruise wants to be: a freewheeling, romantic, swashbuckling epic about a couple of beautiful, brave souls who bicker their way into each other’s hearts, all the while facing off against the many dangers of the jungle and a variety of villains both human and supernatural. But it is so not that movie. And the clarity of its aspirations just makes the film’s downfall that much more pathetic, like a baseball player pointing to the home run he’s about to hit and then completely whiffing and landing on his ass.

Meanwhile, Whitehall is given the thankless task of portraying what is supposedly Disney’s most “out” gay character yet. The film still plays it kind of coy: Talking to Frank one night about how he couldn’t get married, MacGregor says that he “had to tell the lady in question that I couldn’t accept the offer — or indeed any offer, given that my interests happily lay elsewhere.” He then adds, “Uncle threatened to disinherit me. Friends and family turned their backs, all because of who I love.” Maybe this could have been a touching character note, but it doesn’t actually do much to develop MacGregor; his confession seems to exist primarily to show what a decent guy Frank is in accepting him. MacGregor, meanwhile, remains the butt of many of the movie’s (mostly unfunny) jokes — a hopelessly vain dandy who pees himself at the first sign of danger. I’m not sure any of this is progress. The jungle might not kill you, but Jungle Cruise could kill your soul.

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Screen Rant

Jungle cruise: 10 behind the scenes facts about the movie.

Disney's Jungle Cruise is a much-loved ride, but what went into creating its movie adaptation? Take a look at these great behind-the-scenes facts.

Disney's  Jungle Cruise   has been ready to release for some time, but fans will finally get the opportunity to enjoy the film in the summer of 2021. A lot went into creating the company's potential next big blockbuster and there are numerous behind-the-scenes stories about how it all came together.

RELATED:  Jungle Cruise & 9 Other Disney Parks Attractions Which Broke Down With Guests On Them

Whether it's other productions that influenced the movie, or perhaps the way in which talent was brought on board for the project, there's a lot of interesting tidbits as to how  Jungle Cruise  came about at all. Of course, Disney has a strong legacy to live up to as well, and there's a lot of information out there in regards to how the film compares to the original Disney Parks attraction.

It Features Jokes From The Orignal Jungle CruiseRide

The entrance to the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland

The Jungle Cruise attraction is famous due to the script that the Skippers deliver with all of their charm and charisma. There are some trademark jokes and storylines from the Disney park attraction , and to meet fan's expectations, some of these jokes are present in the film adaptation.

Most notably, the joke that every  Jungle Cruise  fan waits for is the "backside of water" pun, which is delivered towards the end of almost every journey. Cnet  mentions how the trailer reveals that this iconic line will also be included in the film, demonstrating Disney's behind-the-scenes work to honor the iconic ride.

Linked To "Behind The Attraction"

Behind The Attraction artwork from the Disney+ series

Disney's  Behind The Attraction  on the Disney+ streaming service goes further in showcasing how the movie and the attraction will be intertwined. And the new documentary show is actually linked to the production of the film, as well.

Not only does it feature some exclusive footage, but the docu-series is also produced by Dwayne Johnson, who is one of the stars of  Jungle Cruise.  The Disney+ show is therefore being used as both a promotional show and a way for The Rock to showcase the love that went into the production.

It's One Of Disney's Biggest Sets

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise

During the filming of the production, Cinemablend reported that The Rock actually took to social media to reveal the set that Disney had produced for  Jungle Cruise.  It appears to be one of the biggest that the company has ever created for their shoots, showcasing their attention to detail.

RELATED:  10 Other Disney Rides Besides Jungle Cruise We Want Movie Versions Of

Looking to include as many real-world elements as possible, the set also looks like it's heavily inspired by the original ride itself. This is reassuring to fans who are looking for the authenticity and charm that they are familiar with from the original attraction.

The Original Version

The Rock in Jungle Cruise

Disney's current  Jungle Cruise  wasn't the first time that a film went into development with the same name. In 2004, it was first announced that there could be a new project from Mandeville Films based around the ride, and as AWN announced, confirmation that Al Gough and Miles Millar were in talks to write the movie came in 2006.

Later, it would be reported by  IGN that the project would be a high priority with a producing team also put in place. However, it wasn't meant to be, with the film seemingly collapsing before a new iteration of the idea was eventually announced by the House of Mouse.

It Includes Disney's Second Gay Live-Action Character

Jack Whitehall in Bad Education

Disney made it very clear that LeFou, the famous villainous henchmen , would be one of their first official gay live-action characters and was featured in  Beauty And The Beast .  They would later go on to confirm that Jack Whitehall's character in  Jungle Cruise  would also be gay, marking their second LGBTQ+ inclusion.

According to Advocate.com , the writing team made sure to include a pivotal coming-out scene for the character, but there has also been some backlash around the decision of casting Whitehall. Indiewire mentions that some have suggested that a straight man should not have been placed in the role and that the character plays on stereotypes, rather than portraying an LGBTQ+ character in an authentic manner.

Jaume Collet-Serra's Work

The Rock on Black Adam Set

The director chosen for the piece is Jaume Collet-Serra, who usually works within two very distinct genres: thrillers and horror. His filmography is certainly impressive, but it includes an array of features that certainly wouldn't appeal to Disney's family-friendly audience.

RELATED:  10 More Disney Attractions Asides From Jungle Cruise That Would Make Great Movies

However, it's clear from Collet-Serra's work that the director understands how to convey tension and drama on screen. And he clearly impressed Dwayne Johnson though with his passion and work ethic , with the Spanish filmmaker being brought on to work on The Rock's next major project,  Black Adam . 

Indiana Jones Inspiration

Indiana Jones and Mutt Williams examine something on the ground in a cave with flashlights.

In recent interviews, the cast and crew have revealed that the aesthetic and characters are hugely inspired by  Indiana Jones .  Now another movie series in the Disney archives, it's hard to argue that many of the best scenes from the franchise have been cemented in cinema history.

Syfy.com also notes that Emily Blunt's character, in particular, is heavily influenced by Harrison Ford's original performance in the series. It's easy to see the many parallels between the two productions though, with both featuring jungle-based adventures, on the search for lost lands and hidden artifacts.

Blunt Ghosted The Rock

Emily Blunt as Lily in Jungle Cruise

During the promotional tour, Dwayne Johnson also revealed to NME  how Emily Blunt was brought on board to the project in the first place. Having always been her fan, The Rock reached out to Blunt in the hope of tempting her into the cast. However, the actress ghosted his video messages.

It would take the director to really get Blunt to see his side, and clearly, Johnson won't let his co-star forget about the situation, although it all seems to have been taken in jest. Regardless it was the  Indiana Jones  comparisons that finally convinced the award-winning star.

Legacy Of Pirates Of The Caribbean

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean as Jack Sparrow as chaos breaks out behind him

The Pirates Of The Caribbean   franchise is really the benchmark for live-action Disney projects. Not only was it influenced by the ride itself , but it also brought the live-action side of the production company to new heights. The impact of that is clear to see on  Jungle Cruise. 

Johnson and Blunt revealed to  Inside the Magic that, alongside  Romancing The Stone ,  Pirates Of The Caribbean  was something the crew constantly called back to when looking to find success with  Jungle Cruise.  It's an important part of the House of Mouse's recent film history, and a lot of lessons can be taken from it, including the reliance on practical sets and props.

Nods To The African Queen

Charlie and Rose in The African Queen relax and canoodle on the boat.

The African Queen  is a very important film in the jungle genre and one that, according to  EW , originally influenced Walt Disney when creating the  Jungle Cruise  ride at his parks. But the Oscar-winning production has made its mark on the live-action adaptation, as well.

The  Behind The Attraction  Disney+ show even made mention that the costumes that both Blunt and Johnson wear in the final film are hugely inspired by The African Queen.  The well-respected production, therefore, has its fingerprints all over this modern take.

NEXT:  Disney's Revival Era Films, Ranked By Box Office Earnings

15 Things to Know About 'Jungle Cruise' From Our Visit to the Disney Adventure Movie Set

Who's ready for an adventure?

In Disney's Jungle Cruise , Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt take the helm for a rip-roaring river adventure that goes beyond the banks of a Brazilian port town and into the heart of the Amazon to unearth secrets borne of ancient myth and legend. If that doesn't get you excited, perhaps our report from the Hawaii-based set of the soon-to-open movie will. We've got interviews with the leads, as well as supporting characters played by Jack Whitehall and Paul Giamatti coming your way this week, but to get you all comfy-cozy for your river cruise, we've put all the highlights together in one convenient location for you before the movie opens in theaters and Disney+ Premier Access on July 30th.

Check out the official synopsis to get acquainted, and then dive in to 15 Things to Know about Disney's Jungle Cruise :

Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” is an adventure-filled, rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila—his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities—possessing the power to change the future of medicine. Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate—and mankind’s—hangs in the balance.

RELATED: Here’s What’s New on Disney+ in July 2021


  • Jungle Cruise takes inspiration from the famous Disney Parks' attraction in the same way that Pirates of the Caribbean did, and Disney is hoping for the same level of success with this potentially franchise-launching first movie.
  • Part world-tripping adventure, part action-packed quest for the truth behind ancient secrets and legends, Jungle Cruise really starts steaming once Johnson's rough-and-tumble skipper Frank Wolff and Blunt's progressive and independent explorer Lily Houghton meet up in a Brazilian port town.
  • The core of the narrative here is definitely the adventure along the Amazon river (and beyond) but the heart of the story is the relationship between the leads.
  • Romancing the Stone , Pirates of the Caribbean , and The African Queen were often cited as inspiration for Jungle Cruise .
  • Complicating Wolff and Houghton's journey into the unknown is the local businessman Nilo ( Paul Giamatti ) who wants to run Wolff out of business to control everything in the town, as well as the more worldly antagonist Prince Joachim ( Jesse Plemons ), who is as well-connected as he is devious and deceitful.


  • Wolff and Houghton aren't alone in their journey; they'll have the somewhat stuffy but charming McGregor Houghton ( Jack Whitehall ), Lily's brother, by their side, along with some unexpected allies.
  • McGregor, a very proper British gentleman, has quite the wardrobe in this movie. Whitehall has somewhere on the order of 10 costume changes, which is more befitting a leading lady in classic Hollywood productions than a supporting male character. (He had a team tasked with following him around to keep his all-white three-piece suit crisp and clean in between takes on the muddy jungle set.) Jungle Cruise plays this up quite comedically, especially when McGregor and Wolff first meet aboard the skipper's rickety steamer ship, La Quila. As Whitehall himself said of the character, "McGregor might just be the worst person that you could have in this environment."
  • McGregor also acts as the voice of reason, a counterpoint to his headstrong sister Lily.
  • Whitehall's mother, Hilary Gish , read lines with him for his audition tape, playing the part of both Blunt and Johnson's characters. We're told the footage of this exists somewhere, but we have yet to see it (and would love to.) Meanwhile, Whitehall and his father Michael can be seen together in Netflix's Travels With My Father .
  • During our set visit, Whitehall had to act opposite an actor in a leotard performing as a jaguar which was terrorizing the tavern. Whitehall has worked opposite real animals before, such as some rather rude horses in The Nutcracker , but on this occasion he remarked, "It's so good that this is not a real jaguar."

jungle cruise movie original

  • The early villain of the piece, Nilo, is a well-appointed but severely sunburned businessman, played with plenty of personality by Giamatti, who had quite a bit of latitude when it came to shaping his character.
  • The "really wacky" script, as Giamatti said, called for Nilo to have an animal friend in the movie. Originally this was intended to be a monkey, which can be found throughout the port town's market, but eventually they went with a cockatoo named Lover -- named Rosita in the film itself -- for the final shoot. Giamatti's rapport with Lover ended up getting the bird more time in the spotlight and even a few more lines in the script.
  • While Nilo will antagonize our heroes in the first section of the movie, he's not the Big Bad of Jungle Cruise . Knowing that, Giamatti wanted to make him a little goofier, a little funnier, and a little more cartoonish.
  • Johnson in particular did a lot of research into the iconic ride for this movie, including spending time with the Imagineers in the Disney Vault. He and the whole team are quite proud of the movie, especially since the adventure ride was so important to Walt Disney, who was the attraction's first skipper when Walt Disney World first opened.
  • Roughly the first half hour of Jungle Cruise takes place on the Hawaii-based stand-in set for the Brazilian port town, where our set visit took place. The hotel, the market, the tavern, and all the boats and boathouses along the docks were practical creations for the set, and they're all phenomenal. If they had been left standing, they would have been quite the adventurous attraction for tourists to explore. Sadly, these sets were dismantled when the production moved to Atlanta in order to explore more of the magic and mythology (and "Adventureland" Easter eggs) that can be found in the remainder of Jungle Cruise .

Jungle Cruise opens in theaters and Disney+ Premier Access on July 30th.

KEEP READING: New Trailer for Disney's 'Jungle Cruise' Has Strong 'Pirates of the Caribbean' Vibes

Jungle Cruise Review

Jungle Cruise

24 Jul 2020

Jungle Cruise

Sometimes, it’s not the reboots and remakes that make you despair of Hollywood’s lack of originality. Sometimes it’s a theoretically original film like this, another attempt to turn a Disneyland ride into a big-screen franchise. As you watch Jaume Collet-Serra ’s adventure, you’re haunted by the unpleasant feeling that this is a supposedly fun thing that’s already been done before. It’s only thanks to Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt that the result holds the attention, and it’s a credit to them that it’s entertaining at all.

Jungle Cruise

The ride that inspired this is a slightly insipid glide past animatronic animals. For the big screen we’re in the Amazon in 1916, where Captain Frank (Johnson) is engaged to take scientist Lily (Blunt) on a hunt for “ el flor de la luna ”, a mythical flower that can cure all ills. Her brother MacGregor ( Jack Whitehall , about whom the less said the better) is along for the ride as they follow in the footsteps of conquistador Aguirre ( Edgar Ramirez ).

It’s not badly done by any means, yet it's deathly derivative.

If you enjoyed Rachel Weisz’s plucky librarian in The Mummy , you’ll love Blunt’s plucky scientist, also tottering about on a library ladder and railing against the sexist scholars who won’t grant her the academic recognition she deserves. Johnson’s scoundrel captain, meanwhile, may recall a certain Corellian smuggler, or a Caribbean pirate. He shares a loose moral sense with both, drives a beaten-up craft that he claims is the fastest in the sector, and is in hock to a rich local boss ( Paul Giamatti , wasted). And it’s a shame that Ramirez’s Aguirre doesn’t draw from Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski to add some demented intensity, because those flashbacks play more like a limp Pirates Of The Caribbean .

It’s not badly done by any means, with lovely animal effects, big, well-staged chases and lots of antics for Blunt and Johnson. Yet it’s deathly derivative. Action beats are lifted from Raiders Of The Lost Ark , music comes (mystifyingly) courtesy of Metallica (in collaboration with composer James Newton Howard), and there are endless references to The Mummy . Orphan filmmaker Collet-Serra manages to inject some nuance into the portrayal of an Amazonian populace, led by Veronica Falcón’s Trader Sam, and gives Jesse Plemons an entertainingly outrageous accent as a German princeling. The script even pulls off a surprise or two — though one of those, involving Whitehall’s character, is horribly misconceived.

But with a budget this big and a crew this talented, the film shouldn’t be this reliant on Blunt and Johnson’s bickering to hold the attention. In his fourth jungle outing (after Welcome To The… , Journey 2 and Jumanji ), His Rockness gives good world-weary, and Blunt’s bossiness sparks off him nicely, in a dynamic straight out of The African Queen . They don’t have much romantic chemistry but they do make for a fun odd couple, and at times they’re the only thing stopping you from throwing yourself to the piranhas. When did on-screen adventure start to feel so planned?

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How the ‘Jungle Cruise’ movie helped bring change to Disneyland’s ride

Photographers take pictures of a woman, left, and man under a "Jungle Cruise World Premiere" sign.

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A single Instagram post in 2017 caused a momentary panic in the Disney community.

Dwayne Johnson, standing in front of a Herb Ryman-drawn map of the initial proposal for Disneyland, stated that he and his production company were partnering with Walt Disney Imagineering — the secretive division of the company responsible for theme park experiences — to “reengineer and redesign” the Jungle Cruise ride, one of Disneyland’s opening-day attractions.

Updates to the ride were, of course, long overdue, as numerous scenes contained offensive tribal caricatures crafted through a colonialist lens . Johnson’s Jungle Cruise vision was unknown, and while the attraction, overseen by Walt Disney, had undergone numerous changes over six decades — most designed to add more humor and creatures — would a robotic Rock be on the horizon?

Not quite. Or at least not yet, as the combined box office and Disney+ grosses of the Johnson and Emily Blunt-starring film “Jungle Cruise” will likely determine the audio-animatronic possibilities at Disney’s parks around the world. For now, at least, nods to the action-focused blockbuster-hopeful with a mystical, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”-influenced tone remain subtle and of the more hidden, “Easter egg” variety in the Disneyland original.

Anaheim, CA - July 09: A view of an expedition's wrecked boat that was taken over by chimpanzees during the Jungle Cruise ride at Adventureland, Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, July 9, 2021. The official reopening of Jungle Cruise will be on July 16, 2021, with new adventures, an expanded storyline and more humor as skippers take guests on a tongue-in-cheek journey along some of the most remote rivers around the world at Disneyland. What's new: The expanded backstory centers around Alberta Falls, the granddaughter of the world-renowned Dr. Albert Falls, who is now proprietor of the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. New scenes include: A safari of explorers from around the world finds itself up a tree after the journey goes awry. Chimpanzees have taken over the expedition's wrecked boat. A Lost & Found location has turned into a Gift Shop run by Alberta's longtime friend, Trader Sam. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Entertainment & Arts

Why Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise cultural changes aren’t just ‘woke’ — they’re necessary

The new Jungle Cruise shows Disney wants to be in the cultural conversation rather than an artifact or, worse, a representation of the ‘good ole days.’

July 18, 2021

“When you meet these behind-the-scenes heroes, it’s an extraordinary experience,” says Johnson of his time at Imagineering, before offering an ever-so-slight tease that more tweaks could be on the horizon. “Hopefully, there’s parts of our movie that might influence the ride just a little bit going forward.”

It wouldn’t be the first time Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise has taken inspiration from cinema. The original attraction was sprung from Disney’s own nature documentaries as well as the 1951 classic “The African Queen,” starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, which is also a clear influence on the big-screen “Jungle Cruise.” Starting Friday in theaters and on Disney+ premier access, audiences can see for themselves what a Johnson Jungle Cruise looks like in the Jaume Collet-Serra-directed film. If the ride is a leisurely, throwback antidote to modern thrill and special effects-laden attractions, the film aims to be exactly the opposite.

And this 2021 take on “Jungle Cruise” — rooted in the chemistry, bickering and exaggerated contradictions between Johnson’s cynical skipper Frank and Blunt’s idealistic botanist Lily — did present an opportunity to bring modern sensibilities to the Disneyland original.

A man in suspenders and a cap, left, and a woman on a boat in a dark river

The action-comedy adventure, filmed in Hawaii but located in a fictionalized Amazon, set out to course-correct some of the Jungle Cruise ride’s more uncomfortable aspects. Gone are implications of Westerners as superior colonizers, as well as grotesque depictions of Indigenous people as tourist attractions, attackers or cannibals. The villains here include an army of undead Spanish conquistadors who tried and failed to wield the jungle to their needs — namely, an attempt to raid a tree with healing powers.

“What we wanted to represent about the ride was that joy and nostalgia,” says Blunt. “It pierces your heart directly. But ... we want to represent it sensitively and respectfully.”

Over the last decade, Disney has been more aggressive about removing cultural stereotypes from its attractions. In 2017, Disneyland gave women agency in its Pirates of the Caribbean attraction by removing a bridal auction scene and reimagining a female “wench” as a pirate , and last year the company pledged to remake the “Song of the South”-referencing Splash Mountain into an attraction inspired by “The Princess and the Frog,” which stars the company’s first Black princess, Tiana.

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in "The Jungle Cruise."

Review: Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt are fun, but not enough to make ‘Jungle Cruise’ see-worthy

You can’t see the jungle for the CGI in this action-adventure inspired by the long-running Disney theme-park attraction.

July 27, 2021

With a major Jungle Cruise-inspired film on the horizon, the timing was right to rethink the Disneyland original — known best for its animal vignettes, much of them crafted by Disney’s master animator-turned-Imagineer Marc Davis. The reimagined ride largely doubles down on slapstick-inspired scenes involving chimpanzees and monkeys getting the best of a prior Jungle Cruise expedition.

“From our talks with the Imagineers, what was so interesting is that they’ve been wanting to redo the ride for a long time,” says Beau Flynn, a producer on the film. “But it’s the most revered, and the most nostalgic, and no one would let them. Every generation wanted the same experience. So the Imagineers were like, ‘Thank God for this movie, because it gives the opportunity to make changes we’ve wanted to make.’”

The film has some clever solutions for some of the ride’s outmoded — and now removed — imagery. Spear-brandishing headhunters, for instance, are turned into a sly joke that plays with Western stereotypes. Screenwriter Michael Green (“Logan,” “Blade Runner 2049”), who joined the project in late 2017, said the filmmakers wanted to reframe some of the ride’s unsavory aspects, a benefit of cinema that one doesn’t get via the pure environmental storytelling in a theme park attraction.

The film’s natives are in a businesses partnership with Frank, and they too think their costumes are silly. “What we were able to do is poke fun at the tourist perception of a what a native is supposed to be, and then you realize the joke is on them,” Green says. “They’re more sophisticated and dignified than they were being credited for. There’s moments that played to that. They’re in on the scam.”

The film makes a number of additional progressive tweaks.

The character of Trader Sam, the tribesman who will trade “two of his heads for one of yours” was removed from the ride but lives on in “Jungle Cruise,” portrayed as a mysterious, entrepreneurial figure by Veronica Falcón.

And, in a moment sure to further the debate on how Disney handles its LGBTQ characters, the film contains a coming-out scene for Lily’s brother, MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), in conversation with Frank.

People participate in a tribal ceremony, dressed in ceremonial garb and surrounded by fire torches

While not exactly subtle, the moment is not specifically direct either, as MacGregor notes that he was ostracized from much of his family for his romantic interests leaning “elsewhere.”

“I suggested a bunch of things,” Green says, “and one of them was, ‘What if Lily’s brother is with her, and what if he’s gay?’ Everyone said, ‘That sounds interesting. Let’s see where that takes us.’ It was in every draft of the script, and every cut, where MacGregor tells Frank that the reason he’s so dedicated to Lily is because she’s the one who stood by him when he came out, and for that he would follow her into a volcano. It’s one of the things I’m very proud of. I don’t consider it an oblique reference.

“There’s no question about it,” Green continues. “If he has a romantic interest in a hopeful sequel, it will be with a man. If we’re lucky enough to get to make another one, we’d all like to see MacGregor have a romance.”

If characters in “Jungle Cruise” are broadly drawn, that’s very much by design.

Blunt’s Lily, for instance, is presented as a hardened adventurer, and the mysteries of Johnson’s Frank are played down until a surprise reveal late in the film. In the modern era of filmmaking, where every detail tends to be overly explained, those working on “Jungle Cruise” say there are lessons to be learned from theme park attractions, where audiences are escorted from scene to scene and fill in the blanks via our imagination.

“We wanted to make sure we were honoring the ride, making sure it wasn’t too dark, but making sure it was humorous,” says producer Dany Garcia. “It’s very similar to the history of the Haunted Mansion [attraction], where you have multiple points of view. It was the same way for us.”

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Jungle Cruise

Cast & crew.

Dwayne Johnson

Frank Wolff

Emily Blunt

Lily Houghton

Édgar Ramírez

Jack Whitehall

MacGregor Houghton

Jesse Plemons

Prince Joachim

Ride-based adventure is fun, if predictable; peril, scares.

  • Reviews 347


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The History and Evolution of the Disney’s Jungle Cruise

jungle cruise movie original

Since it opened in Disneyland Park in July of 1955, Jungle Cruise has become one of the most iconic attractions in Disney’s theme park catalogue. Everything from the distinctive ride vehicles, comical tableaus, animatronic animals, and even the purposely over-the-top skipper spiel have become iconic elements of the Disney theme park experience, explaining why the Jungle Cruise has been cloned to nearly every Disney resort around the world.

jungle cruise movie original

However, despite its beloved stature, the attraction has met its fair share of controversy over the years, which has led to numerous changes, including a major refurbishment in 2021 .

To analyze this attraction’s controversial history, we must first look at its origins, years before Disneyland was constructed.

The origins.

The origins of the Jungle Cruise can be traced back to the late 1940s, when Walt Disney Pictures began production on their True-Life Adventures series. Beginning with Seal Island in 1948, these somewhat staged wildlife documentaries followed various groups of animals in their natural habitats. The series was so successful with movie-goers and critics that it eventually evolved from two-reel shorts to full-length documentary films that quickly became a cornerstone of Walt Disney Studios.  

jungle cruise movie original

Guests would view the animals from skipper-guided ride-vehicles modeled after the titular boat from the 1951 hit film The African Queen, while traveling through a jungle designed by Disneyland landscape extraordinaire Bill Evans.  

Welcome to the Jungle

Jungle Cruise opened with the rest of Disneyland on July 17, 1955. However, a modern guest would be hard-pressed to recognize much of the attraction. Sure they would be familiar with Goff’s general concept, and if they squinted they could imagine how the rather light jungle Evans planted would grow into the lush greenery seen today, but many iconic elements of the attraction would be absent. There was no ad-libbed humor from the skippers, who played the entire experience straight. In fact, there was no humor period.  

jungle cruise movie original

The Jungle Cruise, like Disneyland overall, was a massive success upon its opening, quickly becoming an integral part of American pop culture. However, as the park’s first decade came to a close, Walt Disney felt his park needed some new blood. According to legend, he once overheard a child ask his mother to ride the Jungle Cruise and was aghast when the mother responded that they’d ridden it last time and didn’t need to again. Whether this story is apocryphal or not, in the early 1960s Walt brought over animator Marc Davis from the Studios to “plus up” some of Disneyland’s attractions.  

jungle cruise movie original

One of the first attractions Davis – who would go on to become one of the company’s most influential Imagineers – worked on was Jungle Cruise. A visual comedian by nature, Davis decided to liven up the attraction by adding the playful elephant pool and comical trapped safari sequences.

These comedic elements in-turn influenced the ride’s skipper narration, which became more and more comical over the years. Davis’ changes led to the attraction becoming even more popular.  

jungle cruise movie original

Disney World’s Jungle Cruise

The Jungle Cruise’s status as one of Disney’s premier attractions was further solidified when a version of the ride opened with Walt Disney World and Magic Kingdom in 1971.

jungle cruise movie original

The Orlando version of the ride was similar to its Anaheim counterpart, though not a direct clone, and served the same purpose as the anchor attraction of the park’s Adventureland section.

Jungle Cruise International

A near-direct clone of the Magic Kingdom version of the attraction opened with Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, but when Disneyland Paris, then known as EuroDisney, opened in 1992, the park became the first “castle park” not to feature a Jungle Cruise on opening day. This was due partially to the cold French climate not being hospitable to water rides and partially because there were several knockoff Jungle Cruises already built at various French amusement parks.

jungle cruise movie original

Disneyland Levels Up

While these alternate versions of the Jungle Cruise were being built around the world, the Disneyland original continued to be “plussed” over the years. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, various new animals and show-scenes were added to the attraction. The biggest changes up to that point came in 1994, when the attraction was rerouted and shortened to make room for the then-upcoming Indiana Jones Adventure attraction. In addition, the ride (and the entirety of Adventureland) were rethemed to be set in the 1930s to tie into Indy.  

jungle cruise movie original

While these changes were substantial, they were nothing compared to the original plans , which were going to see a portion of the Jungle Cruise take place inside the Indiana Jones show building, as part of a plan to build a massive complex that would house four attractions.  

Holiday Overlays

Following these mid-90s refurbishments, the Jungle Cruise continued to be one of Disney’s marquee attractions. As a testament to said importance, in 2013, both American versions of the attraction were given a holiday overlay and temporarily renamed The Jingle Cruise.

jungle cruise movie original

The overlay was so successful that it was greatly expanded for 2014, and remained in both parks through 2016. For reasons unknown, Disneyland dropped The Jingle Cruise from its Holiday offerings in 2017, though the overlay remains a Magic Kingdom staple to this day.  

Controversy in the Jungle

Despite Jungle Cruise’s ongoing popularity, in recent decades the attraction has become controversial due to its purported negative depictions of native people, specifically the “headhunter” party as well as the Trader Sam “head salesman” character.  

jungle cruise movie original

In January 2021,  Disney announced that it would be making significant story changes to the Jungle Cruise at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World to alleviate these issues. Carmen Smith, creative development and inclusion strategies executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, explained the changes in a statement to the Los Angeles Times , saying:  

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. 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.

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger added , “The exciting changes we’re making to one of Disney’s most popular classic attractions, Jungle Cruise, reflect our commitment to creating unparalleled experiences that reflect, not only the best in storytelling, but also the values and rich diversity of our world.”

jungle cruise movie original

As part of these announcements, Disney made it clear that these changes to the attraction were not going to be related to the upcoming film based on the attraction.

jungle cruise movie original

Said film, simply titled Jungle Cruise , was released in July of 2021. The film starred Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Édgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti and was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. It was such a hit, a sequel is already in the works.

How do you feel about the upcoming changes to the Jungle Cruise? Do you agree that they’ve been years in the making? Beyond that, how do you feel about the attraction overall? Let us know in the comments below.  

Jungle Cruise

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‘jungle cruise’ rides to $61.8m at global box office, $30m on disney+.

The movie came in ahead of expectations at the domestic box office with $34.2 million despite renewed concerns over COVID-19 and the delta variant. Including all revenue, it's worldwide start was $91.8 million.

By Pamela McClintock

Pamela McClintock

Senior Film Writer

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'Jungle Cruise'

Disney’s Jungle Cruise rode to a better-than-expected opening of $34.2 million at the domestic box office amid renewed concerns over COVID-19 and the delta variant for a worldwide box office debut of $61.8 million.

The movie’s total global start is an OK $91.8 million when including $30 million in revenue from Disney+ Premier Access. Overseas — where a number of countries are also seeing a surge in coronavirus cases — it earned a tepid $27.6 million from 47 markets.

Jungle Cruise , starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt , had been tracking to open in the $25 million to $30 million range domestically. Jaume Collet-Serra directed the $200 million tentpole that’s based on the iconic Disneyland ride and which hopes to launch a new franchise, much as the first Pirates of the Caribbean did.

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In North America, the comedy-adventure beat Space Jam: A New Legacy to score the top opening of the pandemic-era for a family film.

Jungle Cruise is playing in 4,310 theaters in North America, where moviegoing is still far from reaching pre-pandemic levels. Weekend revenue, for example, was down nearly 50 percent from the same frame in 2019.

In some major foreign markets, Jungle Cruise went up against James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad , which is opening in five countries a week ahead of its domestic bow. Suicide Squad took in $7 million, led by the U.K., where it beat Jungle Cruise with $4.7 million. Jungle Cruise , which earned a solid $3.7 million in the U.K., beat Suicide Squad in France with $1.7 million versus $1.6 million.

In pre-pandemic times, a domestic opening of $34.2 million would be considered a troubled start for a Disney event title costing at least $200 million to make before marketing and featuring one of the world’s most popular stars. Jungle Cruise can also rely, however, on Disney+ Premier Access revenue. The family-friendly adventure was made available simultaneously in the home via Premier Access for $30 because of the ongoing concerns over COVID-19. Sources say much of the Premier Access money comes from North America.

“ Jungle Cruise is the perfect summer adventure film, bringing a beloved theme park attraction to both the big screen and living rooms in a way that only Disney can. We remain focused on offering consumer choice during these unprecedented times, and it is clear that fans and families value the ability to make decisions on how they prefer to enjoy Disney’s best-in-class storytelling,” the company’s distribution said in a statement.

Imax and other premium large format screens made up a huge 25 percent of the action-adventure’s box office gross.

Many box office pundits believe that such a day-and-date release threatens the future of theatrical exhibition and encourages avid moviegoers to stay home. Nor are theater owners happy about Disney’s decision to release Premier Access numbers in a move to boost a film’s opening weekend performance.

Actress Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit last week alleging the Walt Disney Co. breached her contract when deciding to do the same sort of theatrical-streaming release for Black Widow . The claim says making the Marvel superhero title available at home resulted in diminished box-office sales, which in turn hurt her compensation.

Disney shot back, saying that Johansson received $20 million in compensation and that she would have ultimately benefited from Disney+ revenue. The company declared that her claim showed “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Disney earlier this month said Black Widow earned $60 million on Disney+ during its opening weekend but hasn’t provided any updated numbers (at the box office, it debuted to $80 million domestically and $158 million globally).

Johnson has publicly endorsed a hybrid release for Jungle Cruise , saying it is the best way to provide consumer choice. And on Saturday, he tweeted that there is a “sequel meeting next week.” (He didn’t specify whether it was with producers John Davis and John Fox of Davis Entertainment, or Disney.)

Elsewhere, A24’s new Arthurian fantasy The Green Knight also came in ahead of expectations with $6.78 million from 2,790 theaters, good enough to tie with M. Night Shymalan’s Old for second place (the order will be determined Monday). Directed by David Lowery, the critically acclaimed film stars Dev Patel .

Matt Damon starrer Stillwater , directed by Tom McCarthy , debuted in fifth place with $5.1 million from 2,531 locations. The movie, about an oil rigger from Oklahoma who travels to Europe to help his daughter (Abigail Breslin) after she is charged with murder, did huge business in America’s heartland, including Oklahoma. Focus Features and Participant recently debuted the movie at the Cannes Film Festival.

Universal and M. Night Shymalan’s Old fell 60 percent in its second weekend to finish Sunday with a domestic total of $30.6 million and $48.6 million globally.

Black Widow neared $350 million at the global box office, including $167.1 million domestically and $176.5 million overseas. It placed fourth in North American with $6.4 million.

Stillwater rounded out the top five, followed by Warners’ Space Jam 2 ($4.3 million). The sequel finished Sunday with a global tally of $118.6 million. All 2021 releases from Warner Bros. are opening day and date on HBO Max and in cinemas.

Paramount’s G.I. Joe origins pic Snake Eyes , starring Henry Golding, tumbled a steep 70 percent in its second outing to $4 million for a domestic total of $22.3 million and $28.8 million globally.

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Small Details You Missed In Jungle Cruise

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise

One of the original Disneyland rides finally has a movie to its name. "Jungle Cruise," starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt , is the adventure-filled big-screen adaptation of the attraction that boasts more than 60 years of corny jokes and skipper-led boat rides through a campy, animatronic-filled jungle.

At its heart, the Jungle Cruise ride is about bringing the wonders of the world's rivers and jungles to Disney parks' visitors. Passengers of boats named after famous rivers (Amazon Belle, Nile Princess, Suwannee Lady, etc.) get to see animatronic exotic animals and plant life from around the world, all in one place and under 10 minutes.

Jungle Cruise has been a beloved Disneyland attraction since day one, and is one of the few original rides from opening day in July 1955 that's still operating. There have been some major changes to the original Jungle Cruise ride over the years, including injecting the journey with a lovable stream of silly, punny jokes from the skippers and ridding the ride of racially insensitive and outdated imagery.

"Jungle Cruise" the movie showcases a spin on the spirit of the ride with a nostalgic riverboat adventure in the vein of "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Indiana Jones," and "The Mummy." Johnson and Blunt star as skipper Frank Wolff and Dr. Lily Houghton, respectively, on a journey down the Amazon river in search of an ancient healing tree that purportedly holds the power to change modern medicine forever. Of course, there are some nefarious characters they meet along the way who are also after the tree's petals — called "tears of the moon" — including a German prince (Jesse Plemons) and a group of tropical zombie conquistadors led by Aguirre (Édgar Ramírez).

As a movie based on an attraction in Disneyland, "Jungle Cruise" is chock full of Easter eggs and other small nods to the ride's Adventureland home. Here are some you may have missed.

Dr. Albert Falls

A fictional character in the Jungle Cruise/Adventureland universe, Dr. Albert Falls was introduced in the attraction as a joke — the namesake of the famous Schweitzer Falls, which he "discovered."

Albert Falls' characterization grew with the expansion of the Jungle Cruise backstory in 2015. Now, Albert's books and other items found on his travels are featured on shelves in the Skipper Canteen restaurant, and there's a bronze bust of the famed fictional explorer in Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel.

In the "Jungle Cruise" film, Dr. Albert Falls is an offscreen character whose travel documents, maps, and an arrowhead are sought after by Blunt's Dr. Lily Houghton and Plemons' Prince Joachim in their search for the coveted healing tree. In the beginning of the movie, Lily breaks into and snoops around an English archaeological society's archives and finds the arrow she's looking for inside a crate labeled with "Dr. A. Falls." Albert Falls is also briefly mentioned a couple of other times in the film when Lily and Frank are discussing the exploration of the Amazon and the search for the "tears of the moon."

Jungle Navigation Company Ltd.

Founded by the aforementioned Dr. Albert Falls, the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. is a fictional business set within the Adventureland and Jungle Cruise world of Disney parks. It's the parent company and operator of the Jungle Cruise tours of the world's rivers and also boasts the popular Skipper Canteen mess hall-style eatery. The company was introduced to Disneyland's and Magic Kingdom's Adventureland as part of updates to the parks in the 1990s.

The Jungle Navigation Company's Skipper Canteen menu is also full of nods to the Jungle Cruise attraction, including dishes named after Albert Falls and the attraction's boats. There's also a "Not Piranha" sustainable fish dish, which is made all the more funny after seeing Frank serve up fresh piranha in the "Jungle Cruise" movie.

Also in the film, a sign bearing the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. logo is seen at the docks, where harbormaster Nilo Nemolato (Paul Giamatti) manages a fleet of river boats. Unlike Albert Falls, Nilo is a crusty, sunburned businessman — a memorable tertiary antagonist to whom Frank owes money.

Rosita the cockatoo

Fans of Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room were likely thrilled to see a brief but memorable "Jungle Cruise" cameo by Rosita the cockatoo.

The white-feathered Rosita is one of the "showgirl birds" who appear in the attraction perched on a mobile and singing "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing." However, Rosita's spot on the mobile is empty because she left the group for adventures elsewhere. She now inhabits various spots around Disneyland, including the Tropical Hideaway and a riverside cage on the Jungle Cruise attraction.

In the "Jungle Cruise" film, Giamatti's character, Nilo, has a pet cockatoo named Rosita, who repeatedly squawks the memorable line "Frank owes me money" after Lily and Frank break into Nilo's office. In press notes, Disney said the Moluccan cockatoo's real name is Lover Girl and was one of Giamatti's favorite co-stars — in fact, it was actually Giamatti's idea to include a cockatoo as his character's sidekick.

The Backside of Water

It's the eighth wonder of the world and one of the greatest continuous jokes in theme park ride history: the backside of water. Jungle Cruise ride fans will laugh at this joke no matter how many times they've heard it and seen the other side of the famous Schweitzer Falls. Boat skippers tell passengers they like to call it "O2H."

In the "Behind the Attraction" series on Disney+, imagineers behind the Jungle Cruise ride and some longtime skippers said the backside of water joke is an essential part of the experience. If the joke isn't told, guests will remind the skippers of their misstep.

Likewise, including the backside of water joke was a must for the "Jungle Cruise" film. It was featured prominently in the first trailer for the film with Johnson proclaiming to his passengers, "Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've been waiting for ... the backside of water." That joke, and all the others Frank deadpans, elicit groans and eye rolls from the tourists.

In a similar nod to the human-made river cruise at Disneyland, the character Frank is shown to have rigged many of the tricks in the water and along the shore to give his boat tour a more adventurous feel. To create the backside of water, he put together a system of water troughs and pulleys to produce a small waterfall at the best moment to deliver the one-liner.

All the puns

The Jungle Cruise ride we know and love today isn't the same one that ferried passengers along the world's rivers on Disneyland's opening day in 1955. For almost a decade, nature and wildlife education was the focus of the original Jungle Cruise attraction. The corny "dad jokes" and dry humor didn't make it into the ride until the 1960s. Alongside the backside of water, skippers now make jokes about a group of lions eating a zebra "on the rocks" and sharing the meal "with pride." There's also the Nile crocodile named Ginger who ... snaps. The skippers call her "one tough cookie."

Johnson's character Frank really leans into the punny skipper role in "Jungle Cruise." Kicking off a spiel of hilarious and cheesy puns, he points out a pair of toucans beak-wrestling in a nearby tree, noting "only two can play." When he gestures to some sandstone rocks, Frank says  "some people take them for granite" one of his "boulder attractions." As Frank continues, his audience's groans and eye rolls grow in intensity. He even prompts a silent "wow" from one passenger after saying he got "canned" from his previous job at an orange juice factory because "I couldn't concentrate."

Later in the movie, when Frank, Lily and McGregor (Jack Whitehall) are being taken to the village of native "headhunters" (really Frank's hired performers), Frank says it's not a great place to "be headed."

Animatronic Hippos

The Jungle Cruise wouldn't be the Jungle Cruise without its animatronic animals, especially the hippos. In the Disneyland ride, the boat slowly moves through the hippo pool while the skipper tells the passengers to stay still so as not to rock the boat and disturb the massive animals. At one point, the skipper "fires" a fake pistol to scare some of the hippos away from the boat.

A brief but similar scene happens in the "Jungle Cruise" movie. As Frank narrates the many ways the Amazon jungle has killed previous explorers — "everything you see in the jungle wants to kill you ... and can" — the boat rumbles past a stationary fake hippo protruding from the water. Then, as Frank is activating a bunch of his tricks to entertain the passengers, he uses a pistol kept near the boat's wheel to fire at a rope and unleash the mechanical roaring hippo.

Hippos aren't native to the Amazon region — a fact pointed out by a young girl on the boat, whom Frank shushes — so they aren't seen again in the rest of the film. There are, however, about 80 hippos living around Colombia's Rio Magdalena. These hippos are the descendants of the "cocaine hippos" owned by drug lord Pablo Escobar, who brought them to the country in the 1980s.

At the beginning of 2021, the Jungle Cruise ride received some major storytelling updates to get rid of "negative depictions of native people," which included getting rid of the unofficial Jungle Cruise mascot, the Trader Sam animatronic. Though Trader Sam had different animatronic iterations in Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, the character was described by critics as a racist caricature of Indigenous African peoples.

Trader Sam got another revamp in the "Jungle Cruise" movie. In the film, Veronica Falcón portrays Trader Sam as the leader of the tribe of Indigenous people who guard the healing tree. She makes several quips about "working" with Frank in playing outdated stereotypes of native peoples for his river cruise story and how she makes money off of colonial notions of her people.

The portrayal of Trader Sam and her people doesn't always hit the nail on the head when it comes to reimagining the character. There is a moment when Trader Sam dons Lily's brother McGregor's top hat in a small nod to the Magic Kingdom version of Trader Sam, who's not only holding several shrunken heads but also wearing one as a necklace. But critics have said the new Trader Sam is a "hearty attempt to reimagine a less racist version of the character."

The Nautilus?

This one may be a bit of a stretch, but Prince Joachim's submarine (also known as unterseeboots during World War I, when the film is set) is strangely reminiscent of the Nautilus vessel from Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

Plemons plays the cartoonishly villainous German prince who brings a submarine to the Amazon and frees the squad of supernatural bad guys to help him claim the healing tree. Though the interior of the submarine is cold and cramped, Joachim somehow also has extravagant, luxurious quarters that solidify his bumbling caricature of a colonizing villain.

The famous Nautilus submarine was created by Jules Verne and featured in his novels "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1870) and in the Disney film of the same name from 1954. The Nautilus is shaped like a fish and has a shingled ramming fern at the bow. Joachim's submarine boasts a similar serrated ramming fern at its bow, but so did many other German UB-II-type submarines during World War I.

Magic Kingdom at Disney World had a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction that featured a 20-minute submarine ride aboard an adapted version of Nautilus, but the ride was shuttered in 1994.

The African Queen

The 1951 adventure classic "The African Queen" is one of the key elements that inspired the layout and storytelling of the original Jungle Cruise boat ride in Disneyland. Seventy years later, its inspiration lives on in the "Jungle Cruise" film.

The film is based on the 1935 novel of the same name and stars Humphry Bogart as a skipper ferrying a woman (Katharine Hepburn) down a river in a boat named the African Queen. The movie is also set during World War I and has long been heralded by critics as thrilling, adventurous, and funny with a hint of lighthearted romance. 

While "Jungle Cruise" is obviously based on the theme park attraction, it clearly also takes inspiration from "The African Queen." Looper's review of the film said Johnson's Frank "looks like the human growth hormone version of Bogart" with Blunt's character giving "her ambitious scientist a little glint of Hepburn."

Frank also sports a nearly identical skipper outfit to Bogart's Charlie Allnut, complete with a red scarf tied around his neck and a black-billed white cap. The design of Frank's creaky, hodgepodge riverboat named La Quila also pays homage to Charlie's African Queen.

Disney's True-Life Adventures

Though "Jungle Cruise" is set in 1916, it does have a nod to "Disney's True-Life Adventure" nature documentaries, which premiered in the late 1940s, ran through 1960, and inspired the original Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland.

During a quieter moment in "Jungle Cruise," Blunt's character Lily uses a box camera to capture motion pictures of the wildlife and scenery of the jungle while sailing down the Amazon River. She captures soundless, black and white shots of butterflies, birds, and foliage while Johnson's Frank stares in awe. He's never seen a motion picture camera before, so Lily lets him try it out.

Lily also explains the excitement of motion pictures and how they can bring any place in the world right to you. It's a similar sentiment shared by Walt Disney and his team when shooting and sharing the "True-Life Adventure" features as well as creating the Jungle Cruise ride. Both the feature and attraction were made to bring the world to an audience — and give that audience a greater appreciation for wildlife and nature.

Nothing Else Matters

Yes, veteran heavy metal rockers Metallica reworked an orchestral version of "Nothing Else Matters" for a key scene in Disney's "Jungle Cruise" movie. It's an unexpected but delightful detail that somehow fits in a flashback scene set in the mid-1500s with Spanish conquistadors and a tribe of Indigenous people in the Amazonian rainforest.

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich talked about the Disney collaboration in September 2020, saying it goes back to "lifelong rock fan" Sean Bailey, who is Disney's production president. Ulrich worked with "Jungle Cruise" score composer James Newton Howard to rearrange "Nothing Else Matters" into a piece that's instrumental (pun intended) to the dark, frenzied scene. In an interview with Collider, Ulrich said the version is a "very unusual" morph of the iconic song.

The scene is a flashback to the 1560s, first in Algiers and then in the Amazon, as Aguirre (Ramírez) and his fellow mercenaries search in vain for the healing tree to save Aguirre's daughter. Just as they're at their weakest, the group is saved by the tribe that guards the tree. In a bout of anger-filled impatience, Aguirre and his men kill most of the tribe because of their reluctance to share the secrets of the tree. They are then cursed with immortality and an inability to leave the sight of the river or else face brutal consequences.

The scene is quick and feels a bit jammed with a lot of plot points that can be hard to follow, but the new arrangement of "Nothing Else Matters" is a dizzying, welcome addition to a score otherwise filled with spirited adventure ballads.

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  • Entertainment

How Disney’s Controversial Jungle Cruise Ride Was Adapted for the Screen—and What It Means for Indigenous Representation

O ver the years, a number of Disney’s theme park attractions have served as inspiration for films: The Country Bears (2002), The Haunted Mansion (2003) and, most notably, the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Jungle Cruise is the latest addition to this sub-genre. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, the film—released in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on July 30, and topping the weekend box office with $90M globally, which factors in over $30M on streaming—is based on the ride of the same name. Jungle Cruise was on Disneyland’s roster when the theme park opened in 1955, and has since become an iconic attraction, operating at Disney theme parks in Orlando, Tokyo and Hong Kong in addition to the original Anaheim location.

But the popular ride has long faced criticism for its racist portrayal of Indigenous peoples. In January 2021, Imagineering—the arm of Disney that creates and constructs its theme parks— announced that it would be updating the 66-year-old ride to address “negative depictions of natives.” In July, two weeks before the film’s release, Disney shared that it was reopening the revamped attraction.

On the ride, visitors to the Jungle Cruise journey on boats through major rivers of the world, from the Amazon to the Nile, as animatronic characters emerge from corners of the jungle. A skipper, who keeps guests entertained with dad jokes and corny puns, serves as a guide. The film also ventures into the Amazon jungle, with Dwayne Johnson playing the skipper, Frank Wolff. Set in 1916, Jungle Cruise follows British botanist Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) as she enlists Frank’s help to explore the jungle to find the Tree of Life, which is fabled to have healing powers and which she hopes will revolutionize the field of medicine.

jungle cruise movie original

Plans for a movie based on the Jungle Cruise ride were in motion since at least 2004, and a script was already in development when Michael Green was brought on to write the screenplay in 2017. Green would complete the screenplay with Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. He tells TIME that the initial script had already sourced a lot of material from the ride, but that he saw an opportunity to incorporate more elements from the attraction. Green adds that Imagineers and Disney representatives were collaborating on renovations for the Jungle Cruise well before he joined the production team. “They were aware of things they wanted to improve on, and had far-reaching plans.”

While the Jungle Cruise movie draws inspiration from the ride, it also departs from aspects of it in significant ways, with the script finding opportunities to turn racially insensitive perceptions on their heads. Here’s what to know about the original ride, how the movie differs and what all of it means in the grand scheme of Indigenous representation in popular culture.

How the Jungle Cruise ride portrayed Indigenous characters

In the Jungle Cruise theme park attraction, Indigenous peoples appeared as headhunting tribesmen with spears in their hands—next to piles of human skulls—who guides warned were attacking passing boats. One character in particular who was portrayed as primitive and dangerous was Trader Sam, who carried shrunken heads and was known as the “head salesman.” “He has a great special for you all today: just two of his heads for one of yours,” a skipper would joke to tourists on the ride. Trader Sam was also referred to as a chef who opened a cannibalistic cafe. Another area of the jungle showed a “trapped safari” scene, where men were chased up a tree by surrounding animals, with a white explorer at the top of the trunk and dark-skinned native guides at the bottom, next to the horn of a rhinoceros.

In Disney’s recent refurbishment of the Jungle Cruise ride, these racist and stereotypical features were removed. The headhunting tribe is gone, Trader Sam is replaced with “Trader Sam’s gift shop” that includes a lost and found, and the trapped safari scene now features adventurers of varied racial backgrounds grabbing onto the tree. The changes were made at the theme park in Anaheim, and Disney has said the updates will be completed by this summer at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

World-Famous Jungle Cruise Reopens at Disneyland Park on July 16, 2021

“Oftentimes in these scenarios, if there is Indigenous representation, we’re depicted as the stereotypical savage, or uncivilized creature,” says Daisee Francour, the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications at Cultural Survival —a nonprofit that advocates Indigenous peoples’ rights and cultures—of the headhunters and Trader Sam. Francour is a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and identifies as Haudenosaunee. “It’s very dehumanizing and we’re often not even seen as people, but we’re almost portrayed more as animalistic.”

The depiction of Indigenous peoples as “merciless Indian savages” can be traced back to the Declaration of Independence , which uses that exact phrase to describe Native Americans. “That dehumanization, which we see reflected here with this theme park, is rooted in the foundation of this country,” Francour says. “And because of that foundation, it shows up in this stigma in other ways.”

The dehumanized view of Indigenous peoples carries through much of American popular culture, seen commonly in Westerns and television series like Tarzan , says Cliff Matias, the Cultural Director of the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, a nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about Native American heritage. “It’s the same narrative of these homelands of Indigenous people being rescued from the savage people, and the humble, noble explorer being victimized,” Matias, who is Taíno and identifies as Latinx, says of the depiction of Indigenous peoples in the theme park. The narrative has always been flipped to show the “European mindset of, it’s the savages who attack,” Matias says. “Hollywood has always pretty much told that story through those eyes.”

World-Famous Jungle Cruise Reopens at Disneyland Park on July 16, 2021

Adapting a ride for the big screen

The Jungle Cruise movie loosely follows the theme park attraction’s storyline of early 20th century adventurers exploring the jungle, reimagining some of the ride’s characters for the film. Most notably, Trader Sam appears in Jungle Cruise, played by Veronica Falcón, as a woman who is a chieftain of the Puka Michuna tribe. Green describes her character as smart and savvy, someone “who was very much in control of herself and what happens to her and her tribe.” “That was a chance to take a familiar trope of the ride and bring it into the film in a new way,” Green says.

More broadly, the Puka Michuna tribe is portrayed with an approach that aims to subvert stereotypes about Indigenous peoples. In one of the film’s opening scenes, skipper Frank tells the tourists on his riverboat about the tribespeople who are the “deadliest hunters in the hemisphere.” The passengers are attacked by a crew with blow darts, before it becomes evident that Frank had staged the ambush to add some thrills to his tour. “What we felt we could still play with is a lot of false preconceived notions,” Green says of the scene. “At the time when this film takes place, a lot of people coming from where those tourists were coming might think of those natives as backwards tribes. And we could instead be poking fun at people’s expectations of it.”

These tourists only see a glimpse of the Pika Michuna tribe while on the cruise, and are missing the “sophisticated, rich, dignified lives” of the Indigenous people, Green says. He and the team hoped to portray the local inhabitants in a more well-rounded way. “We wanted to give everyone in the film the dignity they deserve,” Green says. “If you set something in a place you want the people to be represented correctly and you want them to speak the correct languages.”

According to Disney’s press notes , the filmmakers researched the Tupi language that was widely spoken in Brazil and created their version of the language for the film’s characters. They also wanted to accurately emulate what the Amazon jungle looked like in the early 1900s, and studied the animals and flora of the time. Director Collet-Serra spoke of a cultural advisor that the team worked with to aim for proper representation.

jungle cruise movie original

While these efforts brought necessary changes to the film adaptation, some viewers have commented on the mixed messages conveyed by the portrayal of Indigenous characters. In NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour , Native American journalist Vincent Schilling gave a nod to Disney casting Johnson, who is Samoan, as the lead character. But Schilling also discussed a scene in which Trader Sam referred to the tribe’s clothing as “ridiculous costumes.” “I feel as though Jungle Cruise did a valiant effort in trying to represent Brazilian Amazonian tribes in a certain way that was actually fairly legitimate,” Schilling said, which was why the chieftain’s description stuck out. “You’re trying to be authentic. So is it ridiculous, or is it authentic?” Similarly, the reappearance of Trader Sam has prompted questions about why a character removed for racial insensitivity in the theme park was brought back, even in a revamped version. Other viewers have posted on Twitter about the film sidelining Indigenous characters who merely assist in the quest of the European main protagonists.

The film’s villains are obvious, as would be expected for a family movie, and they differ from those of the theme park ride. They include a German aristocrat leading a military expedition in hopes of obtaining the powers of the Tree of Life no matter the cost to the jungle, and a cursed group of conquistadors who had attacked the local tribe. Blunt’s Dr. Lily Houghton is the protagonist, but also an outsider entering the jungle with the goal of taking away something native to the land. Asked whether her character’s mission could be interpreted as exploitative, Green says that Houghton is not someone who would put herself front and center. “To my mind, she is the type of character who would credit where things came from, the people who helped her to it and would bring them into it,” he says.

Indigenous representation in TV, film and theme parks in the future

Seeing authentic and accurate representation of Indigenous peoples has lasting effects on young audiences, many of whom are the target demographic of Disney’s theme parks and films. Matias says that multiple generations of Americans have been taught while growing up, through watching TV and movies, that Indigenous peoples are savages. “They might grow up to be creators, producers, directors, writers, so if they have a little better understanding and were taught a little better history, then they might be able to form a better mindset as to what they’re writing about,” he says.

According to Francour, dehumanization of Indigenous peoples—like in the original Jungle Cruise attraction—is closely tied to depicting them as people of the past. “As an Indigenous person living in 2021, I myself am a modern person, I live in two worlds,” she says. She describes being immersed in her Indigenous community while residing in Chicago.

“I live in a big city, and I wear ‘normal’ clothes, I guess you would say, that aren’t my regalia when I go on the street,” she says. “To see this dehumanized illustration of our people as in the past tense, it just does not fully represent the diversity of who we are, then, now and in the future.”

Francour describes a growing movement of Indigenous communities and organizations that are changing past narratives by retelling stories from a first-person perspective. And, from non-Indigenous people, “there’s a growing movement of openness to connect and to consult and to collaborate with Indigenous peoples to make sure that their narratives are represented well,” she says. Francour gives the example of Disney partnering with the Sámi people for Frozen 2 with the goal of portraying the Sámi community—who were the inspiration for the fictional Northuldra tribe—in a culturally sensitive and respectful way.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunities where Indigenous peoples themselves can be centered,” she says. “We need to shift the power of who is producing this content, producing this narrative, and making sure that Indigenous people, and our leadership are at the forefront.”

Correction, Dec. 1

The original version of this story misstated the roots of the phrase “merciless Indian savages” in the founding of the United States. It appeared in the Declaration of Independence, not the U.S. Constitution.

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Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise

  • Based on Disneyland's theme park ride where a small riverboat takes a group of travelers through a jungle filled with dangerous animals and reptiles but with a supernatural element.
  • 1916. Dreaming about saving countless lives and having another adventure, the feisty English feminist and doctor of botany, Dr Lily Houghton, embarks on a peril-laden mission to change the world. Along with her fashionable brother, MacGregor, Dr Houghton enlists the help of the arrogant, wisecracking riverboat skipper, Captain Frank Wolff, to guide them through the serpentine Amazon River in La Quila, his swift wooden boat. Now, as the intrepid trio ventures deeper and deeper into the heart of an impenetrable green maze, searching for something that cannot be found, a centuries-old curse and the ruthless aristocrat, Prince Joachim, threaten to put an end to their ambitious plans. And, sooner or later, the jungle always wins. Is it true that the Spanish conquistador, Don Aguirre, was lost in the same God-forsaken part of the world? — Nick Riganas
  • In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors travel to South America in search of the Tears of the Moon, a mythical tree whose petals can cure any illness, heal any injury, and lift any curse. After most of the men die in the jungle, the survivors are nursed back to health by a local tribe using the tree petals. When they refuse to reveal the location of the tree, the Spanish destroy the village, and as punishment are cursed to never die and never be able to leave sight of the river. In 1916, Dr. Lily Houghton and her brother MacGregor detail Lily's research on the Tears of the Moon to an association of English explorers, explaining that the petals could revitalize medicine and aid in the war effort. The Houghton's request access to an arrowhead recovered by Dr. Albert Falls that Lily believes is key to locating the tree. When the association denies their request, believing the tree to be a myth and a female scientist unqualified to join their ranks, Lily steals the arrowhead instead. She narrowly avoids Prince Joachim, a German aristocrat who also wants the arrowhead and the tree. In South America, Frank Wolff takes tourists on jungle river cruises, which he embellishes with fake dangers and corny jokes. When his boat engine is repossessed by businessman Nilo, he attempts to steal it back. Caught in the act by Lily, Frank pretends to be Nilo and arrogantly tells her that the Tears of the Moon is a myth and that she will not be able to handle the dangers of the jungle, but changes his tone when he notices that Lily is in possession of the arrowhead. Frank's deception is revealed with the real Nilo shows up, but Lily hires Frank anyway after he underbids Nilo and bravely fights off a wild jaguar attack. Frank, Lily, and MacGregor depart on Frank's boat but are almost intercepted by Nilo attempting to get his engine back, mercenaries hired by Joachim to retrieve the arrowhead from Lily, and Joachim himself attacking in a German submarine. After they make their mistake, it is revealed that the attacking jaguar was actually Frank's pet Proxima, and Lily wonders if Frank can be trusted. Joachim locates the cursed conquistadors, whose bodies have turned to stone due to them traveling too far from the river, and have been infested over time by tree roots, snakes, and insects. Joachim frees them by diverting the river, and offers to help them break the curse if they help him to retrieve the arrowhead. As Frank, Lily and MacGregor continue down the river they become closer. MacGregor reveals to Frank that he was nearly disowned by his family due to his homosexuality, but Lily stood by him. Breaking into Frank's cabin, Lily finds photos and drawings of new inventions such as the automobile, but also discovers drawings of the arrowhead and research on the Tears of the Moon. Lily accuses Frank of wanting the tree for himself, but he explains he gave up searching for it a long time ago and believed it couldn't be found. They are attacked by a tribe of "cannibals" who demand the arrowhead, but this is revealed to be another deception by Frank working with a friendly tribe. Frank apologizes and says he was unable to call off the plan, but Lily rebuffs him. Trader Sam, the tribe's female leader, translates the writing on the arrowhead, revealing the location of the tree, and that it only blooms under a blood moon. The conquistadors attack and manage to take the arrowhead; Frank recovers it and gives it to Lily but is stabbed through the chest with a sword and falls to his death. Lily runs away from the river so that the Spaniards cannot follow her. The next morning, Lily discovers that Frank has miraculously survived. He reveals that his real name is Francisco, and he is actually one of the cursed conquistadors, unable to die or leave the river. The expedition to find the tree was originally a noble one to save the leader's sick daughter, but when the natives were attacked by the Spaniards, Frank switched sides to help the villagers. After years of fighting, Frank trapped the others in a cave away from the river. He then spent time searching for the tree to lift his own curse, but had been unable to find it without the arrowhead. An injured MacGregor stays behind with Trader Sam while Lily and Frank make the final journey to the tree. MacGregor is captured by Joachim and forced to reveal the location of the tree. Frank, Lily, the Germans, and the Spaniards all converge on the tree, which begins to bloom under the blood moon. The moon passes quickly as they fight, and Lily is only able to recover one petal. MacGregor kills Joachim, and Frank crashes his boat to block the river, turning himself and the other Spaniards into stone. Lily uses the petal to revive Frank and break the curse, only afterwords discovering that due to a shift in the moonlight there is one petal left for Lily's research. Back in London, the society has offered full membership to Lily, which she rejects. She shows Frank London and gives him his first driving lesson in her automobile as well as delivering a corny joke herself.

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  7. Jungle Cruise Cast: Where You've Seen The Actors Before

    Portraying a gender-swapped version of Trader Sam - a classic character from the original Jungle Cruise attraction - is Veronica Falcón, who made her English-language debut in the 2007 thriller ...

  8. Jungle Cruise movie review & film summary (2021)

    Reviews Jungle Cruise Matt Zoller Seitz July 30, 2021 Tweet Now streaming on: Powered by JustWatch In the pantheon of Disney movies based on Disney theme park rides, "Jungle Cruise" is pretty good—leagues better than dreck like "Haunted Mansion," though not quite as satisfying as the original "Pirates of the Caribbean."

  9. Movie Review: Disney's Jungle Cruise, starring The Rock

    We first meet the spirited Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) as she sneaks around in the back rooms of the Royal Geographic Society, looking for an ancient arrowhead that holds the key to finding a...

  10. How The African Queen Influenced Disney's Jungle Cruise

    The African Queen turns 70 this year, and it was a key influence on both the Jungle Cruise ride and movie. ... Disney's original conception of the attraction was to make a living travelogue, ...

  11. Watch Jungle Cruise

    Seeking an ancient tree with healing abilities, Dr. Lily Houghton and wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff team up for the adventure-of-a lifetime on Disney's Jungle Cruise, a rollicking ride down the Amazon. Amidst danger and supernatural forces lurking in the jungle, secrets of the lost tree unfold as their fate—and mankind's—hangs in the ...

  12. Jungle Cruise: 10 Behind The Scenes Facts About The Movie

    By George Chrysostomou Published Jul 28, 2021 Disney's Jungle Cruise is a much-loved ride, but what went into creating its movie adaptation? Take a look at these great behind-the-scenes facts. Disney's Jungle Cruise has been ready to release for some time, but fans will finally get the opportunity to enjoy the film in the summer of 2021.

  13. Disney's Jungle Cruise

    Join the adventure of a lifetime and watch the action-packed new trailer for Disney's JUNGLE CRUISE. The trailer was launched via a fun-filled Instagram Live...

  14. What's Jungle Cruise About? Dwayne Johnson & More Explain ...

    Image via Disney. In Disney's Jungle Cruise, Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt take the helm for a rip-roaring river adventure that goes beyond the banks of a Brazilian port town and into the heart ...

  15. Jungle Cruise Review

    Release Date: 23 Jul 2020. Original Title: Jungle Cruise. Sometimes, it's not the reboots and remakes that make you despair of Hollywood's lack of originality. Sometimes it's a theoretically ...

  16. How the 'Jungle Cruise' movie and Disneyland ride connect

    The original attraction was sprung from Disney's own nature documentaries as well as the 1951 classic "The African Queen," starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, which is also a clear...

  17. Jungle Cruise

    Jesse Plemons Prince Joachim About Jungle Cruise ADVENTURE Join fan favorites Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt for the adventure of a lifetime on Disney's "Jungle Cruise," a rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton.

  18. The History and Evolution of the Disney's Jungle Cruise

    The origins of the Jungle Cruise can be traced back to the late 1940s, when Walt Disney Pictures began production on their True-Life Adventures series. Beginning with Seal Island in 1948, these somewhat staged wildlife documentaries followed various groups of animals in their natural habitats.

  19. 'Jungle Cruise': Movie Scores Okay Box Office, Disney+ Opening

    August 1, 2021 8:40am. 'Jungle Cruise' Courtesy of Disney. Disney's Jungle Cruise rode to a better-than-expected opening of $34.2 million at the domestic box office amid renewed concerns over ...

  20. Small Details You Missed In Jungle Cruise

    "Jungle Cruise," starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, is the adventure-filled big-screen adaptation of the attraction that boasts more than 60 years of corny jokes and skipper-led boat...

  21. Jungle Cruise

    PG-13. Release Year: 2021. Watch Trailer. Add to Your Collection. Now on Blu-ray and Digital. Join fan favorites Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt for the adventure of a lifetime on Disney's Jungle Cruise, a rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from ...

  22. How Disney's Jungle Cruise Film Adapted the Problematic Ride

    Set in 1916, Jungle Cruise follows British botanist Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) as she enlists Frank's help to explore the jungle to find the Tree of Life, which is fabled to have healing...

  23. Jungle Cruise (2021)

    1916. Dreaming about saving countless lives and having another adventure, the feisty English feminist and doctor of botany, Dr Lily Houghton, embarks on a peril-laden mission to change the world. Along with her fashionable brother, MacGregor, Dr Houghton enlists the help of the arrogant, wisecracking riverboat skipper, Captain Frank Wolff, to ...