The Disney theme parks have now released the changes that have been made to their classic Jungle Cruise ride. One of the entertainment company’s chief “Imagineers” is already defending the changes as not because the company’s “woke,” but because they were necessary.
The Disney executive that leads the “inclusion strategies,” Carmen Smith, recently reported to The Los Angeles Times, “When we look at something and realize the content is inappropriate and may perpetuate a misconception or a stereotype, our intention is to take a look at it critically, and figure out a way to enhance it, to make the necessary changes so it is relevant.”
Smith also said, “It’s about arming people with knowledge … and understanding the intention was never to make anyone feel uncomfortable. But when we recognize that, we must address it.”
In describing the changes the company is making to the popular ride, the company says they “reflect and value the diversity of the world.” The ride no longer includes characters that were based on humorous depictions of historical facts like cannibalism in the Amazon Basin and headhunting tribes in Borneo. One of the characters on the ride was illustrated by the shrunken head dealer “Trader Sam.”
Now the ride depicts monkeys and other animals tormenting tourists. The new version also, according to the Times, places an emphasis on “the havoc humans wreak on the environment.”
The Times says that the ride, which families of all ethnicities and backgrounds have enjoyed since 1955, had a “reputation for racist depictions of Indigenous people as tourist attractions, attackers or cannibals — tribal caricatures crafted through a colonialist lens.”
Disney’s creative portfolio executive, Chris Beatty, said in a recent interview with The Independent, “This is not a re-envisioning of the entire attraction. It’s the Jungle Cruise you know and love, with the skippers still leading the way, and at the same time, we’re addressing the negative depictions of natives.”
Beatty continued, “We are constantly evaluating ways to enhance attractions and experiences in our parks. We want to make sure everybody has the best time — that guests from all over the world can connect with the stories we share and that how we bring those to life are respectful of the diverse world we live in.”
This is the most recent change that Disney has made to apparently appease what must be a small but vocal minority not happy with a humor-based but truthful display of the past. It was reported in 2018 that Disney changed the popular Pirates of the Caribbean attraction by getting rid of the “bride auction.” There was a funny scene where buccaneers were trying to buy wives. The attraction has replaced that scene with a band of pirate women now looting a city.
Now that the Jungle Cruise will no longer feature scenes that could lead families to discuss real historical cultural issues, there are media outlets praising Disney for the changes they are making. The National Public Radio recently said, “A ride at Disneyland that used to feature racist, colonialist depictions of Africans now emphasizes slapstick monkeys and chimpanzees besting clueless tourists instead.”
USA Today reports that the new version “removes racially offensive depictions of Indigenous people.”
And Vulture apparently can now rest easy since the “creaky charm of its elephant and hippo animatronics” will no longer be “overshadowed” by a “pervasive, offensive streak of virulently racist imagery in the form of ‘tribal’ characters scattered throughout the ride.”
To be clear, the chief Imagineer of Disney said that these changes did not happen because the company is “woke,” they were just now deemed as necessary.