Hello everyone and welcome aboard the U.S.S. WDW Ride Guide! Today we are floating through the jungle along 4 famous rivers. This collection of global exploration is what is known as the World Famous Jungle Cruise. My name is Ben and I’ll be your skipper for the next 2 1/2 months. No, I’m only kidding, you can stop reading at anytime! How many of you are on the Jungle Cruise for the first time? Good! So am I. A little about myself before we get sailing. Before I started blogging, I worked in an orange juice factory, but I got canned because I couldn’t concentrate. My boss almost beat the pulp out of me…
Enough about me though, let’s talk about the Jungle Cruise! This True Life Adventure has been running at the Magic Kingdom since opening day in 1971. The Jungle Cruise Co. had been sending explorers down the world’s major rivers long before that though, they set sail from Disneyland as far back as 1955. Back then things were a little more serious. Our first skipper, Walt Disney, wanted to offer his guests a real life river ride packed with all the dangers of the jungle. Originally, auditions were held for live animals to fill the banks of the Jungle Cruise. Unfortunately, their performance either fell too flat or a little too over the top. Let’s just say those first test cruises came back a little lighter than they went out! No, I’m just kidding of course. There were never any documented cases of missing persons during the test phase.
So, with the Animal Actors Guild unable to deliver, Walt turned to his steady herd of audio-animatronic animals. They proved valuable, stable, and impressively consistent. In fact they gave the exact same performance every single time! Now, the audio-animatronic cast blends in perfectly with the rich natural vegetation of the jungle. The result is a series of scenes your skipper will guide you past as you float through the jungle.
Well, like I said those first cruises out of California were a little more serious and dangerous feeling as new riders didn’t know what to expect. After a year or so the skippers and the crew got a bit restless. One day, Walt heard a young sailor tell his parents he had already been on the Jungle Cruise and didn’t need to go a second time. To keep things fresh and a little more fun the skippers began adding their own personal flavor to the guided tours. By the time the Jungle Cruise started disembarking from Florida, things had changed quite a bit. The ride was now the corniest cruise on Earth! For example, when approaching the Indian Elephants a skipper might now say, “ Oh, look at the herd of Indian Elephants here bathing in the pool. Feel free to take pictures, they won’t be embarrassed. They have their trunks on.” Or later when passing the attacking natives they might give this piece of advice, “If they hit you with a spear, just pull it out and throw it back. We aren’t allowed to keep souvenirs and we wouldn’t want you to be stuck with it the rest of the trip.”
These light hearted jabs at the ride itself quickly became the hallmark of the Jungle Cruise. Today, boats of explorers can have a good laugh as they sail through the Amazon, the African Congo, the Nile, and the Mekong River. During the journey you will see a 24 foot python, just don’t get too close, it may get a crush on you. Also, best to steer clear of ole’ Trader Sam. The entrepreneur of the jungle has seen business shrinking lately. Chances are he will offer you a two-for-one special as you pass by. Two of his shrunken heads for one of yours! This joke works better when you see Sam holding the shrunken heads. Well, it works a tiny bit better, but don’t expect to die with laughter.
As your boat continues to wind through the dense vegetation, waterfalls, and audio-animatronic scenes, your skipper will keep you constantly entertained. It is no coincidence they are standing for the entirety of the cruise, this is a true stand up performance. Like all comedic routines, the key is in the delivery. You may luck out and have the funniest skipper in the whole kingdom on one cruise, or you might get stuck with the Fozzy Bear of guides on another. Speaking of Fozzy, did I tell you about the skipper who had a light up his nose? He was light headed! Wocka Wocka! Yes, it can be that bad, or good, it all depends on your point of view.
Given the highly fluctuating human variable on the Jungle Cruise you might think a lot of riders would be eager to exit after being bombarded with bad jokes for 10 minutes. However, they call it the “World Famous” Jungle Cruise for a reason. More often than not, park-goers find the tongue-in-cheek nature of the ride charming and fun for the whole family. If that weren’t the case, it could not have sustained its popularity for over 40 years at the Magic Kingdom. With that popularity, you can expect the Jungle Cruise to hold one of the longest wait times. This makes it a good candidate for Fastpass +, especially if you won’t be riding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or any of the mountains (Splash, Big Thunder, or Space). If you do plan to use up your Fastpass + elsewhere, I recommend starting your day in Adventureland and riding the Jungle Cruise first, followed quickly by Pirates of the Caribbean. The other alternative would be to wait until the end of the day and hit both of these Adventureland favorites at night.
If you do opt for a nighttime cruise, proceed with caution. The Jungle Cruise does take on a little different personality in the dark of night. While the audio-animatronic animals are still very friendly no matter what time of day, one’s imagination can run a little wild surrounded by the dark jungle. Along the Mekong River the boat will take you into some dark Temple ruins which can be a little unnerving for little ones during the day, and downright scary at night. Inside the temple riders will see a tiger with glowing eyes, spiders, and my wife’s favorite, snakes! King Cobras to be precise. On the bright side, this darker side of the ride is a little closer to what Walt originally had planned. If you have ever seen the 1954 film The African Queen, you will immediately recognize the inspiration for the Jungle Cruise boats. That film had a big influence on Harper Goff’s design for the Jungle Cruise, as well as Walt’s ideas for what the ride should be. While most of those early ideas have been washed downriver, at night the Jungle Cruise feels a little more dangerous. Keep this in mind when choosing what time of day you want to put your life in the hands of the men and women telling all those bad jokes!
As you exit your ride you will sadly have to say goodbye to your skipper. Don’t worry though, there will still be enough time for one or two more jokes. Maybe something like, “OK rise like bread folks, no loafing around. I know my jokes are stale and crumby, and I’m sure I could do butter but it’s the yeast I can do on the sourdough I make here. I think I get my rye sense of humor from my dad. It’s no wonder. He’s Danish. I was born under a croissant moon and I used to be the toast of the town, until one day I just got spread too thin. Hey, where are you going? I’m on a roll! Oh well I guess you have to jam.”
Now, if you just can’t get enough of your skipper and their zany antics I have some good news for you! Another fun piece of news to come from the D23 Expo this year was the announcement of the Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen. This new restaurant will be located across from the ride and feature “World Famous Jungle Cuisine.” You can dine in one of several unique dining rooms, one of which will be a once secret meeting room of the famed Society of Explorers and Adventurers. The best part? Well, it seems those skippers from the ride are picking up some extra shifts at the Skipper Canteen and will serve as your wait staff in the restaurant. Who knows what the daily special of jokes will be when the skippers have a new entertainment venue! Look for the Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen to open in late 2015.
With that last piece of news it is time to say goodbye to the most side splitting, groan inducing, family fun ride in all the Magic Kingdom. I hope you enjoyed your trip exploring the Jungle Cruise. If you had half as much fun as I did, great! That means I had twice as much fun as you.
Thank you so much for joining me today. If you have any corny jokes or funny stories that you would like to share about today’s podcast we would love to hear from you. Send us an e-mail to email@example.com. If I can help answer any other questions as you plan your next Disney vacation please let me know. I look forward to sharing another great ride with you next week. Until then, make each day a ride worth taking!