Disney "fixes" Jungle Cruise ride to be more culturally relevant

(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Now that the Disney theme parks are reopening after the pandemic lockdowns, visitors to the most magical places on Earth may notice something different about the classic “Jungle Cruise” ride. Certain elements of the attraction have been “reimagined” by the Disney Imagineers because the original ride wasn’t “culturally sensitive” enough. The newer, more woke version will address a number of problems that almost nobody seemed to be aware of, specifically in how certain indigenous people were portrayed. So does the new maxim of “go woke, go broke” apply here, or will anyone even notice? (Daily Wire)

Disney theme parks have finally unveiled changes to the classic Jungle Cruise ride and one of the company’s chief “Imagineers” argues they’re not woke, they’re necessary.

Carmen Smith, the Disney executive who heads “inclusion strategies,” told The Los Angeles. “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.”

“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,” she added.

Let’s look at some of the horribly insensitive aspects of the old ride that had to go. They have removed certain “humorous depictions of historical facts like cannibalism in the Amazon Basin and headhunting tribes in Borneo.” They also ditched “Trader Sam” who was depicted selling shrunken heads. Those features have been replaced by displays that depict “the havoc humans wreak on the environment.”

The parts of the ride that were removed all supposedly represented “racist depictions of Indigenous people… all crafted through a colonialist lens.”

There’s absolutely no denying that the arrival of Europeans in the new world resulted in a horrific impact on the indigenous peoples of the Americas and many Pacific islands. But was that fact being somehow mocked or minimized by the features on the traditional Jungle Cruise ride? (I’ll confess that I haven’t been to a Disney Park in more than thirty years, so my recollections of the ride are fuzzy at best.)

Disney is a private corporation so they can do whatever they like with their rides, but the main problem I see with these changes is that they are essentially wiping out parts of history that were real. Granted, it’s not Disney’s job to educate the public on the history of indigenous peoples, and that was never the intent of the ride as far as I know. But the fact of the matter is that there were (and still are) tribes that engaged in cannibalism. Some tribes did traditionally create shrunken heads for various religious and cultural purposes. The newly arriving Europeans were no doubt horrified to learn this, but it was a simple matter of cultural collision.

So what will these features be replaced by? The newest version of the ride will show “monkeys and other animals tormenting tourists.”

Hey, that sounds like a fabulous idea for a ride intended to entertain children, doesn’t it? Rather than seeing potentially confusing portrayals of native cultures (which might spur educational discussions in the family), they’ll just show the little tykes images of people being attacked by animals. Nothing like instilling nightmares of being killed by wild monkeys into the kids, eh? It truly is the most magical place on Earth.