Disney is finally updating its problematic Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland and Walt Disney World

A ride that has long been criticized as racist and problematic is finally getting a much-needed update. Today, Disney announced that Jungle Cruise, a boat ride that depicts rivers around the world and what many have called colonialist caricatures of “natives” around them, will be getting an update to remove those problematic depictions.

“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,” Carmen Smith, executive of development and inclusion strategies at Walt Disney Imagineering, said today on the Disney Parks Blog. “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.”

Primarily, those updates seem to be removing the “natives” from scenes where they are either portrayed as hostile savages or as subservient. Instead, more animals will be added to the ride, and a new character of a skipper whose “journey goes awry,” described Imagineer Kevin Lively, formerly a skipper on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland.

That skipper won’t replace the live boat skippers who narrate the ride (and add their individual spin to the script), but will be a new part of the show. One of the new scenes shows his boat being overtaken by chimpanzees.

“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,” Iger tweeted today.

When Disney announced that it would be redoing Splash Mountain, taking away the Brer Rabbit theme and substituting in “The Princess and the Frog,” the reactions were mixed. Many fans applauded the decision to add a ride themed on the first Disney movie to feature a Black princess. It was time, they felt, to remove the storyline based on the 1946 Disney movie “Song of the South,” a movie so racist and problematic that the company hasn’t made it available on any platform since 1986, when it was re-released for a 40th anniversary theatrical run, and has never been made available for purchase. In March, Disney Chairman Bob Iger described the movie as “not appropriate in today’s world,” even with a disclaimer.

But others were outraged over the loss of an iconic ride, which opened at Disneyland in 1989 and Walt Disney World in 1992, and said that the ride should be preserved because of nostalgia and tradition.

And still for some, changing Splash Mountain was a good first step, but that Disney had a long way to go in eliminating its problems of colonialism and racial inclusivity. The caricature accents of the Enchanted Tiki Room’s birds come to mind. The “Indians,” lead by Tiger Lily, in Peter Pan’s Enchanted Flight.

While some Disney fans have raised cries of dissent about the changes, citing cancel culture and the fact that Walt Disney oversaw the original ride, many have voiced support for the changes.

“As silly and overly pun-filled as the Jungle Cruise may be, it has long been criticized as viewing adventure through an imperialist lens,” Todd Martens wrote for the Los Angeles Times. “While the ride is meant to be a collage of Asia, Africa and South America, human figures of the regions are presented as exotic, violent and dim-witted, humor that in the 1950s and 1960s was troublesome and today reeks of racism.”

The original ride, the one that debuted on Disneyland’s opening day in 1955 and which Walt Disney personally oversaw, was different than today’s version. That ride was called The Jungle Rivers of the World, and was more educational. “The ride’s unsavory tribal depictions, largely inspired by images from Papua New Guinea, were added in the years after its opening,” Martens said.

Disney, though, wants to make it clear that while they are “plussing” (their word for enhancing) the ride, they are not remaking it. The revisions will be more along the lines of female pirate Redd’s addition to Pirates of the Caribbean when they removed the scene where pirates were selling women into domestic slavery. “This is not a re-envisioning of the entire attraction,” Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Portfolio Executive Chris Beatty told official Disney fan site D23. “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.’ So that’s one of the scenes we’re going to go in and change.”

Imagineers also talked to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World to make sure the new animal element was done in “an authentic way for the chimpanzees,” Beatty said. “We want to have fun, but we’re not making fun of the animals.”

As part of the announcement, Disney has said that it has no plans to alter Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel, or Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen, a restaurant in the Adventureland portion of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom themed on the ride, which has a room said to be the former family library of Dr. Albert Falls, the namesake for the ride’s waterfall.

There are also no plans to include an animatronic of The Rock, starring in the new Disney “Jungle Cruise” movie, debuting on July 30, or to incorporate the movie’s storyline.

“Does that mean that as Imagineers we won’t put Easter eggs in there?” Beatty said. “We’ll definitely do that.”

More on Disneyland

— Biden’s inauguration shut down this Disney attraction

— Why Disneyland will get an Avengers Campus, but Disney World won’t

— Annual passes are likely only the first thing to go at Disneyland

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