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 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.”
“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.
Among the shifts the company says “reflect and value the diversity of the world,” the ride no longer includes elements that were based on humorous depictions of historical facts like cannibalism in the Amazon Basin and headhunting tribes in Borneo, as illustrated by shrunken head dealer “Trader Sam.” Instead, the ride now 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 claims 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.”
“This is not a re-envisioning of the entire attraction” Chris Beatty, Disney’s creative portfolio executive said in an interview with The Independent. “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.”
The change is the company’s latest attempt to appease a small, vocal minority upset with humor based on truthful depictions of the past.
As The Daily Wire reported in 2018, Disney altered the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction to do away with the “bride auction” — a funny scene that showed the buccaneers trying to buy wives. In its place is now a band of women looting a city.
Though the Jungle Cruise will no longer feature vignettes that might offer families the opportunity to discuss real historical culture clashes, legacy media outlets are treating the changes as unequivocally positive, with NPR reporting, “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 says the new version “removes racially offensive depictions of Indigenous people.”
Finally, Vulture breathed a sigh of relief that 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.”
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