Did Technology Kill The World Famous Jungle Cruise?
There was a time before Social Media that people would travel from all over the World for a ride on Disney’s World Famous Jungle Cruise. Disney guests would happily wait on line for over an hour to travel the great rivers of the Jungle. Many guests after an hour wait would even volunteer to wait an additional 10 minutes to a half hour just so they could get a tour with their favorite skipper.
Despite what they said on Disney's "Behind the Attraction: Jungle Cruise", before social media (BSM), each Disney guest who visited the Jungle Cruise had the opportunity to witness magic. This magic didn’t come from audio animatronic elephants and hippos, the magic came from Jungle Cruise Skippers who were original, and who each inserted their own personality to make the guest experience on the ride unforgettable. These Skippers (BSM) would use the Jungle Cruise script as a guide just to make sure that they were talking about the right river, country, and animals and then from there they would insert their own character. Each Jungle Cruise Skipper was different, which made each ride unique. The Skippers would work hard to improve their material and comedic timing (mostly over cocktails at the Big Bamboo) and as a result, guests would leave the ride cheering for more.
My Jungle Cruise character was Tom Cruise. I would start each ride by introducing myself as Tom and then I would tell guests that this is a Cruise, therefore I am…and the guests would respond “Tom Cruise”. My original spiel included “Mission Impossible” and my hope that there wouldn’t be any “Rain Man”. In addition to original jokes and spiels, the Skippers (BSM) would all play off each other to create an atmosphere of fun and excitement from open to close. Whether it be cushion flipping contests by the loaders and un loaders, or “Dead Skipper” routines late at night, the Jungle Cruise (BSM) was the place to be.
Circa 1996, Disney decided to cast women as Jungle Cruise Skippers for the first time. Not only did this change result in the ride becoming more PC, but it also meant that the male Skippers had to up their game in order to impress the ladies. This meant that the comedy was going to be more risqué and probably some of the jokes were even more over the line. However, this was all before Social Media. Any videos taken were used for private viewing at home with your family and friends. The footage did not spread on You Tube, Twitter, and Facebook. If it had, you would have seen a certain Skipper (BSM) jumping outside the boat, shocking guests as he attempted to pull a boat away from a waterfall; the footage would include Skippers shooting at hippos in trees in response to Disney’s request that Skippers no longer shoot “blank” bullets directly at charging hippos; you would also see Skippers leading a sing along with Brazilian tourists who couldn’t understand a word of English and again creating an unforgettable experience for all the guests.
Don’t get me wrong, I can absolutely understand from a business and legal perspective why Disney’s World Famous Jungle Cruise could never permit Jungle Cruise Skippers to behave the way the Skippers behaved before Social Media. However, it does make me sad that my children will never experience the ride the way it was BSM. Did technology kill the World Famous Jungle Cruise? Perhaps, but Social Media gave us Skippers platforms where we can all stay connected via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Recently, Disney just came out with the Jungle Cruise starring the Rock. This gave all of us Jungle Cruise Skippers the opportunity to reminisce about the Jungle Cruise (BSM) and the fun times that never seemed to end. This article is dedicated to my wife Tanya, who was one of the first female Jungle Cruise Skippers in 1997, my friends Darren, Wayne, Patrick, Eric, Ann, and all the other Jungle Cruise Skippers (BSM).