The Jungle Cruise has been delighting guests as they travel down the rivers of adventure since Disneyland’s opening day in 1955. Walt Disney wanted to provide visitors to his park with a unique experience where guests could meet exotic animals up close and personal. In order to make this dream a reality, Walt and his imagineers worked to build The Jungle Cruise attraction. Here, guests could come in contact with various animals, exotic plant life, and even the backside of water!
The Jungle Cruise was one of the few opening day Disneyland attractions not based on an animated Disney film. The attraction took its inspiration from Disney’s True-Life Adventures films and the 1951 film The African Queen. Due to the success of the True-Life Adventures films, Walt Disney wanted to create an attraction where guests could view exotic animals up close. He originally planned to use live animals on The Jungle Cruise; however, after consulting with animal care specialists, Walt learned that live animals would most likely not provide the show he was hoping for. There were concerns that the animals would not stay in areas visible to guests or that they would sleep most of the day. Walt and the imagineers eventually decided to remedy this potential problem through the use of the audio-animatronic animals seen on the ride today.
In addition to exotic animals, The Jungle Cruise needed exotic plant life to provide the unique experience Walt had envisioned. Imagineer and horticulturalist Bill Evans was tasked with creating the right landscape for the attraction. Rather than creating an actual jungle, Bill’s goal was to create a “Hollywood jungle.” Though Adventureland was originally planned to be built where Tomorrowland is now, the desicion was made to move it to the west side of Main Street, U.S.A. in order incorporate the already existing eucalyptus trees which had been planted by orange farmers; These trees would block the wind into the Jungle Cruise attraction. Bill also used some interesting techniques to bring this Hollywood jungle to life. To give the appearance of mangroves, he planted upside-down orange trees.
The landscaping of The Jungle Cruise hadn’t quite grown in when Disneyland opened, but within a few years, the attraction was starting to look like the “Hollywood jungle” envisioned. Over the years, the tall trees throughout the attraction have created a canopy which helps to regulate the temperature for the Jungle Cruise plants. This allows for the survival of plants you might not otherwise find in southern California.
The Jungle Cruise has become a popular Disney attraction. The audio-animatronic animals and lush landscaping help to transport guests to various rivers and jungles of the world. The attraction has also been recreated in several other Disney parks, including Walt Disney World.