In the heart of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, a place of realized dreams and fantastic wonder, you seem to have found yourself on The Jungle Cruise.
Maybe following your children around and trudging under the sun for a few hours made you yearn for a place under the shade where you could sit down and relax for a bit to think about all the money you’ve spent. Or maybe you were truly enjoying yourself and unknowingly made the decision to ruin your day.
Regardless, you better prepare yourself for the least fun seven minutes in the world outside of having sex with Paul Ryan.
The first iteration of the ride debuted at Disneyland in 1955 with the specific and largely unknown goal of being the least entertaining theme park attraction in existence. Much like terrorism in the nineties, the ride has spread throughout the world. Parks in Florida, Tokyo, and Hong Kong all feature a version of it, each connected by the same general concept: Through the sheer power of will on the part of the Disney corporation, you and your group will travel along the largest rivers in each continent while observing the local wildlife and indigenous people.
Now, the concept itself may sound like fun; it kind of sounds like the Magic School Bus. It could be a calm, relaxing break from all the roller coasters and overpriced churros. However, there are a few key details missing that quickly turn it into a ride through hell that makes you long for a native’s arrow through the mouth.
Entering your boat, your group may be asked if there are any first-time riders by an alcoholic dressed like a UPS delivery person. This will be your tour guide, or “skipper,” and instead of delivering packages, it’ll be some of the most unfunny puns you’ve ever heard through a loudspeaker that sounds like it was originally designed to torture Guantanamo Bay inmates with rock music.
The skipper will go through the beginning of their rehearsed script and you quickly realize that there will be no escape from this mistake of your own doing. To pray would be to waste time, for God has forsaken you.
At first, you start out in Africa, as if to drive home the point that this is your own personal Heart of Darkness. It’s when your skipper points out something new, a camp site being ransacked by a group of feisty gorillas, that you look up from your phone and crane your neck. Finally, something interesting!
But you should have known better than to let the Jungle Cruise get your hopes up.
You quickly notice that the Gorillas are moving in slow, small movements, and with the urgency of a Journalism major looking for a job after they finish school. You quickly realize that they are animatronic. The ride’s appeal is animatronic animals; as if real animals weren’t boring enough. This whole ride turned out to match the overall theme of Magic Kingdom: “Hey guys, look how good we were at robots in the 70’s!”
It’s then you realize that every point of interest throughout the ride might as well be a statue. From the duo of lifeless alligators that might as well be Louisiana lawn ornaments to the dozen or so African elephants that move like they’ve been broken since 1985. At one point, when your boat is going through a cavern that looks rejected storyboard art from an Indiana Jones movie, you see an animatronic tiger. You know that it isn’t alive, but its eyes seem to scream for help from the eternal punishment that is the Jungle Cruise.
All this with the sage words of your community college student tour guide, who gives off the feeling of listening to commentary on The Lion King from the most annoying person you went to high school with.
Near the end of what has felt like a constant struggle not to jump out of your boat, is the grand finale. A ten-foot tall animatronic native called “Trader Sam.” Sam’s colorful look consists of a skirt, giant hoop earring straight out of a blaxploitation movie, long hair, and a giant top hat as he shakes shrunken human heads at you with a dopey smile. Is it racist? Probably. Do you care? Not one bit, for you have far bigger problems. Does a man who is on fire care that Asians are underrepresented in film? No. Your only focus is getting the hell off this ride before–as a small part of you feels is possible–you are forced to ride it until the end of time.
But finally, you see the trading post where your descent into oblivion began. You never thought you knew what Ulysses would feel like as he returned to Ithaca until this moment. As you step off your boat, a changed person re-entering an outside world you had long-since thought destroyed, you notice the doomed guests waiting in life, not having the slightest clue what awaits them.
You consider for a moment to warn them, but decide against it. “No,” you think. “Let them suffer as I have.”
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