“Well folks you were all outstanding today. Now I need you all out, standing on the dock. That means get off my boat.”Jungle Cruise
So far on our tour of Magic Kingdom, we have discussed the layout of the entire park and the land comprising the entrance. Today’s stop on the tour marks the beginning of our time at Adventureland and also the first attraction for contemplation—Jungle Cruise.
The ride claims to take you on a tour of the most famous rivers in the world. Each boat that arrives at the dock to pick up guests look (purposefully but not really) shoddy, and all throughout the line, expedition schedules and playfully foreboding audio messages draw you into the era of New Imperialism. The lush greenery, detailing on the temple ruins, and gorgeous animal animatronics only enhance the overall experience.
However, the Skippers indubitably serve as the crown jewels of the attraction. Each captain, though traveling on the same waters and using the must-do jokes, adds his own personality and flavor of humor to each experience. Theoretically, then, while the ride is the same, each experience is more unpredictable than is typical for an older Disney ride.
Guests flock to this ride, though, for the over-arching quality of all Skippers—their self-aware corniness. Puns abound far more than the animals and plants do in the jungle. Seriously—it would actually be fitting for the ride to give a nod to “It’s a Small World” and be renamed, “It’s a Dad Joke, After All.” By the time you’re done exploring an ancient temple, watching rhinos tear apart the camp, and narrowly escape Trader Sam (the last time I rode Jungle Cruise was before cancel culture came for him), you can feel like you simultaneously enjoyed it while at the same time wondering how on Earth a ride at Disney World can feel so self-degrading.
The thing is, the humor doesn’t end there. Ironically, the self-degradation almost completely obscures the lore’s connection to Disney Parks worldwide and beyond. For instance, the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.), discussed in Jungle Cruise, not only provides the backdrop and hidden secrets of the Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom, but it also provides a framework for some of the finest attractions in Tokyo DisneySea. Disney even announced a S.E.A. spinoff show for Disney+! And, hidden away in the Polynesian resort near Magic Kingdom is Trader Sam’s restaurant—which is practically a Jungle Cruise-themed Rainforest Café. But how could that be, given that the ride feels like a nonstop bad pun party?
The greatest joke of that ride, contrary to popular belief, isn’t “the backside of water.” Instead, it’s one that Imagineers play upon guests every single day—the ride’s corniness does not exist in a vacuum. Instead, it fools guests every day into thinking the ride is not as intricately woven into the storytelling of Disney Parks as several others are. Jungle Cruise tries so hard to display this image of embarassing self-degradation when, if you look and listen carefully, it can lead you to a voyage upon understanding the much larger story. And so many people have fallen for the ride’s apparent disconnection.
So when you hear the Skipper make another dad joke, just remember—there’s far more to it than most realize.