The Jungle Cruise

BACKSTORY (July 17, 1955–Present): Inspired by a “True-Life Adventure.” Boats modeled after “The African Queen,” which Harper Goff loved. Bill Evans (Disneyland landscaper) uprooted trees, replanted them upside-down, then grew vines on the exposed roots, thus creating “new” plants. Imagineers dyed the water brown so guests couldn’t see the river bottom which varies from 3'—8' deep. Marc Davis created the wading elephant pool and the rhino/safari/totem pole scenes. Supposedly this ride caused Walt’s obsession of “plussing the show” when he overheard a mother telling her child that they’d already been on the ride and didn’t need to go on it again; Walt had Imagineers add more scenes.

1962: Indian Elephant pool
1964: African Veldt & Lost Safari
1993: more additions
1994: Boathouse queue
1995: Rerouting of river for Indiana Jones
1997: Original river boats replaced
2005: Rebuilding, Piranhas, and updates to trashed camp.

Boats: Amazon Belle, Congo Queen (painted gold for the 50th), Ganges Gal, Hondo Hattie, Irrawaddy Woman, Kissimmee Kate, Nile Princess, Orinoco Adventuress, Suwannee Lady, Ucayali Una, Yangtze Lotus, & Zambezi Miss. Retired in 1997: Magdalena Maiden & Mekong Maiden.



“Those of you adventurers entering the world-famous Jungle Cruise, please notice there are two lines, one on the right, and the other on the left. If you’d like to keep your family together, please stay in the same line. However, if there is someone in your family you’d like to get rid of, just put them in the opposite line and you’ll never see them again.”

ENTRANCE/DOCK, 1960’s–1970’s

“Ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please. Would the party that lost the roll of 50 $20 bills, wrapped in a red rubber band, please report to the shipping office…we have good news for you. We found your red rubber band.”


“Your attention, please. We do not allow cutting in line here at the World-Famous Jungle Cruise. Anyone caught with a pair of scissors will be asked to leave.”

“Come all the way up to the front…up by me. There’s no truth to the rumor that you get a longer ride in the back. Slide all the way forward now…that’s how we keep the cushions clean!”


Disneyland Taxidermy: From Cover to Cover What do you do with a greasy, holey, hairless moose? Why you change its fur, of course. And that's just what Bob Johnson does. Few people in the world have a job like Bob has as a Staff Shop Artificial Taxidermist. He has been doing fur and hair transplants on Audio Animatronic animals for over 14 years here at Disneyland--ever since the transition was made from authentic to artifical furs for heartier environment endurance and wildlife preservation purposes.

This artificial taxidermy required an artificial taxidermist. "The real taxidermist left because his experience was with the real stuff," Bob said. "On my first day I went to my supervisor and said, 'Okay, now that I have the job, how do I do it?' and he said, 'That's your problem!' The job had never been done before so nobody knew where to start. I spent the whole first year experimenting," Bob recalls. "When I finished my first few animals and put them in the Park people kept asking, 'What is it?'"

Being the first (and only) artificial taxidermist seemed to be quite a trial-and-error job for a while, but there really was little time for guessing with about 210 immediate unfurred and unfeathered customers. New materials had to be ordered and experimented with quickly. Bob worked on acrylic, nylon and orlon furs, tried all kind of dyes to see which would work on water animals, which would fade in the hot summer sun and which could withstand constant animation movements. The fur and feathers on audio animatronic birds and animals had to be constantly replaced because of the grease and wear and tear that ruin its Disney appearance.

White artificial fur is dyed in various shades and colors of shoe dye according to pictures of the animals in such references as the National Geographic Wild Animals of North America. Then, needing something a little more durable than Aquanet hairspray to hold and protect the dyed fur, Bob applies about four coats of spray varnish to do the trick of holding every hair in place--for years.

Besides an interesting job, the taxidermist also has an interesting office with migratory wall decorations. The particolored feathers covering his wall are constantly being used and replaced to attire over 100 birds. The taxidermist outfits a variety of birds from Jose the parrot to "odd-ball feathered things." Plumes, turkey feathers and ostrich feathers, among others, come in 400 t 500 sizes and colors. Each feather is individually glued to the bird, but contrary to popular belief, birds are not all feathers--at least not Disney birds. The undersides of most birds and the entire bodies of other birds are done in short fur material--the same material used for the former Mine Train marmots, six of which also decorate his office. Taking shortcuts such as these, some birds take little over an hour to attire.

Animals are more time-consuming due to their complexity. The Jungle Cruise gnu, for example, has three types of hair on its face and all down its back. This doesn't even include the individual horsehairs that must be inserted with a needle into its ears, tail, eyelashes, etc. Bears, after being outfitted in fur, must be inserted with horsehair whiskers, earhair and rubber claws.

It took some time working with every detail of every animal to get his artificial taxidermy to a science, but now when Bob places one of his works in the Park nobody has to ask him "What is it?" They know--it's a work of art.


“Everyone turn around and wave good-bye to the folks back on the dock…come on, wave! You may never see them again. But then again…you’ve never seen them before.”


“We’re leaving the last outpost of civilization and entering the jungle by way of the Irrawaddy river of Asia. We’re now entering the rainforest, wait it’s not a rain forrest, it’s a mist forrest. But you probably mist (missed) it!”


“As you can see, those crocodiles provide the Temple with a very effective security system. They are completely reliable and they never ask for a dime.”

“Up on the steps—two King Cobras, some of the world’s deadliest snakes. Hmmm…there used to be three of them. Wonder where the other one is?”

“Don’t make any sudden moves. That’s a Bengal Tiger there on the left! Those tigers can jump over 20'. But not to worry. We must be at least…19' away, he’ll jump right over us!”

“Here is a statue of Ganesha, the Elephant-Headed God and guardian to the sacred bathing pool of the Indian elephants. Ganesha is the only concrete evidence we have that elephants exist here in the jungle.”



The articles pictured above are a small sampling of some of the various things that were found in the now dry Jungle Cruise river which is currently undergoing a three week rehab. The rehab will involve cleaning out the almost 2,000 foot long river, installing a new switch in the host storage area, re-working all of the animation, checking and repairing the guide rail, and rebuilding the sides of the river bank which have worn down from the constant action of the river.

The Decorating Department is giving Mother Nautre a little assist by completely rebuilding the rain forest section of the river and our Landscaping Department is doing a general rehab of the entire jungle area.

The bottom and sides of the river are of gunite construction and the river has an average width of thirty feet and an average depth of five feet. Each ungle Cruise boat is independently powered by inboard natural gas engines, riding on the 1,920 foot long guide rail. Natural gas was chosen because of its clean burning characteristics.

It will take approximately two and a half million gallons of water to fill the river when the rehab is complete.

Some of the articles found after the river was drained include:

A matched pair of Instamatic Cameras
Five used flash cubes
Two lens covers for a 35mm camera
Six combs
A blue filter for a 35mm camera
Three hose clamps
One flashlight
One cream server complete with coffee cup
Assorted pieces of rope
Two quarters
Four nickels
One Lincoln penny dated 1956


“And look at all the elephants on the river today! This comes as a complete surprise to me ‘cause I had no idea these guys were going to be here. If you want to take pictures, go right ahead. All the elephants have their trunks on.”


In 1962, the elephant wading pool scene was added to the Jungle Cruise attraction. Here are the publicity blurbs that accompanied the three concept art shots seen below:

Jungle Cruise attraction posterNearly two dozen life-size Indian elephants like these playful fellows will splash and squirt and spray at Disneyland this Summer in the new Adventureland Jungle River Cruise. Big ones and "llittle squirts," they'll cavort for explorers taking the boat trip down jungle waterways, where a new African Veldt complete with lions, tigers, zebras, giraffe, laughing hyenas and other animals is also taking shape for June opening. The two-year, $7 Million Disneyland expansion will also include the "world's largest" Tree House for Summer '62.

Jungle Cruise attraction posterJungle Cruise attraction posterA portion of the nearly two dozen Indian elephants being added to Disneyland's jungle river cruise is viewed here in the artist's sketches. Big ones and "little squirts," the elephants will frolic and splash in the waters of Adventureland beginning in June. The "world's largest" Tree House, three unique restaurants operated by nationally known Stougger's company, and a "Safari Shooting Gallery" comprise the 1962 portion of Disneyland's two-year $7 Million expansion.


“Oh, no. There on the right. That big elephant is coming up and it looks like he’s aiming for us! On no! He’s coming up again…you folks in the back…get down! Well…I guess he didn’t have time to reload.”

JOEL HALBERSTADT: 1960's Jungle Skippers...A Different Breed

Former Disneyland Cast Member Joel Halberstadt (and Daveland reader!) graciously shared some of his memories from his days in Adventureland. In Joel's words:

As an ex-Disney employee, with six years in Adventureland, two as head of Disneyland communications and four years in management at Imagineering, I still count the Jungle Cruise as my "home." Much to my amusement, the jungle cruise spiel, which I re-wrote in it's entirety in 1976, still contains most of the jokes and lines I incorporated into it 36 years ago. At Imagineering in the mid-seventies, I had the honor to work along side many of those who you have pictured in your historical photos, such as Marc Davis, Herb Ryman, X. Attencio, Bob Gurr, and John Hench, among others.

To many of the jungle cruise skippers who existed in the late 1960's and early 70's, the spiel was everything.

In 1968, I had the privilege of being trained by an older guy named Lee David, an Hawaiian performer who had worked in vaudeville and on stage in a previous life. In fact, he was the designated skipper Walt always asked for when he went on the jungle cruise. Lee taught me everything he knew about timing, voice inflection, delivery, eye contact, involving the audience, humor in good taste, and overall stage presence.

And, I also benefited from working along side several professional actors, school teachers and others who were used to speaking in front of others---Mike Lorenz would be at the top of that List, along with Don Munsell, Bob Glassman, Doug Miller, John McCoy, and Bob Levering. They knew so well the adage "whatever you put into your spiel, you'll get out of it..."All great examples for me to be sure and I constantly honed my spiel and looked forward to every trip---pure entertainment.

The result was a small group of perhaps 6-7 skippers whose humor could be described as a mix of Steve Martin, Chris Rock, and a touch of Don Rickles. It was all carefully thought out ahead of time, since a major aspect of our fun and success was audience involvement in our spiel. I personally took every chance I could to involve each kid, grandmother, or family in my spiel to make them feel as special as possible.

And so after more than six years on the Jungle Cruise, more than 20,000 spiels/trips, and countless interactions with guests of all kinds, I never thought I would be at a loss for words....except for, well, uh ...those three times!

July 1969: #1 Loss for Words - At the attacking native scene, a frequent bit I used was pretending to carry on a conversation with them, and then turning to one of my crew and informing them that the natives wanted to trade three coconuts for their wife/sister/mother-in-law...and suggesting "...I'd hold out for four if I were you.!" Always got a hilarious reaction from everyone...well, almost every one. On one particular trip, as the crew exited my boat, a middle aged man of foreign origin who had been sitting in the middle, turned to me and said, with squinted eyes and a growl to his voice, "I did NOT appreciate you trying to trade my wife for three coconuts!" Of course, my immediate reaction was to respond with, "Well, okay...what do you think she's really worth? Four? Five? But it was instantly clear that this man was deadly serious, and was NOT happy. Perhaps in his country women were held in such high regard that the mere suggestion of trading them for anything was an outrageous insult. Perhaps in his country no one had a sense of humor. Either way, I opened my mouth, but nothing came out...all I could muster was to suppress my laughter and shake my head, trying to convince myself that this wasn't happening.

August 1971: #2 Loss for Words - One of our jobs taking E tickets at the turnstile (when they had tickets) was to make the guests' boring wait in line as enjoyable and as quick as possible. And there were perhaps a dozen stories/announcements/bits we had crafted to achieve that thru the microphone in front of us. For better or worse, a few of us discovered that the the turnstile was our stage and the queue area was the audience. Indeed, many guests as they handed us their E coupon actually commented on how much they enjoyed out patter. One of the bits that got the biggest reaction was to announce: "Once again, we are still looking for that little lost girl who got separated from her family ...please keep your eyes open for her. She has blonde hair, shorts and a halter top -- and is approximately 22 years old. If you see her, please take firmly by the hand and bring her over to us at the turnstile...we'll know what to do."

One summer day in 1971, about a minute after making that announcement, I look up and approaching me was another reason for me to temporarily lose my ability to speak: There she was...the consummate California surfer girl, 5 foot 6, long blonde hair, tan - in a halter top and shorts yet - and with a face and body that I was sure had made grown men weep. As she confidently brushed her hair back, she said with a playful smile, "I think I may be the little lost girl you've been looking for." With a wink, she pushed through the turnstile and was gone. I laughed out loud, but no words would come. Fortunately, I resumed normal breathing a few moments later.

September 1972: #3 Loss for Words - Working on front load late one afternoon, I turned around to see a three year old girl waiting in line with her family near the turnstile. Unbelievably, her father had allowed her to slip under the railing and protective netting that separated the guests from the water. She was now standing two inches from the edge of the queue area over five feet of cold, filthy water. I started to walk toward her and to yell out a warning to her father, but the words stuck in my throat and never came. The three foot high child had fallen backwards and upside down into the water below. Although I was still about fourteen feet away, I took a long running jump from front load toward the spot where she had disappeared, realizing in mid-air that she had not yet come up. Closing my eyes, I submerged myself over my head, grasping under the dark dock for what seemed forever. My hand felt her arm near the bottom, and I propelled her up and out of the water into the waiting arms of a few fellow skippers who had run over to the edge of the dock to assist. Other then some coughing up water and crying, she seemed to be okay as the nurse and security officer from First Aid took her away in a wheelchair. A serious injury avoided? Almost certainly. A life saved? Possibly. But any other vigilant skipper would have done the same thing if put into that identical situation.

And to the Adventureland manager and supervisor on duty in 1972, who never acknowledged the incident ever occurred or offered one word of appreciation... "you're welcome."