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Disney revamping Jungle Cruise ride to eliminate "negative depictions of natives"

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Walt Disney Co. is revamping one of its oldest theme park attractions to address long-standing concerns that the ride is culturally insensitive. 

For decades, the "Jungle Cruise" at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland in Anaheim, California, has ferried visitors on imaginary river safaris set in Africa, Asia and South America. In parts of the ride, native peoples are portrayed as subservient savages and even cannibals, long drawing criticism from some park goers. 

Chris Beatty, creative portfolio executive with Disney, said in an interview posted on its site that the company wants riders to disembark from the Jungle Cruise feeling like it was "respectful of the diverse world we live in."

"When you look at the Jungle Cruise, as it is today, there are just a couple of scenes that don't do that and needed a refresh," Beatty said. "It's the Jungle Cruise you know and love, with the skippers still leading the way, and at the same time, we're addressing the negative depictions of natives."

The Jungle Cruise debuted at Disneyland in July 1955 and is based on the company's nature documentaries which were popular at the time. The ride opened at Disney World in Florida in 1971. Disney has also opened a Jungle Cruise ride at its Tokyo theme park.

Disney didn't specify all the ways it plans to alter the Jungle Cruise to bring it into line with contemporary attitudes. One change involves a scene where adventurers are chased up a tree by a rhinoceros. In the current version of the ride, a White adventurer sits safely at the top of the tree, while natives are at the bottom closer to danger. A Disney artist's rendering of the new Jungle Cruise removes the indigenous people from the tree altogether.

"As Imagineers, it is our responsibility to ensure experiences we create and stories we share reflect the voices and perspectives of the world around us," Carmen Smith, a creative development executive for Disney, said in a statement. "With Jungle Cruise, we're bringing to life more of what people love — the humor and wit of our incredible skippers — while making needed updates."

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Walt Disney is revamping one of the oldest rides at the theme parks in California and Florida.  Walt Disney Co.

Disney did not specify when the changes will be complete, but said the storyline told during the ride will have noticeable adjustments as well. Beatty said the planned updates are not tied to the Jungle Cruise movie, which is scheduled to hit theaters in July and which stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.  

The Jungle Cruise makeover comes only months after Disney said it would revamp its Splash Mountain ride. The log flume ride is based off Disney's 1946 musical film Song of the South, which is widely viewed as having racist portrayals of former slaves after the Civil War. The re-worked Splash Mountain will highlight Disney's 2009 The Princess and the Frog film, which introduced the company's first Black princess. 

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