The Origins of The World Famous Jungle Cruise

Travel deep into the jungles of Disneyland’s original Adventureland to seek out the origins of everyone’s favorite punny skippers, ambushes, and piranhas.

Austin Carroll
17 min readDec 5, 2018


The Jungle Cruise as it looked opening day at Disneyland on July 17, 1955. (OC Register)

In April of 1998, the Walt Disney Company created an entire theme park filled with animals from around the world. There was lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Children of all ages could come and explore the safaris of Africa, the rainforests of South America, and even witness these spectacular beasts up close on a real safari vehicle at Kilimanjaro Safaris in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Kilimanjaro Safaris sign at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (

However, the original theme park safari it was not. That honor is instead bestowed on an attraction that has come to have its own ecosystem both literally and figuratively. Of course, we are talking about Jungle Cruise — a Disneyland opening day attraction that has spurred copy-cats around the world including at Florida’s Magic Kingdom, Hong Kong Disneyland, and even Tokyo Disneyland. In the 60 years since its inception, the jokes and the animatronics haven’t really gotten any better — yet it does go down in history as one of the most beloved Disney attractions. It is even currently being made into a major motion picture with Dwyane the Rock Johnson.

Despite its recent foray into movie stardom, ironically enough, Jungle Crusie was one of the only opening day attractions not based on an existing Disney animated film. This begs the question of how such a quirky and seemingly non-Disney attraction came into existence in the first place? We’ll have to take a cruise way back to 1954 to find out.

Live Animals (oh my)

Walt Disney supervising the construction of The Jungle Cruise (© Disney)

When Walt Disney and his original team of designers (later known as Imagineers) planned Disneyland, they came up with a group of potential attractions during a so-called ‘Blue Sky’ period.



Austin Carroll

Hello! My name is Austin & I am a product manager, career coach, and podcast host.