Disney Parks’ Jungle Cruise attraction is getting a major revamp. The classic Disney theme park attraction has long trafficked in somewhat backwards stereotypes about tropical locales — including the “Trader Sam” character, a “dark-skinned man outfitted in straw tribal wear” — but Jungle Cruise is making significant steps to add more diverse characters. The first of which is the centering of the entire ride around a woman of color, Alberta Falls. A familiar character to many Jungle Cruise fans, Alberta is now being reframed as the fictional heroine of the renovated Jungle Cruise attractions at the Anaheim and Florida theme parks.
The Disney Parks blog announced that the free-spirited adventuress Alberta Falls is becoming the central character of the reimagined Jungle Cruise ride, which will add “more humor, wildlife and skipper heart to the classic attraction” and make significant steps to remove “negative depictions of native people.”
That includes adding a newly diverse ensemble around Alberta, now the owner, manager, bookkeeper and head mechanic of the Jungle Navigation Company, according to the fictional backstory developed by Disney Imagineering for the Jungle Cruise makeover. Here is Alberta Falls’ expanded backstory (via Attractions Magazine):
Alberta was born to globetrotting parents in 1911 (the year her grandfather, Dr. Albert Falls, founded the Jungle Navigation Company). Her mother, Sneh, was a world-renowned artist from India, and her British father, Albert Falls Jr., was an art scholar.
Rambunctious, free-spirited Alberta was sent to live with her grandfather in Adventureland at the age of 8, eventually coming to call the jungle her home and the crew members her family. Alberta also began traveling the world with Dr. Falls, finding occasion to cross paths with some of the other new characters during their adventures.
Following the disappearance of Dr. Falls in 1930 and a decline in business, Alberta reinvented the Jungle Navigation Company as a guided tour operator, giving way to the launch of the World Famous Jungle Cruise on Oct. 1, 1931. With Jungle Cruise business booming, Alberta opened the home office to travelers as a restaurant — the Skipper Canteen.
Along with Alberta comes a boatload of new characters, all of whom have some connection to her. “They are all a little bit eccentric in their own ways, and yet they share a history with Alberta Falls and a common interest: to have a once-in-a-lifetime immersive experience in nature,” Disney Imagineering creative director Susana Tubert told Attractions Magazine.
The new characters include Felix Pechman XIII, Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. Skipper; Dr. Leonard Moss, acclaimed Canadian Botanist; Rosa Soto Dominguez, celebrated Mexican Artist; Dr. Kon Chunosuke, Southeast Asian member and Japan’s preeminent entomologist; and Siobhan “Puffin” Murphy.
A few other updates include several new scenes that guests will experience along the river, which are all narratively interconnected. Per the Disney Parks blog, the new scenes will “heighten our skippers’ legendary comedic tone, beginning with a trapped safari party that finds itself up a tree after their journey goes awry. Unexpected scenarios along the way will give the jungle and animals the last laugh!”
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