The holidays have finally wound their way into the deepest, darkest jungles … of Disneyland. So, you know, it’s not really that deep or dark. In fact, it’s one knee-slapper after another sprinkled with a bit of Christmas cheer.
To help celebrate the holidays, the Happiest Place on Earth has for the first time temporarily rechristened the venerable Jungle Cruise the “Jingle Cruise.” Although not nearly as extensive as seasonal makeovers for rides such as It’s a Small World or Haunted Mansion, the popular Adventureland ride is one of a growing roster of Disneyland attractions that receive the Christmas treatment.
The first Jingle Cruise vessel left the docks with a boatload of passengers and new corny holiday-themed jokes in mid-November. The ride, which has undergone minor redecorating — dangling Christmas lights and beige Santa hats for the skippers — will run through Jan. 6, said park officials.
About half of the ride’s spiel — that’s Disney’s word — will be holiday-themed material. The rest will be jokes that annual pass-holders may have heard already. It was a deliberate decision to ease into the holiday shtick.
“There is a very strong sense of ownership for this ride and we didn’t want to shake up the entire environment,” said Kevin Lively, an Imagineer and former Jungle Cruise skipper who spearheaded the ride’s holiday transformation. “We wanted it to stay true to the story and traditions. How would those skippers celebrate Christmas?”
With so many possibilities at Disneyland, how was the Jungle Cruise chosen?
“The idea has been floating around the Jungle Cruise for a while — pun intended,” said Lively, who oversaw the writing for the new holiday jokes.
In all, the writers came up with about 10 new pages of suitable Disney jokes that provide a punchy holiday narrative to the familiar animals and natives along the river. Of course, skippers couldn’t come close to using all of it during a single cruise. Instead, they’ll use their comedic intuition to pick and choose which holiday material to weave into their standard spiel.
The skippers began training about a month before the first launch on Nov. 12 to get their new routines right. No matter how good their patter gets though, they have to remember they aren’t the main attraction.
“The Jungle Cruise is the star,” Lively said. “Skippers are just in a supporting role. It’s not a comedy hour.”
During one recent cruise, a skipper offered this commentary about the poor zebra that is on its side surrounded by lions — while a group of other zebras stand nearby.
“We named the Zebras this year,” said the skipper. “That one is Prancer. That one is Dancer. That one is Vixen.”
Then, pointing to the zebra that looks to be the next meal for the lions, the skipper adds: “And that one is dead … tired.”
Groans from the passengers.
“Dead tired. Let me finish,” replied the skipper.
You get the idea.
Most of the jokes are about Christmas traditions, but there are others about Thanksgiving, Boxing Day and New Year’s. And you might hear one about Hanukkah.
Passing by a pack of water-jumping piranhas, the skipper said: “These fish have been here for like eight days.”
A generous pause.
“What is this, Piranukkah?”
But seriously, it’s the Jingle Cruise skippers, and they’ll be doing this the holiday season.
— Martin Miller
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