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Small Details You Missed In Jungle Cruise

One of the original Disneyland rides finally has a movie to its name. "Jungle Cruise," starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, is the adventure-filled big-screen adaptation of the attraction that boasts more than 60 years of corny jokes and skipper-led boat rides through a campy, animatronic-filled jungle.

At its heart, the Jungle Cruise ride is about bringing the wonders of the world's rivers and jungles to Disney parks' visitors. Passengers of boats named after famous rivers (Amazon Belle, Nile Princess, Suwannee Lady, etc.) get to see animatronic exotic animals and plant life from around the world, all in one place and under 10 minutes.

Jungle Cruise has been a beloved Disneyland attraction since day one, and is one of the few original rides from opening day in July 1955 that's still operating. There have been some major changes to the original Jungle Cruise ride over the years, including injecting the journey with a lovable stream of silly, punny jokes from the skippers and ridding the ride of racially insensitive and outdated imagery.

"Jungle Cruise" the movie showcases a spin on the spirit of the ride with a nostalgic riverboat adventure in the vein of "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Indiana Jones," and "The Mummy." Johnson and Blunt star as skipper Frank Wolff and Dr. Lily Houghton, respectively, on a journey down the Amazon river in search of an ancient healing tree that purportedly holds the power to change modern medicine forever. Of course, there are some nefarious characters they meet along the way who are also after the tree's petals — called "tears of the moon" — including a German prince (Jesse Plemons) and a group of tropical zombie conquistadors led by Aguirre (Édgar Ramírez).

As a movie based on an attraction in Disneyland, "Jungle Cruise" is chock full of Easter eggs and other small nods to the ride's Adventureland home. Here are some you may have missed.

Dr. Albert Falls

A fictional character in the Jungle Cruise/Adventureland universe, Dr. Albert Falls was introduced in the attraction as a joke — the namesake of the famous Schweitzer Falls, which he "discovered."

Albert Falls' characterization grew with the expansion of the Jungle Cruise backstory in 2015. Now, Albert's books and other items found on his travels are featured on shelves in the Skipper Canteen restaurant, and there's a bronze bust of the famed fictional explorer in Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel.

In the "Jungle Cruise" film, Dr. Albert Falls is an offscreen character whose travel documents, maps, and an arrowhead are sought after by Blunt's Dr. Lily Houghton and Plemons' Prince Joachim in their search for the coveted healing tree. In the beginning of the movie, Lily breaks into and snoops around an English archaeological society's archives and finds the arrow she's looking for inside a crate labeled with "Dr. A. Falls." Albert Falls is also briefly mentioned a couple of other times in the film when Lily and Frank are discussing the exploration of the Amazon and the search for the "tears of the moon."

Jungle Navigation Company Ltd.

Founded by the aforementioned Dr. Albert Falls, the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. is a fictional business set within the Adventureland and Jungle Cruise world of Disney parks. It's the parent company and operator of the Jungle Cruise tours of the world's rivers and also boasts the popular Skipper Canteen mess hall-style eatery. The company was introduced to Disneyland's and Magic Kingdom's Adventureland as part of updates to the parks in the 1990s.

The Jungle Navigation Company's Skipper Canteen menu is also full of nods to the Jungle Cruise attraction, including dishes named after Albert Falls and the attraction's boats. There's also a "Not Piranha" sustainable fish dish, which is made all the more funny after seeing Frank serve up fresh piranha in the "Jungle Cruise" movie.

Also in the film, a sign bearing the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. logo is seen at the docks, where harbormaster Nilo Nemolato (Paul Giamatti) manages a fleet of river boats. Unlike Albert Falls, Nilo is a crusty, sunburned businessman — a memorable tertiary antagonist to whom Frank owes money.

Rosita the cockatoo

Fans of Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room were likely thrilled to see a brief but memorable "Jungle Cruise" cameo by Rosita the cockatoo.

The white-feathered Rosita is one of the "showgirl birds" who appear in the attraction perched on a mobile and singing "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing." However, Rosita's spot on the mobile is empty because she left the group for adventures elsewhere. She now inhabits various spots around Disneyland, including the Tropical Hideaway and a riverside cage on the Jungle Cruise attraction.

In the "Jungle Cruise" film, Giamatti's character, Nilo, has a pet cockatoo named Rosita, who repeatedly squawks the memorable line "Frank owes me money" after Lily and Frank break into Nilo's office. In press notes, Disney said the Moluccan cockatoo's real name is Lover Girl and was one of Giamatti's favorite co-stars — in fact, it was actually Giamatti's idea to include a cockatoo as his character's sidekick.

The Backside of Water

It's the eighth wonder of the world and one of the greatest continuous jokes in theme park ride history: the backside of water. Jungle Cruise ride fans will laugh at this joke no matter how many times they've heard it and seen the other side of the famous Schweitzer Falls. Boat skippers tell passengers they like to call it "O2H."

In the "Behind the Attraction" series on Disney+, imagineers behind the Jungle Cruise ride and some longtime skippers said the backside of water joke is an essential part of the experience. If the joke isn't told, guests will remind the skippers of their misstep.

Likewise, including the backside of water joke was a must for the "Jungle Cruise" film. It was featured prominently in the first trailer for the film with Johnson proclaiming to his passengers, "Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've been waiting for ... the backside of water." That joke, and all the others Frank deadpans, elicit groans and eye rolls from the tourists.

In a similar nod to the human-made river cruise at Disneyland, the character Frank is shown to have rigged many of the tricks in the water and along the shore to give his boat tour a more adventurous feel. To create the backside of water, he put together a system of water troughs and pulleys to produce a small waterfall at the best moment to deliver the one-liner.

All the puns

The Jungle Cruise ride we know and love today isn't the same one that ferried passengers along the world's rivers on Disneyland's opening day in 1955. For almost a decade, nature and wildlife education was the focus of the original Jungle Cruise attraction. The corny "dad jokes" and dry humor didn't make it into the ride until the 1960s. Alongside the backside of water, skippers now make jokes about a group of lions eating a zebra "on the rocks" and sharing the meal "with pride." There's also the Nile crocodile named Ginger who ... snaps. The skippers call her "one tough cookie."

Johnson's character Frank really leans into the punny skipper role in "Jungle Cruise." Kicking off a spiel of hilarious and cheesy puns, he points out a pair of toucans beak-wrestling in a nearby tree, noting "only two can play." When he gestures to some sandstone rocks, Frank says  "some people take them for granite" one of his "boulder attractions." As Frank continues, his audience's groans and eye rolls grow in intensity. He even prompts a silent "wow" from one passenger after saying he got "canned" from his previous job at an orange juice factory because "I couldn't concentrate."

Later in the movie, when Frank, Lily and McGregor (Jack Whitehall) are being taken to the village of native "headhunters" (really Frank's hired performers), Frank says it's not a great place to "be headed."

Animatronic Hippos

The Jungle Cruise wouldn't be the Jungle Cruise without its animatronic animals, especially the hippos. In the Disneyland ride, the boat slowly moves through the hippo pool while the skipper tells the passengers to stay still so as not to rock the boat and disturb the massive animals. At one point, the skipper "fires" a fake pistol to scare some of the hippos away from the boat.

A brief but similar scene happens in the "Jungle Cruise" movie. As Frank narrates the many ways the Amazon jungle has killed previous explorers — "everything you see in the jungle wants to kill you ... and can" — the boat rumbles past a stationary fake hippo protruding from the water. Then, as Frank is activating a bunch of his tricks to entertain the passengers, he uses a pistol kept near the boat's wheel to fire at a rope and unleash the mechanical roaring hippo.

Hippos aren't native to the Amazon region — a fact pointed out by a young girl on the boat, whom Frank shushes — so they aren't seen again in the rest of the film. There are, however, about 80 hippos living around Colombia's Rio Magdalena. These hippos are the descendants of the "cocaine hippos" owned by drug lord Pablo Escobar, who brought them to the country in the 1980s.

Trader Sam

At the beginning of 2021, the Jungle Cruise ride received some major storytelling updates to get rid of "negative depictions of native people," which included getting rid of the unofficial Jungle Cruise mascot, the Trader Sam animatronic. Though Trader Sam had different animatronic iterations in Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, the character was described by critics as a racist caricature of Indigenous African peoples.

Trader Sam got another revamp in the "Jungle Cruise" movie. In the film, Veronica Falcón portrays Trader Sam as the leader of the tribe of Indigenous people who guard the healing tree. She makes several quips about "working" with Frank in playing outdated stereotypes of native peoples for his river cruise story and how she makes money off of colonial notions of her people.

The portrayal of Trader Sam and her people doesn't always hit the nail on the head when it comes to reimagining the character. There is a moment when Trader Sam dons Lily's brother McGregor's top hat in a small nod to the Magic Kingdom version of Trader Sam, who's not only holding several shrunken heads but also wearing one as a necklace. But critics have said the new Trader Sam is a "hearty attempt to reimagine a less racist version of the character."

The Nautilus?

This one may be a bit of a stretch, but Prince Joachim's submarine (also known as unterseeboots during World War I, when the film is set) is strangely reminiscent of the Nautilus vessel from Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

Plemons plays the cartoonishly villainous German prince who brings a submarine to the Amazon and frees the squad of supernatural bad guys to help him claim the healing tree. Though the interior of the submarine is cold and cramped, Joachim somehow also has extravagant, luxurious quarters that solidify his bumbling caricature of a colonizing villain.

The famous Nautilus submarine was created by Jules Verne and featured in his novels "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1870) and in the Disney film of the same name from 1954. The Nautilus is shaped like a fish and has a shingled ramming fern at the bow. Joachim's submarine boasts a similar serrated ramming fern at its bow, but so did many other German UB-II-type submarines during World War I.

Magic Kingdom at Disney World had a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction that featured a 20-minute submarine ride aboard an adapted version of Nautilus, but the ride was shuttered in 1994.

The African Queen

The 1951 adventure classic "The African Queen" is one of the key elements that inspired the layout and storytelling of the original Jungle Cruise boat ride in Disneyland. Seventy years later, its inspiration lives on in the "Jungle Cruise" film.

The film is based on the 1935 novel of the same name and stars Humphry Bogart as a skipper ferrying a woman (Katharine Hepburn) down a river in a boat named the African Queen. The movie is also set during World War I and has long been heralded by critics as thrilling, adventurous, and funny with a hint of lighthearted romance. 

While "Jungle Cruise" is obviously based on the theme park attraction, it clearly also takes inspiration from "The African Queen." Looper's review of the film said Johnson's Frank "looks like the human growth hormone version of Bogart" with Blunt's character giving "her ambitious scientist a little glint of Hepburn."

Frank also sports a nearly identical skipper outfit to Bogart's Charlie Allnut, complete with a red scarf tied around his neck and a black-billed white cap. The design of Frank's creaky, hodgepodge riverboat named La Quila also pays homage to Charlie's African Queen.

Disney's True-Life Adventures

Though "Jungle Cruise" is set in 1916, it does have a nod to "Disney's True-Life Adventure" nature documentaries, which premiered in the late 1940s, ran through 1960, and inspired the original Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland.

During a quieter moment in "Jungle Cruise," Blunt's character Lily uses a box camera to capture motion pictures of the wildlife and scenery of the jungle while sailing down the Amazon River. She captures soundless, black and white shots of butterflies, birds, and foliage while Johnson's Frank stares in awe. He's never seen a motion picture camera before, so Lily lets him try it out.

Lily also explains the excitement of motion pictures and how they can bring any place in the world right to you. It's a similar sentiment shared by Walt Disney and his team when shooting and sharing the "True-Life Adventure" features as well as creating the Jungle Cruise ride. Both the feature and attraction were made to bring the world to an audience — and give that audience a greater appreciation for wildlife and nature.

Nothing Else Matters

Yes, veteran heavy metal rockers Metallica reworked an orchestral version of "Nothing Else Matters" for a key scene in Disney's "Jungle Cruise" movie. It's an unexpected but delightful detail that somehow fits in a flashback scene set in the mid-1500s with Spanish conquistadors and a tribe of Indigenous people in the Amazonian rainforest.

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich talked about the Disney collaboration in September 2020, saying it goes back to "lifelong rock fan" Sean Bailey, who is Disney's production president. Ulrich worked with "Jungle Cruise" score composer James Newton Howard to rearrange "Nothing Else Matters" into a piece that's instrumental (pun intended) to the dark, frenzied scene. In an interview with Collider, Ulrich said the version is a "very unusual" morph of the iconic song.

The scene is a flashback to the 1560s, first in Algiers and then in the Amazon, as Aguirre (Ramírez) and his fellow mercenaries search in vain for the healing tree to save Aguirre's daughter. Just as they're at their weakest, the group is saved by the tribe that guards the tree. In a bout of anger-filled impatience, Aguirre and his men kill most of the tribe because of their reluctance to share the secrets of the tree. They are then cursed with immortality and an inability to leave the sight of the river or else face brutal consequences.

The scene is quick and feels a bit jammed with a lot of plot points that can be hard to follow, but the new arrangement of "Nothing Else Matters" is a dizzying, welcome addition to a score otherwise filled with spirited adventure ballads.