The changes will be made both at Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida, with the aim of completing them this year. Disneyland remains closed due to Covid-19, while Disney World is operating with limited capacity.
In an interview posted to Disney’s D23 blog, Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Portfolio Executive Chris Beatty said the main focus of the reworking is “negative depictions of “natives.'” Initially taking inspiration from classic film The African Queen, the attraction over the years has evolved and injected more humor over the years but has retained objectionable depictions of the people of places like Papua, New Guinea. Native people were largely shown as objects, attackers or even cannibals, viewed through a colonialist perspective.
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The revised experience (watch a preview clip above) will de-emphasize encounters with human tribes and instead put animals in the foreground. Concept art on the Disney Parks blog shows a rhinoceros and a group of chimpanzees interacting with the cruise boat and human passengers.
“We want to make sure everybody has the best time—that guests from all over the world can connect with the stories we share and that how we bring those to life are respectful of the diverse world we live in,” Beatty said.
The revamp follows similar ones for Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, which featured outdated and offensive tropes. Amid nationwide protests last summer over racial injustice, Disney said Splash Mountain would be reworked to pay homage to the animated feature The Princess and the Frog, which features Disney’s first Black princess. It originally was a venue for the Uncle Remus / Br’er Rabbit story from Disney’s controversial 1946 film Song of the South.
Carmen Smith, an executive for creative development and inclusion strategies at Walt Disney Imagineering, said the mission of her division is to ensure that its efforts “reflect the voices and perspectives of the world around us.”
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