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Disneyland's Jungle Cruise: Ditching live alligators for humor

Live alligators used to populate the Disneyland Jungle Cruise
Live alligators used to populate the Disneyland Jungle Cruise
Photo by Tyler Lecka/Getty Images

Today, the Jungle Cruise in Disneyland's Adventureland is a fully animatronic water ride. It is a seven minute boat ride where passengers gaze upon robotic versions of wild animals typically found in such places as the Congo and the Amazon. There are no live animals part of the cruise. But when George, a man of 67 years, took the Jungle Cruise in the mid '50s, it was a much different experience. Not only were there animatronic animals, but there were live alligators (now long gone) that were being sustained on a diet of baby chicks. He did not enjoy that part of his trip to Disneyland. Though, had he taken the trip today, he might have enjoyed it more. The alligators are long gone, and the cruise has been re-scripted to be humorous. It is now a worthwhile trip for anyone to take while visiting Disneyland.

Though George does not remember exactly where in the park he saw alligators, it is documented that the Jungle Cruise featured live alligators in the '50s (when George claims to have seen them). On SFGate, there is an article that states, “Walt Disney wanted to populate the Jungle Cruise with live animals" and "live alligators were kept in a pen near the turnstiles...”

George was a little boy of around 9-10 years old when he first heard about the Disneyland alligators. At the time, he was visiting Anaheim with his parents and siblings, because they wanted to see Disneyland. They stayed at the home of his father's friend, who conveniently lived across the street from the theme park. But, before they went to Disneyland, George saw hundreds of newly hatched, baby chicks in a coop in the home's backyard. He went to see them, and he thought they were “so cute." But then his father’s friend gave him some disturbing news. He said that Disneyland was paying him to breed baby chicks, so they could feed them to their alligators. Needless to say, when George saw the actual, live alligators at Disneyland, he was very unhappy. Images of baby chicks being fed to hungry alligators filled his mind.

Today, the Jungle Cruise is a happier experience. In the '60s, Walt Disney ordered changes that completely changed the tone of the ride. At the time George went on the cruise, the Jungle Cruise website describes the ride as having had a "serious and educational tone." The live, hungry alligators didn't help matters. That all changed during the '60s. Disneyland got rid of the live alligators and added "lighthearted scenes" with "humorous gags." The skippers who narrate the ride are actually funny now, and they make frequent jokes. The "animals" are not frightening, and they are not fed baby chicks. The Jungle Cruise of today is not the Jungle Cruise of the past. It is a far more enjoyable experience for those taking a trip to Disneyland.

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons