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Jingle Cruise is a bungle in the jungle, thanks -- in large part -- to the way this new holiday overlay has been promoted

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Jingle Cruise is a bungle in the jungle, thanks -- in large part -- to the way this new holiday overlay has been promoted

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So where exactly -- in the great holiday scheme of things -- does Disneyland Park's latest attempt at a seasonal overlay fall? Is the Jingle Cruise that Xmas gift which you've always dreamed of getting or more of an itchy sweater?

Changing a single letter makes a really big
difference at this Adventureland attraction.
Photo by Jim Hill

To be blunt, this holiday overlay is kind of a half-baked fruitcake. By that I mean: The creative concept behind the Jingle Cruise itself is sound. And the seasonal script that the Imagineers & some veteran Jungle Cruise skippers have put together for Adventureland cast members to spiel is very much in the tradition of the original Jungle Cruise. In that it's full of groan-worthy puns and clever plays on words. More to the point, the skippers are laboring mightily to put this just-learned holiday-themed material over. And -- for the most part -- they do succeed.

So with all that going for it, why then does the Jingle Cruise come up short? It's the way that this Adventureland holiday overlay has been / is still being promoted. By that I mean: When you walk in Disneyland Park and pass a poster that promises this ...

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

... and then you wind up with something like this ...

Have you ever hear a bull elephant trumpet "Silent
Night" ? Photo by Jim Hill

... or this ...

This time of year, they wiggle their ears to try & stay warm to avoid a case of
hippo-thermia. Photo by Jim Hill

... it's hard not to be disappointed. Especially in comparison to those other Disneyland Xmas treats, 'it's a small world' Holiday and Haunted Mansion Holiday.

"it's a small world" Holiday has done it up big every Xmas since this seasonal
overlay debuted at Disneyland Park back in November of 1997. Copyright 
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I mean, look, I know. It would have been expensive to create Santa hats for all of the dimensional figures in the Jungle Cruise (Interesting side note here: The folks in Operations & Maintenance at the theme park make a very clear distinctive between the dimensional figures that you see in this Adventureland attraction as well as along the Rivers of America which use limited, obvious mechanical movements like tails that flick or ears that wiggle to create the illusion of life, and full-on Audio Animatronic figures. Which then create the illusion that they're living, breathing creatures through far subtler means like eye blinks, head turns, chests that rise & fall to simulate breathing and mouths that open & close in sync to pre-recorded dialogue). But that over-the-top touch would have changed the Jingle Cruise from a holiday experience that you just kind of smirk your way through to something that would have given the Guests some genuine Christmas joy.

Don't get me wrong. Those supposedly hand-made, Xmas-themed decorations that are scattered throughout the Jingle Cruise's queue area were a lot of fun to look at. And some of the holiday-themed gags that those Imagineers & veteran skippers came up with for various scenes both in and around the river were genuinely clever. I especially loved what happened on the 8th day of Piranhanukkah.

This tree is all wrapped up with a boa on top. Photo by Jim Hill

But that said (and there's really no polite way to address this issue), as you floated through this Adventureland attraction listening to the skipper deliver his new Christmas-themed spiel, it was hard not to notice how grubby the Jungle / Jingle Cruise had gotten. I mean, there were mechanical pachyderms in this ride's Sacred Elephant Bathing Pool sequence that were downright disgusting to look at. A number of these dimensional figures were coated with scum & algae.

Furthermore, there was trash -- items like empty plastic water bottles & soda cans -- floating in the water along the shoreline. And given that I was riding through this Adventureland attraction right after park opening, it's highly unlikely that some tourist had already tossed this trash into the river just 30 minutes after Disneyland had opened for the day. Which means that this water bottle & soda can had been floating in the Jungle / Jingle Cruise since at least the previous day. And no one working there this past Friday morning had bothered to fish those items out of the water.

I realize that red & green are the colors of Christmas. But that still doesn't make
it all right to leave Sprite bottles & Coke cans floating around in the water during
Disneyland's Jingle Cruise. Photo by Jim Hill

Look, I mean no disrespect to Disneyland management. I know that things sometimes fall through the cracks as you're hurrying to get a new attraction open. And -- to be fair here -- this past Friday morning was the very first time that the West Coast version of Jingle Cruise was supposedly open to the general public. So maybe -- in the rush to make sure that all of the skippers had learned the new holiday-themed spiel -- there just wasn't  a cast member available to take a launch out, make a quick run around the river and then make sure that this Adventureland attraction was free of floating debris.

But that said, when you put a poster out there like the one for Jingle Cruise (And -- to give credit where credit is do -- it really is a great poster. A wonderfully funny riff on the original poster for Disneyland's Jungle River attraction), it's still kind of a cheat to then send Guests floating past scenes that have no real holiday theming.

This time of year, it's easy to get behind in your holiday shopping.
Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, if they'd combined the witty spiel that had been written for the Jingle Cruise along with a holiday overlay that would have actually draped the dimensional figures along the water's edge with Santa hats & holiday sweaters, I can guarantee you that Disneyland visitors would have climbed out of those launches and then just raved about the Xmas-related attraction that they had just experienced.

But as it was, as I lingered in the exit area this past Friday morning and listened in as multiple boatloads of Disneyland visitors got off the Jingle Cruise, the common refrain I heard was ... Well ... "That was disappointing."

Here's Trader Sam. He wants to remind you that the New
Year is just a-head. Photo by Jim Hill

I'm hoping that the Walt Disney World version of the Jingle Cruise is a little bit better. But based on the videos that have been posted on YouTube so far, I'm not getting my holiday hopes up.

In short, the Jingle Cruise is a great idea for a holiday overlay at the Disney theme parks that -- at least in its first iteration -- was poorly executed. I mean, the skippers are doing their damnest to make the seasonal version of this Adventureland attraction entertaining. And they've got a funny spiel to work with. But that's basically ALL they've got to work with. For now, anyway.

Kudos to all of the Jungle Cruise skippers who are doing
everything they can to deliver on the promise of the
Jingle Cruise's premise. Photo by Jim Hill

Here's hoping that Disney Parks & Resorts revisits this clearly promising premise next year. But for the 2014 holiday season, here's hoping that the guys who hold Mickey's purse strings aren't such Scrooges the next time around. That they actually give the Imagineers all the money they need to turn this bamboo-filled forest into (I'm now paraphrasing one of the better puns you hear in the Jingle Cruise's load / unload area) into a real splinter wonderland.

Your thoughts?

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  • Jingle Cruise is NOT a bungle! It deserves all the praise it can get to reasurre them that they're continuing to do the right thing by doing seasonal overlays on attractions, especially at WDW!

  • I wholeheartedly concur.

    Especially for all the press and discussions online, it's severely underwhelming as a whole.  Disney tried to upsell this like crazy for...what? a handful of thrift store Christmas decorations, and a rewritten script with a few extra holiday puns?  Maybe the Santa hats and scarves are a but over-the-top, but something more IS needed.  Maybe a polar bear bathing pool.  Or instead of hippos, walruses.  I don't know, and yes, kudos to the effort and idea, but the end result just feels lazy.

  • It's a bungle because it's a half hearted attempt at a holiday overlay. Local shopping malls do a better job of decorating. Hopefully the less than enthusiastic response will result in a more complete X-mas overlay next holiday season

  • They should have spent the money on a Tiki Room overlay instead. IF done right, that would be a beautiful new show that could pay homage to the original.

  • I see this more as another failure of Disney's marketing department than anything. If they had just done it, with no hype at all I think most fans would be ok with it.

  • Jim, I haven't been to Disneyland, but your thoughts here are spot on for the Jingle Cruise at WDW.  There are some nice props in the queue area, and the soundtrack is funny, but once the ride starts the only change is the monologue, i.e., there are really no changes to the ride itself.  I give them credit for trying, but the overall effect would be much improved if they made even a few changes to the ride itself.

  • This "overlay" in a nutshell peferctly exemplifys the current state ofWalt Disney World and the Walt Disney Company of today.  Window dressing with nothing inside...

  • For once, I have to disagree with you, Jim.  The idea behind Jungle Cruise is that you are taking a cruise through a real jungle.  How would you pass off a storyline in which the elephants and hippos are wearing Santa hats?  The most they could have realistically done to decorate the ride would be to decorate the camp that the monkies are trashing.  There was one other way to do it than exactly what they did.

    I do agree with you that they need to clean the ride up a bit, though.

  • I have friends who think this overlay is "cute", and "that was fun"....did we go on the same ride?  Granted my skipper did a lot of overlay jokes the best one being the Piranhanukkah one, but I've heard from others who only heard two jokes.  The cue is nice but meh.  I did like the music I heard, especially "I really want a hippopotamus for Christmas" which fits perfectly.  I really wasn't interested in seeing Santa hats on elephants, so I'm OK with that.  Overall I did not find it interesting as a Christmas overlay at all.  I certainly would not wait in a long line for it (went first thing in the morning - and by the way, did not see trash at all in the water).  If this is the kind of thing Disney is going to come up with - I'm dreading what they are going to try and come up with to replace the Billies that they are retiring.

  • The rest of you slamming this overlay are also completely wrong! >:(

  • I agree completely with Mr. Englesmith.  To maintain the theme of the Jungle Cruise, it would make no sense at all to decorate the animals.  They could have gone more "all out" on decorating the boats and I really think the spiel should have gotten a complete makeover, instead of a few holiday jokes here and there.

  • I'm so glad that they did not add hats on the animals

  • I have to agree that the only problem here is the marketing.

    When MiceChat first broke news of the Jingle Cruise, I hoped it was a terrible joke. When Disney confirmed it and started promoting it, I absolutely hated the idea. Yet another holiday overlay on an attraction that would be better without it? I mean, Haunted Mansion Holiday is okay, but it doesn't hold a candle to the original. I can't argue the popularity and longer lines, but after 13 years, why can't Jack Skellington get his own darned attraction and leave the Mansion alone?

    After hearing what the Jingle Cruise actually entailed, though, from people who had experienced it -- just a few decorations in the queue and some holiday-themed jokes for the skippers -- I was actually fine with what they did with it. It wasn't a complete "transformation," as Disney called it in their announcement, destroying the attraction by putting Santa hats on elephants and the remains of Santa's sleigh being overrun by gorillas.

    If they hadn't announced this as a holiday attraction, I agree with you that people would have seen the decorations and heard the handful of holiday-themed jokes, and they would have thought "Wow, that was a really nice touch." Instead, Disney advertised it as a huge deal, had a social media campaign, and added Jingle Cruise posters under the train tracks, which left some people -- after riding it -- wondering where the rest of the overlay was and left people like me, until we heard that there wasn't much to it after all, wondering why Disney would yet again take away one of the best attractions in the park for a tacky overlay that destroys the whole concept.

    In the end, I think Disney got the overlay right -- but they messed up the marketing big-time. Sometimes, less is more. Both with overlays and with the ad campaigns regarding them.

  • I would have to give the overall "overlay" a solid C

    It could have been better, for sure, but it was closer to what I was expecting it to be...a minimalist overlay designed without casting a tacky Christmas shadow over the entire attraction. I rather like what Disney did, but it could have been done a bit better and with less MARKETING fluff. Disney needs to flat out fire their entire Marketing division and start from scratch.

    As for the attraction; If attempted again next year (I doubt it... sorry) a COMPLETE rework of the script from top to bottom, with possible references to Gayla Peevey's "Hippopotamus  for Christmas", subtle rethemeing to "gorillas" (as mischievous monkeys opening presents) and possibly new audio within the attraction, e.g. frogs croaking "Jingle Bells", would vastly help without taking away the "tour" experience of the classic attraction.  BUT, without a doubt and big HO HO Heck No...Santa hats on the animals is a no go! Don't do it Disney. Keep it minimalist with slightly better decorations and script rework and it should/could be MUCH better!

    I really hope to see the overlay again next season.

  • I think your observations were spot-on, Jim.  My friends and I went on the Jingle Cruise a couple of nights after it opened, and when we saw the stuff added to the queue, we thought that the attraction itself would be fun. Once we got on the boat, though, the gags kinda fell flat (we were willing to give the CMs some slack since we figured they were still getting used to the new spiels) and the scenes were the same as always - not at all what any of us expected.

    Yes, I realize that adding Christmas elements to the show scenes makes the whole thing that much more unrealistic, but the un-realism of the attraction has been part of the gag for a while anyway;  the posters and marketing made it seem  like the Imagineers would make the Jingle Cruise even more over-the-top, but no such luck.  

    Hopefully, next year some of the crazier (or more costly) ideas for the Jingle Cruise can be re-visited and added to the attraction. For this year,  get in the queue and enjoy the decorations, but realize that once you're on the boat, you've already seen the best part of the show.

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