Disney Making Changes to Jungle Cruise at Both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney Imagineering announced today that Disney plans on updating the Jungle Cruise.  With these new additions they want to add “more humor, wildlife and skipper heart.  and also reflect and value the diversity of the world around us.”

For the first time, the Jungle Cruise will have a continuous story to go along with updated scenes

D23 sat down with Disney Imagineering Creative Portfolio Executive Chris Beatty to get all the details on everything coming to the Nile…

The Jungle Cruise has evolved over the years—maybe more than any Disney Parks attraction.

I think the Jungle Cruise everybody remembers now is the Marc Davis version, which has a little, well, a lotmore humor when the skippers really get going. That attraction is really all about the skippers, if you think about it. They bring that attraction to life; they are the heart and soul of it. So you couple that with Marc Davis’s renderings and the characters he brought to life along the river’s edge, and it’s really just a win-win. That’s what gives the attraction its DNA. It’s what makes it a classic in so many ways. And you’re right: over the years, it has changed. Think about the piranhas we added at Disneyland into the Amazon or the exploding barrels as you enter Africa. We’ve added some really great moments that bring new magic to that attraction through the years. So we’re excited about this update—bringing new magic to our guests and giving it a fresh take.

Can you talk about why you decided to make these new updates?

We are constantly evaluating ways to enhance attractions and experiences in our parks. 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. And when they get off the attraction, they know that we have done our homework because these are the details that matter. When you look at the Jungle Cruise, as it is today, there are just a couple of scenes that don’t do that and needed a refresh. But I want to make sure people know we are not changing the whole Jungle Cruise. This is not a re-envisioning of the entire attraction. It’s the Jungle Cruise you know and love, with the skippers still leading the way, and at the same time, we’re addressing the negative depictions of “natives.” So that’s one of the scenes we’re going to go in and change.

So let’s talk about some of these changes…

We want to make sure that we take this as an opportunity, right? So as we look to clean up a lot of the challenges that we have in the attraction, we want to make sure we go in and add all the humor that Marc Davis gave it, all those years ago. Anything new we add will be in that tone. And for the first time, we are actually linking scenes together.

So if you think of the famous rhino pole scene, with the team of explorers who have somehow camped that night and then been run up the pole by the rhino and a group of other animals… that will really kick off the storyline. Did you ever wonder who those explorers were or where they came from? What’s their backstory? As part of the enhanced storyline, each one of them will have their own story and cultural heritage. There’s a birdwatcher, an entomologist, a wildlife painter, and a photographer, and each one will have a different reason for being on the expedition. And, of course, they did one of the things you’re never supposed to do, which is leave the boat. And one of the things we’re adding to the attraction is an animatronic skipper, who’s been chased up the pole by the rhino, along with the other explorers. They each have great personality, and I think our guests will connect with these characters in new ways. So we’re not really re-envisioning that scene, we’re just adding a narrative and storytelling to bring things to life and connect that moment with other happenings along the river.

And you may ask yourself, Wait, what happened to their boat? And we find out that the front of the boat has been beached upon these rocks. We wanted to put something here that feels like Marc Davis had a hand in it, that has a bit of humor in it. And we wanted the animals to have the last laugh. So you’ll see that the family of chimpanzees has moved in. And we don’t currently have chimps on this attraction—all of these amazing animals have been brought to life through the years on the Jungle Cruise and yet we’ve never had chimpanzees. The family of chimpanzees jumps on the wreckage of the boat and they are almost making fun of us. One is wearing the skipper’s hat and is on the microphone. The mother chimp has opened up all the maps and it looks like she’s reading them. A little chimp has gotten into the wildlife painter’s supplies and has made a mess with paint everywhere. It’s the animals really getting the last laugh in this cute scene—these silly explorers really came in and invaded their world.

Disney has not said anything about a timeline of when the changes will be completed, but has indicated that it will be coming “later this year.”

Imagineer Kevin Rafferty to Retire After 42 Years With Disney

Walt Disney Imagineering will be losing another legendary talent later this year when Kevin Rafferty retires after 42 years with the company.Rafferty, is the Imagineer who conceived, designed, wrote, and oversaw the creations of some of Disney Parks’ most memorable attractions and lands, announced in a memo to staff that he will retire from Walt Disney Imagineering, effective April 1, 2021

Following both the publication of his book, Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career, and the opening of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway—the first-ever ride-through attraction to feature Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse—at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Rafferty says his nearly 43-year journey with Disney has reached its peak. “I wanted to go out at the top of my game, if you will,” he explains. “It just felt right.”

From D23 –

Rafferty will leave behind a legacy that few can rival—one that began with the incredibly talented Imagineers who mentored him who, in turn, led to the long list of those whom he inspired. “When I started, there were only two Disney parks in the world. It’s really been my honor, my pleasure, and my joy to be around and watch the expansion of the magic that Walt Disney Imagineering has made,” he says. “I’ve been there for all that. It’s been an amazing ride.”

 

Imagineer Joe Rohde Retiring

Earlier today Imagineer Joe Rohde announced that he will be retiring from the Walt Disney Company.  Joe is most well known as the creator of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Joe will retire from the company after a 40 year career and creator of some of Imagineering’s finest work, most recently as the lead on Pandora – The World of AVATAR. According to a post from fellow Imagineer Zach Riddley and current WDI lead for Walt Disney World, Joe will leave his position on January 4 2021.

On Instagram Joe posted –

I’m sure by now many of you have come across the news that I am retiring from Walt Disney Imagineering. It has been 40 years since I stepped foot in the door at age 25, not knowing anything about theme parks, Disney, or what it meant to work for a big company. Every day of my life since then has been a learning experience. I’m very glad to have had that opportunity, and proud of the work that has been done, not just by me, but by all my fellow Imagineers, and especially those who worked by my side over the decades. But 40 years is a long time, and this strange quiet time seems like a great opportunity to slip away without too much disruption. If I wait, I will once again be in the middle of another huge project and by the time that is done, I would be truly old. I’m not that old yet and there are things I want to do that cannot be done here. We encourage a culture of storytellers, not just amongst ourselves but among our guests and our fans, and because of this, there is a strong temptation to take this moment and turn it into a story. But what story? I think it’s a coming of age story. I started at Disney as a child, and I learned almost all my life lessons there, developed my confidence, recognized my skills and weaknesses, and went on to work with both… and do what could be done. I could stay forever, but that is like remaining in another kind of womb. I want to see what a grown man might be able to do on his own. This site here is not really for Disney. It’s for us. I imagine that there are many of you who I will be sad that I will no longer be a daily part of the Disney company, and there will be some of you who will drift away and no longer follow my ruminations because they feel they aren’t relevant. But I will still be here. And I will still be thinking about things, and doing things, and talking about things… Because that’s kind of what I do. I mentioned in my departure note and I will mention here again the tremendous debt that I owe to our guests and our fans who have been so generous. Working as an Imagineer has made me a good designer, but it is all of you who have made me a better person.

Disney Legend Francis Xavier “X” Atencio Passes Away at Age 98

Disney Legend Xavier “X” Atencio, a former Imagineer and Disney animator, passed away on September 10 at the age of 98. X was responsible for helping bring to life a number of beloved Disney parks attractions including Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, as well as such animated classics as Pinocchio and Fantasia.

Born on September 4, 1919, in Walsenburg, Colorado, X—whose friends shortened his name from Francis Xavier to simply “X”—moved to Los Angeles in 1937 to attend the Chouinard Art Institute. X thought a job at Disney was out of his reach, but the then-18-year-old artist’s instructors prodded him to submit his portfolio. In 1938, when he got the good news from Disney, X ran from the original Hyperion Avenue studio to his aunt’s house shouting, “I got a job at Disney! I got a job at Disney!”

X first saw his work on screen at the 1940 premiere of Pinocchio, and as he watched, he was incredibly moved by seeing the audience’s reaction. That year, he was promoted to assistant animator for Fantasia but left temporarily to join the Army Air Corps in the war effort.

Upon his return in 1945, he picked up where he left off, returning to the studio and working for the next eight years on animated short subjects. His first on-screen credit was for Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom in 1953, an Oscar®-winning film that took audiences through the history of music. Other films X contributed to during this time included Noahs Ark (1959) and A Symposium on Popular Songs (1962), both Academy Award® nominees, as well as Jack and Old Mac (1956). He worked on the “I’m No Fool” series for the original MickeyMouse Club, and in the 1960s, X provided memorable stop-motion sequences for Disney feature films TheParent Trap (1961), Babes in Toyland (1961), and Mary Poppins (1964).

At the request of Walt Disney, X transferred to WED Enterprises (later Walt Disney Imagineering) in 1965 to work on the Primeval World diorama for Disneyland. At first, X was unsure of the move to WED: “I went over there reluctantly because I didn’t know what I was getting into, and nobody there knew what I was supposed to do either,” he recalled. “About a month later I got a phone call from Walt. He told me ‘I want you to do the script for the Pirates of the Caribbean.’” From that point on, X cemented his legacy at WED, playing a key role in the development of music and dialogue for the attraction, including co-writing the iconic song, “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).” For the Haunted Mansion, he wrote the attraction’s dialogue and co-wrote the song “Grim Grinning Ghosts.” For Walt Disney World, he contributed to If You Had Wings and Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom, as well as Spaceship Earth, World of Motion, and the Mexico pavilion at Epcot. Throughout his career, X always said that his reward, as it was in the days of Pinocchio, “is still the audience’s reactions.”

“X was an enormous talent who helped define so many of our best experiences around the world,” said Bob Weis, president of Walt Disney Imagineering. “Some may not know that when he wrote the lyrics for ‘Yo Ho’ he had never actually written a song before. He simply proposed the idea of a tune for Pirates of the Caribbean, and Walt told him to go and do it. That was how X worked—with an enthusiastic, collaborative attitude, along with a great sense of humor. His brilliant work continues to inspire Imagineers and bring joy to millions of guests every year.”

X retired from Disney in 1984, but continued working as a consultant to Walt Disney Imagineering for many years, and was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1996. He is survived by his wife, Maureen; his children Tori McCullough, Judianne, and Joe; his stepchildren Brian Sheedy, Kevin Sheedy, and Eileen Haubeil; sons-in-law Mike McCullough and Chris Haubeil; daughters-in-law Kathy Atencio, Trish Sheedy, and Beth Sheedy; and eight grandchildren.

From D23

Legendary Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar Dies at Age 83

Legendary Disney Imagineer Martin A. “Marty” Sklar passed away in his Hollywood Hills home on Thursday. He was 83. During an illustrious career spanning 54 years, Marty worked closely with Walt Disney and was instrumental in creating, enhancing and expanding Disney’s creative vision. Named a Disney Legend in 2001, he is best remembered and revered by fans around the world for his work bringing Disney’s theme parks to life.

“Everything about Marty was legendary – his achievements, his spirit, his career,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “He embodied the very best of Disney, from his bold originality to his joyful optimism and relentless drive for excellence. He was also a powerful connection to Walt himself. No one was more passionate about Disney than Marty and we’ll miss his enthusiasm, his grace, and his indomitable spirit.”

Born in New Brunswick, N.J., on February 6, 1934, Marty was a student at UCLA and editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper when he was recruited to create The Disneyland News for Walt’s new theme park in 1955. After graduating in 1956, he joined Disney full-time, and would go on to serve as Walt’s right-hand man—scripting speeches, marketing materials, and a film showcasing Walt’s vision for Walt Disney World and Epcot. During this period, he also joined WED Enterprises, the forerunner of Walt Disney Imagineering, and he would later become the creative leader of Imagineering, leading the development of Disney theme parks and attractions for the next three decades. He retired as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador on July 17, 2009, Disneyland’s 54th birthday. Disney marked the occasion by paying tribute to Marty with the highest Parks and Resorts recognition, dedicating a window in his name on Disneyland’s City Hall.

“Marty was the ultimate Disney Imagineer and Cast Member. From his days working as an intern with Walt to just two weeks ago engaging with fans at D23 Expo, Marty left an indelible mark on Disney Parks around the globe and on all of the guests who make memories every day with us,” said Bob Chapek, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “He was one of the few people that was fortunate to attend the opening of every single Disney park in the world, from Anaheim in 1955 to Shanghai just last year. We will dearly miss Marty’s passion, skill and imaginative spark that inspired generations of Cast, Crew and Imagineers.”

Bob Weis was one of those Imagineers. “Marty was one of Walt’s most trusted advisors and helped turn his most ambitious dreams into reality. For us, it’s hard to imagine a world without Marty, because Marty is synonymous with Imagineering,” said Weis, President, Walt Disney Imagineering. “His influence can be seen around the world, in every Disney park, and in the creative and imaginative work of almost every professional in the themed entertainment industry.”

Marty’s impact and achievements were recognized with a number of prestigious awards and accolades, including the Lifetime Achievement award from TEA (Themed Entertainment Association), induction into the Hall of Fame of IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions), and the prestigious Professional Achievement Award from UCLA.

He also authored several books about his experiences and adventures at Disney: Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms (2013), and One Little Spark!: Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to Imagineering (2015).

Marty is survived by his wife of 60 years, Leah; son Howard and his wife, Katriina Koski-Sklar; grandchildren Gabriel and Hannah; daughter Leslie; and grandchildren Rachel and Jacob.

Marty and Leah were two of the founders of the Ryman Program for Young Artists, a project of Ryman Arts, a nonprofit foundation whose purpose is to teach and mentor “traditional” drawing and painting skills to talented young artists in Southern California. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Marty’s name to Ryman Arts at www.rymanarts.org.

George McGinnis, Last Imagineer Hired by Walt Disney, Dies at 87

McGinnis was the show designer on a variety of projects while at Walt Disney Imagineering including Space Mountain at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

McGinnis’ senior project while attending the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles was for a high-speed train that caught the eye of Disney.

Upon graduating in 1966, he was invited to work at WED Enterprises (the name then of Walt Disney Imagineering, the company that designs Disney theme parks and rides).

His first assignment was to design the miniature transportation models for the Progress City display that was part of the Carousel of Progress attraction.

Other designs at Disneyland included the “Mighty Microscope” inside Disneyland’s “Adventure Through Inner Space” ride.

“George was a disciplined “pro” – a designer who truly paid attention to every detail,” said Marty Sklar, the former vice chairman of Walt Disney Imagineering in a statement.

For a while, he was assigned to work on designs for Walt Disney World including the still operating WEDway Peoplemover in its Tomorrowland.

He also helped out with the designs for upgrades to both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World monorails.

For Epcot Center, McGinnis was the lead show designer for the Horizons Pavilion, which opened in 1983.

Sklar said in a statement: “I was just writing something about the Horizons pavilion in Epcot at Walt Disney World, and found this quote from George: ‘We’re convinced that even though environments will change, people won’t. Teenagers in our show will still monopolize the phone; kids and dogs still exasperate mom and dad. We believe one of the main differences high technology will make is that it will give us more choices.’”

Before retiring from Disney he designed a variety of vehicles for its theme parks around the world, including the “jeeps” for the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland.

After his retirement, McGinnis continued to take on occasional design projects including the trolley for The Grove in Los Angeles.

He also wrote a book about his experiences that was published in 2016, “From Horizons to Space Mountain: The Life of a Disney Imagineer.”

McGinnis is survived by his wife and family.

By Mark Eades from the Orange County Register

Iron Man Experience at Hong Kong Disneyland Gets Opening Date

The Iron Man Experience, the first Marvel-themed ride for any Disney park, has an opening date set for Hong Kong Disneyland.

The simulator ride billed as a multisensory immersion experience will open January 11, 2017.

“The Iron Man Experience is a unique immersive motion experience using Hong Kong as the story background for the very first time,” said Samuel Lau, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in a press release. “We are proud to give local and overseas guests a different perspective and experience of Hong Kong while promoting our vibrant city to the world at the same time.”

The ride will be located in Hong Kong Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, which is  home to the Stark Expo. Tony Stark’s creations will be on display in exhibition halls the Hall of Legacy, the Hall of Protection, the Hall of Energy and the Hall of Mobility. Riders will then climb aboard the Iron Wing flight vehicle to take part in the ride, which will put them alongside Iron Man battling the forces of Hydra in Hong Kong.

“We’re excited to be able to create the Iron Man Experience with an authentic Iron Man Super Hero adventure that takes place in a real city, Hong Kong,” said Ted Robledo, Creative Director of Walt Disney Imagineering in a press release. “We’ve set this up as the next Stark Expo after the one Tony Stark did in 2010 in New York. He’s showcasing his latest and greatest products from Stark Industries, so guests see all kinds of things in the exhibition halls when coming through the Expo. But the ultimate experience is to get on this brand-new Iron Wing vehicle, which is essentially a really large Iron Man suit that 45 guests can get into. And guests will be going out on a tour of Hong Kong ending at the Hong Kong Stark Tower.”

Because Universal Orlando owns the rights to many of the existing Marvel properties east of the Mississippi in regards to the theme parks, there has a minimal presence at Walt Disney World beyond the Iron Man-skinned monorail a few years back.

Disneyland’s California Adventure park, though, is changing the Tower of Terror ride into one based on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. And Disney Cruise Line now has two ships with Marvel play spaces.

Iron Man won’t be confined to the ride, though. There’s an Expo Shop with more than 70 Iron Man-themed items exclusive to the park and the opportunity for visitors to try on the Iron Man suit in an interactive game “Become Iron Man at The Stark Expo,” which also features a 35-second video of their transformation available for purchase.

There will also be Iron Man-themed food and beverage options such as the Iron Man Waffle, Iron Man stein, Iron Man desserts at Chef Mickey Buffet and Iron Man beverages served at the resort hotels.

And the man himself will be in character at the park.

“Anybody who visits a Disney park loves color and spectacle and excitement and adventure, and that’s all that Iron Man is,” said Iron Man creator Stan Lee.

 

Bob Weis Named New Head of Walt Disney Imagineering

Bob Weis, executive vice president of Disney's creative division, talks about the new World of Color show that will debut at California Adventure in 2010. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: n.disneywater.0716 - 7/16/09 - Photo by JOSHUA SUDOCK, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - Disney invited members of the press to a preliminary briefing on their new water show, currently in production, at California Adventure called "Disney;s World of Color." The show features new projection technology, LED light effects, lasers, flame throwers, Disney characters and a whole new musical score. It will debut in the spring of 2010.

 

The Walt Disney Company has named Bob Weis the new president of Walt Disney Imagineering, the arm of the company that oversees the design of its theme parks, cruise lines and resorts around the world.

The appointment was announced in a memo today by Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Weis is heading up the company’s efforts for the Shanghai Disneyland Resort. Before that, he was the creative lead on the expansion of Disney California Adventure, which culminated in the addition of Cars Land at the theme park.

He was also the creative lead on the Disney/MGM Studios, now called Disney’s Hollywood Studios, that opened at Walt Disney World in 1989, and oversaw the development of the Tower of Terror.

Weis also worked on Tokyo Disneyland in the early 1980s.

He left the company for a while, and worked with others on a variety of projects. Bruce Vaughn, the former Chief Creative Executive at WDI will help Weis with the transition, before leaving the company to explore other opportunities. Craig Russell has served as a co-executive leader of the company, and will take on a new role focusing on project execution and integration around the world, according to the memo from Chapek released by the company.

From the Orange County Register

Disneyland Releases Concept Art for New Rivers of America

The Rivers of America and the Disneyland Railroad at Disneyland park in Southern California have closed temporarily as Disneyland prepares to bring an all-new Star Wars-themed land to the park.

To carve out space for the new land, the company is rerouting the Disneyland Railroad, shortening the Rivers of America and likely shrinking Tom Sawyer Island.

When these areas reopen, the north bank of the Rivers of America will have a beautiful new waterfront.

DL - New Rivers of America

As you can see from this artist’s rendering, courtesy of Walt Disney Imagineering, this gorgeous new riverbank will also feature an elevated trestle over which the iconic Disneyland Railroad will travel.

 

Imagineers Joe Rohde and Bob Weis Expand their Roles with Walt Disney Imagineering

Cameron, Rohde, Staggs - DAK

Two of Disney most well known and highest ranking Imagineers are expanding their roles ahead of a period of expected growth.

Joe Rohde, currently the creative lead at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will expand his role at Imagineering to take on global creative leadership of the Marvel property.

Rohde is currently working on the the development of AVATAR Land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and also oversees the creative work at the Aulani Resort.

Bob Weis, who is currently heavily involved in the creation of Shanghai Disney Resort, will also take on the position of creative lead of Hong Kong Disneyland.

Weis is best known to the American park fans as the creative force behind the development of Disney MGM Studios, and for the massive make-over of Disney California Adventure.

Together with the recent appointment of Scott Trowbridge as the lead on the Star Wars projects, the expansion of roles for Rohde and Weis would seem to send a clear message of where the future of Imagineering will be focussed – Star Wars, Marvel and Asia.