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Hong Kong's adaption of the famous cruise

Boat skippers are an integral factor in the immersion and storytelling of the Jungle Cruise, which opened in 1955 as part of the world's first Disneyland park. Their humorously bad and badly humorous narration responds to the tropical scenes that you pass, bringing the whole environment to life in a thoroughly engaging way.

Today, 2016's Skipper of the Year Richard Wallace takes us on his own tour, in an expedition behind the scenes, or behind the waterfall as the case may be, to look into skipper training and what inspired Disney's Imagineers to create a convincing jungle in the middle of a city!

Skipper Richard explains his job in an official Disney video

The Jungle Cruise takes guests through the rainforests of 1930s Asia, Africa and South America in a matter of minutes! Skipper Richard explains what inspired this concept:

"This was all inspired by Walt Disney's television show True Life Adventures, a series of wildlife documentaries where we see a lot of scenes that actually ended up in the Jungle Cruise ride. The skipper (hopes to) return safely with his or her passengers, so the 'worldwide' voyage begins in South America, the Amazon River basin, and ends in South America. Many plants from each part of the world are located in the appropriate show scenes."

Storytelling is the thread that brings a successfully immersive ride together. The Jungle Cruise's boat skippers play an important role in this particular tale, where the vehicle swerves past tigers, crocodiles, piranhas and huge hippos to name a few. However, the skippers don't consider themselves the main character...

"Like every great story, there is a protagonist and an antagonist. The Jungle Cruise is about man versus nature, where the guest is the protagonist and the jungle is the antagonist. The skipper is the supporting character to the guest, the sidekick if you will, and narrates the adventure."

With skippers being known for their lively, joke-fuelled performances, one might imagine a series of energetic audition and training stages to get the best comedians onto the river. But what are the real requirements for a good skipper?

"Many people think that cast members need to audition to be a skipper. In actuality, it is just another attraction people apply for and are hired into. Skippers are not required to be funny. Their main job is to safely operate the attraction and give information throughout the ride. However, there is a script with a plethora of approved jokes that skippers can choose to deliver. Whether or not the skipper decides to be funny is completely up to them, but fortunately almost everyone who is a skipper is passionate about what they do and willing to have that high energy to perform and entertain guests. When you love what you do, having fun and being funny at the Jungle Cruise just seems to come naturally.

"It took me a few days to get my spiel down pat. The book of jokes we have is so big and there's so much you can throw together. Sometimes skippers will take and pick from how other skippers deliver their lines to add to their own repertoire. I like to change it up from time to time and find myself practising in my car on the way home!"

Skipper Richard is not just a talented jungle guide but also a jolly good artist, and his Instagram page is full of wonderful illustrations inspired by his job. Some of these illustrations are also available to buy through the Tales from the Jungle Crews podcast.

"I've been drawing for as long as I can remember and the Jungle Cruise just fans the flame of my burning desire to draw. There is such a rich story and history with the Jungle Cruise and Adventureland alone that it never ceases to inspire me to whip something up. At this point, I'm not sure if I want to make art my main career path for I fear that it won't be a hobby anymore, but I definitely live to create art just for fun and the Jungle Cruise does play a big part of my love for drawing."

Controversy hit the Jungle Cruise in 2017 when Dwayne Johnson, who will be starring in an upcoming Jungle Cruise movie, claimed that he'd “partner with Disney's brilliant Imagineers to help re-engineer and re-design the Jungle Cruise ride in all the Disney theme parks around the world.” While it isn't confirmed that the ride will be adapted to accompany the movie, this speculation certainly brought out passionate views from fans about what makes the classic ride so great. While its future developments are up for discussion, it is undeniable that its legendary skippers aren't going to stall in creating memories of fun, laughter, and occasional life-endangering peril for the guests who visit every day.

Richard's artwork and photographs can be seen on his Instagram account @skipper_richard!

Thanks to @shelbyingramphoto for her photograph!

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