Jungle Cruise 1955
How Could I Have Missed This? 
Todd James Pierce
The three artists most responsible for the 1955 version of the Jungle Cruise were Chris Mueller (the man who sculpted the animals), Bob Mattey (an effects man who made the animals move), and Harper Goff (the art director who oversaw the entire attraction).  Only once before had all three men worked together.  The previous year, in 1954, they were working on Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.   Not surprisingly, on the film, they performed similar tasks.  Chris Mueller sculpted the squid and other props; Bob Mattey brought the squid to life using vacuum hoses, a small motor, and reels of piano wire; and Harper Goff art directed the world of Nemo into existence.  There is one odd story about how the squid scene from 20,000 Leagues almost ended up in either the Jungle Cruise or in a second (unbuilt) boat ride similar to the Jungle Cruise.
from 20,000 Leagues
“Walt wanted to use the squid in [an early version of the Jungle Cruise],” Harper Goff related in an interview, “in real water, with fish swimming around it, but the wires that pulled the tentacles would have been hard to hide.”
Jungle Cruise 1958
Now, it might be easy to dismiss this story as a fanciful idea Walt briefly floated with one member of his WED design team, except this same story shows up in another interview, this time with Bill Evans, the man who landscaped Disneyland: “Walt wanted to use the squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but it was in bad condition and the wires that pulled the tentacles would have been hard to hide…[and so] we began to think of hippos and other animals which could be operated without wires and still have animated elements.”

from 20,000 Leagues
Of course the squid from 20,000 Leagues never showed up as part of the Jungle Cruise, nor did any other element from the movie.  Or so I thought, until last month, when I viewed the film for the first time in 10 years.  I was watching it with my kids, both of whom had never seen it, when, roughly halfway through the film, Ned Land (Kirk Douglas) wandered off into a Caribbean island, only to find a group of hostile cannibals.  And then, rather suddenly, the scene looked very familiar.  I’d seen these cannibals someplace else.  I’d seen them on the Jungle Cruise.
In the movie, Ned Land becomes aware of the cannibals’ presence when he sees human skulls placed on stakes.  Ditto for guests on the Jungle Cruise.
In the movie, the cannibal sequence is underscored by tribal drum rhythms.  Ditto for guests on the Jungle Cruise.
Jungle Cruise 1955
In the movie, some of the cannibals wear elaborate headdresses made presumably from feathers.  They carry hand spears and hoist oval shields that have been narrowed to a point on two ends.  On their arms, strips of cloth or animal skin banded at their biceps.  Ditto.  Ditto.  Ditto.
Now I’m not claiming that the cannibals on the Jungle Cruise are intended to be the cannibals from the movie.  They aren’t, of course, as the two cannibal tribes are presumably from different parts of the world.  In fact, as I poked around, the only thing I can confirm is that Chris Mueller sculpted both the spearheads used by the cannibals in the film and also those surprisingly similar spearheads used by the cannibals on the ride.  But it seems clear, at least to me, that design elements from the cannibal scene in 20,000 Leagues were still so fresh in the collective imagination of Goff, Mueller, and Mattey that they appear to have been—pardon the pun—cannibalized into the ride.
So what do you think?  Is there any real overlap between the cannibals in the film and the cannibals on the ride?  Or is my imagination simply in overdrive?  Post your observations below.
As usual, today’s post is filled with new, never-before-published photos of the park.
There will be no post next Monday.  But come back in two weeks.  No guarantees, but hopefully I’ll have a short video containing footage of a 1958 Disneyland stunt show–a show that few people have ever seen.

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