New Disney adventure Jungle Cruise follows in the footsteps of Pirates of the Caribbean to create a film franchise from a theme park ride, with the Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt-starring fantasy movie based largely on the popular ‘Jungle Cruise’ ride familiar to many Disneyland visitors.
However, fans have also noticed a connection to a slightly more rarified source – 1951’s Humphrey Bogart/Katherine Hepburn classic The African Queen, which similarly saw a rough-and-ready skipper take a brother and sister duo on a dangerous steamer journey during the First World War while dodging German soldiers. Dwayne Johnson’s Frank even dresses a bit like Bogart’s Charlie!
And the similarities are no coincidence. According Johnson himself The African Queen was a big inspiration on the film, for one simple reason – the original theme park ride this film was based on was heavily inspired by the older movie.
In other words, The African Queen was totally tangled up in Jungle Cruise’s DNA from the start, and the filmmakers couldn’t help but return to that source for some more inspiration (alongside many other movies).
“Here’s a little context for you… Jungle Cruise was Walt Disney’s baby,” Johnson told Radio Times.
“The ride has been around since 1955, which is when Disneyland first opened. It was Walt’s way of bringing a safari to people in the States; people who couldn’t necessarily go overseas or travel. I’ve been on the ride many times and it’s an incredible honour to bring it to life in this way.
“We also pulled inspiration from movies like The African Queen, Romancing the Stone and the Indiana Jones series, so you know you’re in for some fun.”
Of course, the similarities can be overstated. While like The African Queen, Jungle Cruise is set during the early years of the First World War and sees German soldiers function as a primary adversary during a riverboat quest, it’s set on a completely different continent (South America) and has a fantastical story that’s more about finding magic flowers and dodging undead conquistadors than avenging murdered villagers.
It’s also worth noting that the brother in The African Queen (played by Robert Morley) doesn’t feature for a large part of the film, whereas Jack Whitehall’s McGregor is a key character throughout Jungle Cruise. And as far as I can remember, there were no magic bees in the older film.
Still, it’s hard to argue that there’s shared imagery – German vessels destroyed in exotic rivers, deadly rapids, bickering romance, treacherous locales and doomed semi-colonial quests – that could lead some Jungle Cruise viewers to seek out the 1955 classic.
One person, at least, seems certain that no-one could mistake it for a remake or reboot – Bogart’s son Stephen, now a Hollywood composer.
“The Rock is fine,” he told EW. “He’s got a great personality. He seems like a very good person. I think he works hard; he cares about it, and I’ll go see the movie. It’ll be fun. But I never thought of it as a continuation, nor do I think Dwayne Johnson is trying to be Humphrey Bogart, that’d be tough.”
“I don’t want to disparage [anyone],” he added, noting the earlier film’s long shelf life. “But 70 years later, they probably won’t be doing a re-release of Jungle Cruise.”
Though given Disney’s history of re-packaging or remaking their older movies, we probably shouldn’t rule anything out…