The Jungle Cruise Pranks
It's no secret Jungle Cruise skippers have most
fun work environment at Disneyland. Look at all the toys!! You're given a boat
and a microphone and a captive audience... what more could a comic-at-heart
want? On top of that, you have a giant nature preserve with water, hiding
places, and theatrical sets in which you can act out some of the most bizzare
skits ever devised.
With that, I'm hoping to begin a string of
Jungle Cruise pranks... hopefully to be written by current or former skippers,
but also guests who experienced them firsthand. (Yeah, I guess those dweebs down
in WDW can contribute their stories, too. Even though we ARE the original!)
I'm now a retired skipper, so I don't have to
worry about what the "suits" have to say. Heck, the "suits" were once skippers
themselves who taught us our best stuff!!!
So here's my list. I'll admit, I've been a part
of a lot of these... others I saw firsthand or heard from very reliable sources.
(In the order they would appear in the
- Dropping a rubber spider on guests' heads as
they disembark and pass under the boathouse bridge.
- Fishing from the "catwalk" (center dock).
The fishing line usually has a rubber fish or snake attached to it, waiting
for a cast member to pull it up in a moment of glee with the entire boathouse
audience watching.... one time somebody had put a broken "stroller parking"
sign out on the catwalk with a stroller on it.
- Making jars of "baby piranha" to display in
the dispatch office
- Playing chess with a fellow cast member in
the "luggage storage" part of the queue building.
- Playing dead on the infirmary bed upstairs
in the queue building.
- re-routing the queue so the line goes in a
circle, but never to the loading area (only works when there is only a few
people in line)
- Hi-jacking a passing boat by standing on the
rocks outside of Indy and leaping into the boat.
- Sitting on the back of a baby elephant and
riding it like a bucking bronco while screaming to passing boats about this
exciting "Dumbo" ride at Disneyland.
- Intentionally timing the "Squirting
Elephant" to soak yourself or passengers. (There is also a way to manually
activate the "Squirter" on an unsuspecting skipper by hitting the
animatronic's reset button, located inside the large rock where the Elephant
Pool waterfall is (the rock is actually a hollow building!)
- Shooting boats with a maintenance hose that
sits behind the gorilla camp.
- Having fun at the Schweitzer Falls bend.
This actually needs some explaining. Sometimes a skipper will take out an
empty boat to prevent the fleet from backing up and keeping the boats evenly
spaced. This boat is called a "deadhead". When that solo skipper passes
Schweitzer, he'll eventually get an audience when another boat passes in the
other direction. Skippers have been known to dangle their bodies off the edge
of the boat, playing dead, with a spear jammed in their back. Others will sit
indian-style like a monk on top of the boat's smokestack. Sometimes the
"deadhead" skipper gets a prank pulled on HIM. Other skippers will climb on
TOP of Schweitzer falls with a giant bucket of water. As the "deadhead" passes
underneath (the 2nd time past it) the skippers will dump the bucket of water
on the boat from above. Oh yeah, one more "deadhead" story. As a tribute to
Jerry Garcia on the night of his death, the crew sent a unmanned "deadhead"
(obviously because of its coined name) around the river after park closing. A
skipper jumped inside, set the throttle, and leaped back out as the boat
pulled away from the dock. A few skippers even heard the ghost of Jerry out on
that boat, singing to the animals. : )
- Speed Trap. (This is by far my favorite
prank... but, unfortunately, a hand-me-down story from the guys who did it)
After dark, two skippers would take the skiff (a small maintenance boat w/ an
outboard motor) out on to the river and hide around the corner from Schweitzer
Falls. As a Jungle boat would pass by and head towards the Nile Elephants, the
skiff would zoom around the corner behind the boat. The skiff operator would
hold up red-and-white flashing police lights purchased at Radio Shack. He'd
demand the Jungle boat to stop, where then the host skipper was required to do
a field sobriety test. Obviously he'd fail. So the arresting officer would
make the Jungle skipper ride back home in the skiff while that officer would
finish giving the guests their tour.
- The hose behind the gorilla camp could also
be used to shoot from behind the Nile elephants.
- Playing dead in the Lion's den.
- Playing dead beneath the Lost Safari pole,
near the rhino. It was also fun to put a Jungle hat on the hyenas' heads or
the rhino's horn.
- (During breaks, skippers would sometimes
take "safaris". That was a walking/running tour of the jungle. It was like a
real safari because you had to scale a temple (climb over the top of the Indy
queue to start the journey), avoid the HUGE spiders that were imported in to
the jungle along with the tropical trees, hide from passing boats, scurry up
the hill the African Veldt and then climb down a rope towards the railroad
tracks, hide from passing trains, and make it back to the dock in 15 min.
without getting caught.
- Speaking of the Indy temple, Jungle CM's
have been known to hide out on top of the long queue corridor where there are
openings in the ceiling (usually with rope ladders draped through them).
They'd yell down to guests waiting in line "Do you have any Grey Poupon?" or
"Throw me the idol, and I'll throw you the whip!"
- Not really a prank, but my favorite
off-color Jungle joke. As skippers would pass the Lion's Den at night, they'd
point their light at the baby lion and say "Awww, look...it's SIMBA!!!!" The
crowd would go "awwww", too. Then as the skipper later passed the Native
Village, he'd point the light at the dead lion hanging upside-down over the
fire pit. "Look, it's Simba again!!!!" Always a moan after that!
- Nearly every skipper has danced with the
natives, usually wearing only boxer shorts.
- Putting hats on the natives.
- Some skippers would do the spiel about the
attacking natives and then yell to the animatronics "Hey guys, I said throw
the spears! Next time you better do it, OK? Now get down in the bushes and
hide again... I'll be back later!" At that moment the animatronics appeared to
crouch down and hide in the bushes as he commanded... a result of the computer
resetting itself for the next boat.
- Wow, we're at the end of the trip and I
can't think of any others. Oh yeah. One more. Inside the dispatch office are
the on/off switches for all the animation, lights, and sound inside the
Jungle. Sometimes when a skipper was taking the last boatload of the night and
he was the only boat still on the river, other skippers would "turn off" the
Jungle. That left the piloting skipper with dead silence, no moving animals,
and no lights to see anything. Even worse, sometimes the cast members at the
dock would get on the all-Jungle PA system and taunt the skipper by saying
"Good night, Rob".
Those brought back some great memories - as we
used to say "and they're paying us for this?". I think every summer crew had
their version of the Speed Trap. Here were some other favorites that used to
happen one summer long ago...
- The Shootout - a couple of skippers take a
couple of guns into the jungle and stage shootouts at the African veldt (a la
the Great Movie Ride) with one person on both sides of the boat shooting and
the skipper returning fire and pleading for the guests to get down - at night
it was especially great with the muzzle blasts (used weak blanks otherwise the
whole park thinks the ride is down)
- The Rookie - during a new person's first
trip a "special" load would be filled with about 4-5X as much powder nearly
blowing the gun out of their shaking hand.
- On the last day on the job, skippers would
either bathe in a swimsuit with the elephant in the "shower" in the bathing
pool or dive off the Columbia (very dangerous and very stupid, but they did it
All of this Jungle Cruise talk reminds me of
the infamous incident a while back where the skipper was arrested for taking a
swim in the river on his last day of work. From what I heard, it was a last-day
tradition. Did the arrest put an end to that tradition?
My two most memorable Jungle Cruise "skipper
- Early Sunday morning, skipper has a card
table and chair set up next to the "safari up a pole" group, reading the
morning L.A. Times with his coffee and breakfast. Don't know how long it
lasted before security nabbed him. This happened in the late '70's.
- George "the Monk," before leaving to tour
with Beatlemania in '80, pulled the best one I know of so far. Traveled out in
another skipper's boat, pretended to go "mad" at some point near the hippos,
dove off the front of the boat into the water, then reappeared inside
one of the hippo's mouths when it surfaced to be "shot." Needless to say,
George earned the ultimate "no rehire" for that one. (Now if only I could
remember his last name!)
- who really misses George's spiels, and wonders if the end-of-summer "Banana
Ball" is still a time-honored JC-hosted tradition
Or the skipper we saw dancing with the
natives (celebrating their lion kill) on his last day a few years ago. After
their dealing with a summer full of tourists, I can sympathize with them.
Patrick Olguin adds:
- Skipper Bo, had a crew of rowdy Hispanic
kids, so he decided to teach them a lesson and let the elephant squirt them.
He turned the lights out, just as the elephant surfaced. When the right side
of the boat got soaked, he remarked, "Well, I guess we've got a lot of wet
backs on board now." [note I'm Hispanic, and I think that one is
exceedingly funny, and true. Bo Burnett was the skipper's name. -Pat]
- Rookies were sometimes told that if they
accelerated fast enough, they could beat the squirting elephant. Of course
they couldn't, and the guests would get wet, much to the skipper's
- One year, there were at least a half dozen
skippers named Doug, so rookies were told that, "Hi, I'm Doug, and I'll be
your skipper...." was a required part of the spiel. They were also told they
must turn in their name tags for a "Doug" name tag, if they worked JC nights.
This went on for about two summers.
My own observation on July 17, 1997
A maintenance cast member stood along the
rope along the Indy exit queue, shined a light in his face, and imitated the
Richard L. Lawton, M.D. who was a lead and r.o. on the Jungle Cruise from
- On his last day, a skipper spent his break
emptying a few gallons of industrial soap into the base of the falls in the
elephant pool. A huge mound of soap bubbles quickly developed such that it
began interfering with show. Finally, a boat rounded the turn after Ganesha
and ran into a 7-foot wall of suds. Crazy. Needless to say, the ride went 101.
Skippers stood around on the dock trying to
look busy during the breakdown and trying not to giggle. Eventually, one
foolishly admitted that he knew who did it, and was taken upstairs and
interrogated until he sang like the stool pigeon he was. The culprit has force
to pay roughly $1300 for the cleanup and downtime. Ouchy-mama!
- On the last day of a skipper who was not
well liked, the lead and other cast members really played up this guys' last
trip...I mean really created a lot of anticipation as it inevitably
approached. As he ceremoniously set off with his last full boat, the lead
positioned on cast member at the front switch and another at the Dominguez
switch. When his boat was about to emerge from the jungle, returning from his
last, highly celebrated trip, the lead gave the signal, both switches were
thrown to 'storage', and the startled skipper and cheering crew veered sharply
to port, bypassing both the unload and load docks on their way back out into
the jungle for another 'last' trip. The skipper was pissed (he realized he'd
been the victim of a diabolical plot conceived very early in the day), but the
other cast members and the crew laughed pretty hard.
- On his last day, a skipper snuck out into
the jungle, disrobed, and mounted the 2nd Africa bull elephant
("mother-in-law"). As full boats passed, he whooped and hollered like he was
riding a bucking bronc. The guests didn't know quite what to think, and the
skippers reactions were mixed (new guys tried to divert attention away from
the guy while the old timers really played it up).
- I heard that in the early 70's (when
supervision didn't have a huge hook up their asses), skippers strategically
fixed ropes to trees in the jungle that allowed them to swing across the river
in front of boats. This practice came to a halt after one guy began his swing
in front of a boat, but didn't have enough momentum to carry him completely
across, so he swung back smack into the side of the boat. He had to drop into
the river to get out.
- Larry Kaml got arrested for honoring the
long-lived tradition of jumping into the river on his last day. He had worked
at the park (most of it on Jungle as a lead) for more than 10 years at the
time of his arrest.
- Before that restaurant had an Aladdin theme
[Aladdin's Oasis --Y], it was, of course, the Tahitian Terrace,
featuring Polynesian food and nightly dancers and authentic drummers. Skippers
who used the rocks to travel between storage and the dock were often made fun
of by other skippers with crews as they pulled into the unload station.
Occasionally, a Tahitian Terrace performer
would be also lightly roasted by skippers as they used the rocks as well.
Anyway, that all came to a screeching halt one day when a skipper used his
usual jokes on a particularly large Samoan drummer. "Over here on the right
folks is a member of the species, African Black-Footed Rocker Hopper..yadda
yadda...its lack of intelligence noted by his sloping forehead and protruding
buttock...". Again, this was standard fare. Anyway, this Samoan took
offense, followed the boat back to the dock, waited for completion of
unloading, then called the skipper to get out of the boat so he could fight.
When the skipper refused, the drummer entered the boat and had to be separated
from the skippers pals from unload. Crazy! From that point on, skippers were
not allowed to make any comments about the Tahitian Terrace performers.