Jesse Plemons of Friday Night Lights and ‘Hey, it’s that guy who’s not Matt Damon’ fame is set to join Disney’s The Jungle Cruise. Based on the famous ride at various Disney parks, the movie will also star Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez and *ugh* Jack Whitehall. According to the Variety story, Plemons will play a villain. Jaume Collet-Serra will direct. Apparently he chose this project over Suicide Squad 2. Make your own jokes.
The Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland & other Disney parks is… Well, it’s super cheesy and very much of its time. If you’re riding it with a Disney Cast Member who doesn’t give a crap and is ad-libbing for their life, it can be pretty fun. Weird Al Yankovic turned the existential crisis of this predicament into one of his best original songs, Skipper Dan.
Okay, so here’s the thing. Yes, it still seems like a really daft idea to make a movie out of a theme park ride. Aside from Pirates of the Caribbean, this isn’t an area that Disney have a great track record in: There was The Country Bears, which turned the Country Bear Jamboree into Almost Famous but with possessed-looking animatronic bears and had Christopher Walken play the villain; there’s a TV movie of Tower of Terror starring baby Kirsten Dunst and Steve Guttenberg; The Haunted Mansion is best left forgotten; Brad Bird tried his darndest with Tomorrowland, but that flopped spectacularly. So, Disney’s batting average isn’t great here.
Why do it then? Other than strengthening your brand and good old-fashioned corporate synergy?
What is especially fascinating about this theme park movie trend is that it’s something only Disney does, partly because it’s something literally only they can do. No other studio in the world options theme park properties. No other studio makes original theme park properties that can be optioned in this way (the stuff at Universal Studios is either already based on movies or licensed from other studios). Only Disney have the decades of history that allow for this. Remember, Pirates of the Caribbean was a big deal when it opened in the ’60s. It was in Life Magazine! It’s a cultural marker in such a unique and specific way. This is a form of adaptation that’s both post-literary - i.e. not based on a literary source - and post-narrative - i.e. not based on a story or property with a linear narrative. In that regard, this stuff is totally worth discussing.
Well, that and I did a presentation on this for my Master’s degree and just wanted to use that information in a useful manner. I got an A, by the way.
Please enjoy this photo of Plemons and Kirsten Dunst. Plemons is ready for the Dad Life.
(Photographs from Getty Images).