Disney Tells Jungle Cruise Jokers to Take a Ride

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Disneyland's famed Jungle Cruise has hit rough seas, and several of the ride's "skippers" have lost their jobs for veering from the company's official script and telling their own jokes to park guests.

At least eight workers on the maritime attraction have been fired over the last few months after a "crackdown" by Disneyland on the unauthorized jokes, said Chad Gordon, who lost his job in August after refusing to stick with the script.

"I feel hurt because what we were doing made people laugh and brought smiles to their faces," said Gordon, 26, of Long Beach. "I think the rules are unreasonable, especially if you consider I've been telling these jokes since 1988."

A Disneyland spokeswoman declined to respond to the charges Saturday but did release a brief statement.

"Disneyland does not make statements on personnel issues," the park said. "However, our philosophy is that Disneyland is very much a theatrical house or stage, which means we view our park as having both onstage and backstage presence.

"We entertain our guests with quality family entertainment and put on performances every day," the statement continued. "Our goal is to deliver a consistent quality show daily."

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The Jungle Cruise transports park visitors on a seven-minute journey through a winding river complete with wild animals, noisy pistols and wisecracking "skippers" who fire off jokes and casual banter.

Disney's script calls for the skippers to read their lines at seven spots during the ride. But over the years, Gordon said, he and other employees created their own lines that were more contemporary--and, they insist, more humorous.

"Disney's jokes were kind of passe," Gordon said. "People would hear them and say, 'OK, that's not really funny.' "

During one part of the trip, for example, the Jungle Cruise comes across a fake elephant that sprays the ferry with water. Disney's script calls for the skipper to say: "Look out there on the right! It looks like one of the elephants wants to give us a shower."

Gordon's alternative: "Hey, it's Rush Limbaugh," referring to the popular conservative radio host. "Hey, Rush, don't squirt us, I have Republicans on board."

In another part of the ride, Gordon tells passengers: "We're out of here faster than two L.A. football teams."

Gordon said Disneyland managers objected to his routine in part because it included modern references, while the ride is supposed to have a 1938 theme.

"People loved our jokes," he added. "I've never heard any complaints from the guests."

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