Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” will not only look familiar to fans of the Disneyland ride, but it’ll also echo some of the most beloved adventure movies to date.
That’s what was teased at the D23 Expo on Saturday by the film’s stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, who rolled into the morning presentation at the Anaheim Convention Center on a decorated riverboat and classic car.
The two actors — who starred separately in the previous Disney releases “Moana” and “Mary Poppins Returns,” respectively — said that their upcoming movie has the signature mixture of action, romance and comedy seen in such films as the 1951 Humphrey Bogart-Katharine Hepburn classic “The African Queen,” the 1984 film “Romancing the Stone” with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, and the “Indiana Jones” films — especially the relationship between Harrison Ford and Karen Allen‘s characters in 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
“We were just so moved, so honored to be in a movie like this because we both grew up just madly in love with ‘Indiana Jones’ and obsessed with those kinds of movies,” Blunt said. “To be part of something like this, with this same spirit, makes my heart race.”
“We wanted to make a movie that was big, that was epic, that had romance, big comedy, big action,” said Johnson. But most important, he joked, “it’s got me.”
The studio then unveiled two versions of a trailer: one introducing Johnson’s cruise skipper Frank, who is caught in a financial bind; another that focuses on Blunt’s explorer Lily, who pays Frank to take her on a dangerous expedition. In both promo reels, they’re initially butting heads, trading insults and pulling off a slew of stunts, but then join together to face off against a mysterious snake-covered entity.
The film nods to the beloved Disney parks attraction pretty heavily. The footage kicked off with Johnson’s Frank taking a crowd of lavish tourists for a ride, occasionally scaring them with a number of fake threats (he’s shown thanking a number of spear-wielding “natives” with a nod). The ride’s famed “backside of water” joke is shown, but it’s actually just a Rube Goldberg contraption that sends water soaring over the boat.
“We also are keenly aware of the responsibility we have for such a beloved property, and that is Jungle Cruise the ride,” said Johnson onstage. “We are aware of how important this ride is to everyone in this room, generations, everyone around the world.”
Johnson added that they have a special duty to make a particular someone proud. “When the park opened in 1955, Walt Disney had one baby, and that baby was Jungle Cruise,” he said of the ride. “He was the very first Jungle Cruise skipper. So we are so honored to bring this movie to life on behalf of Disney, on behalf of Walt Disney himself, and to deliver it to you guys here and everywhere around the world.”
The live-action portion of the studio’s D23 presentation also included in-depth looks at October’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” with Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer and Chiwetel Ejiofor, a brief preview of 2021’s “Cruella” — currently in production with Emma Stone starring in the origin story of the iconic “101 Dalmatians” villain — and an exclusive screening of footage from 2020’s “Mulan.”
“Her journey from village girl to male soldier to warrior to hero, I think, represents all of us,” said “Mulan” director Niki Caro. “This story is as relevant and inspiring as it was when it was written over 1,500 years ago. ... I’m excited for people to experience her story in a very real, visceral and emotional way.”
Disney also shared the release date for the “Black Panther” sequel, a first look at the saga-ending “Star Wars” movie “The Rise of Skywalker,” introductions to Pixar titles “Soul” and “Onward,” and sneak peeks of animated movies “Raya and the Last Dragon” and “Frozen 2.”