After a long break in their ride-to-film adaptations, Disney returns to the genre with “Jungle Cruise,” inspired by one of the original Disneyland attractions. Prior to the film’s Friday release, the main cast members gathered for a discussion at Disneyland following the premiere. The panel included Dwayne Johnson (Frank Wolff), Emily Blunt (Dr. Lilly Houghton), Jack Whitehall (MacGregor Houghton) and Edgar Ramirez (Aguirre).
The cast discussed how they came to the project and what makes it work.
Johnson: Well, the script was in a really good place, and I immediately just saw the potential of the opportunity. And that opportunity was to take a beloved and iconic Disney ride since 1955 when the park opened. This was Walt Disney’s baby. And there were a lot of elements that I felt comfortable with saying yes, I will come on board, I’ll partner with you guys, and we will develop this thing. And we got it to a really great place. And and again, to bring it back around to Emily, the next step after Jaume [Collet-Serra], finding our director, was finding my co-star. The female Indiana Jones over here.
Blunt: It has been immensely rewarding. Tonally, we just needed to strike a chord that was really well-crafted, and that we curated with so much love. And was made in the spirit of the films that we all grew up watching. And just, I mainline those movies into my veins. I just loved Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone, African Queen. Like, they are just joy bombs, and they’re nostalgic, and I think we just needed to pierce people’s hearts directly with the spirit of those films that we all loved as children…. And we said, “Well, what do you feel this movie’s about?” And I always ask a filmmaker that before I’m about to sign on, because I want to know what the show’s about, what the movie’s about. And he goes, “You know, it’s about love.” And it was so perfect, because you could’ve talked about all the action, the spectacle… and the myths and the legends and all that. But that’s when I knew in Jaume we had an innate romantic and a world builder, and that’s what you need for this type of movie.
Ramirez: What I love about the movie in general is that it has so many beautiful and great characters that allow you to be on a journey. And what I love about the Conquistadors, andAguirre specifically, is that it really puts you in a journey into the past. And that is beautiful. You know? It’s like you have all [these] fantastical elements, and that’s what I go to the movies for. I want to be on a journey. I want to be disconnected… from reality. And be able to dream of fantastical places and fantastical characters and-and creatures. So I’m very happy. And the fact that I’m [from] Latin America and this is such a diverse cast, and we have people from, you know, all over the world.
Whitehall: I mean, there was a fair amount of improv. The script was amazing, but then also, we were given the space to kind of improvise and add stuff to it, and these two created this environment where we were able to do that and it felt like such a safe space. And you know, there were probably a few jokes that ended up on the cutting room floor for the right reasons. Some of the great moments that you see in the film are genuine moments that we sort of came up with in the moment, and Jaume was so good at encouraging that as well.
They also addressed if the film matched their imagination from the Jungle Cruise attraction.
Blunt: I only rode the Jungle Cruise ride two days ago at the premiere for the first time. I loved it. I thought it was very whimsical and sweet. And I could see the elements from the ride that have made it into the film.
Johnson: I think the movie is so much more than what I expected. The charm of the ride is the simplicity of it and the education of it as well. And the silliness of it. And the calmness of it too. You know, you go in the park and there’s so much to do in the Disney parks. Then you get on this ride and it’s almost like you can exhale and really just enjoy the simplicity of the ride. But our movie is anything but… simple. You know… With all the elements that we have. So I think we delivered.
“Jungle Cruise” is in theaters and on Disney+ with Premiere Access on Friday July 30.