Dwayne Johnson is re-teaming with Disney for Jungle Cruise, with filming on the project now set to begin in 2018. With a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Dead Men Tell No Tales setting sail this May, it’s often easy to forget that franchise originated with the popular theme park attraction of the same name. Disney’s park-based productions for TV and theatrical release to date have included Tower of Terror, The Haunted Mansion, The Country Bear Jamboree, and the hodgepodge of ideas and explorations that was 2015’s Tomorrowland.
Disney first tapped Johnson to star in a Jungle Cruise movie back in 2015, but the project hasn’t made too much forward progress since then. Now, the original 62 year old Disneyland attraction Jungle Cruise is officially gearing up to make the jump to the big screen, with a film adaptation that has franchise potential.
As reported by THR, Johnson is officially set to headline Jungle Cruise and will also be producing, alongside his Seven Bucks Entertainment co-CEO Dany Garcia. The pair previously re-imagined the upcoming Baywatch reboot, as well as another jungle adventure in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, for The Rock. Jungle Cruise is now planned to start filming in the spring of 2018. A director has yet to be attached, but the search is underway.
The Rock has an extremely packed schedule that includes this spring’s start of production on Rampage – an adaptation of the popular creature-centric video game – and Skyscraper, another high-concept adventure that starts shooting in China in the fall/winter, before the actor sets to work on Jungle Cruise. In between, Johnson’s star-status should continue to rise; with The Fate of the Furious hitting theaters next week, followed by Baywatch at the end of May and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle aiming to strike gold when it hits theaters this December.
This is not Disney’s first attempt at a Jungle Cruise movie. Back in 2011, the studio was developing a Jungle Cruise film starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, with Shrek co-writer Roger S.H. Schulman handling the script (one reportedly set in modern times). The Dwayne Johnson-led Jungle Cruise is being written by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (Bad Santa, Focus) and takes place in the same 1920s time period as the Jungle Cruise ride – which transports guests through the Nile, Congo and Amazon Rivers.
With its beloved, scripted puns and slightly nostalgic audio-animatromic creatures, the Jungle Cruise attraction has remained a popular ride at Disney’s theme parks, including the Adventureland original in Anaheim, California. Guests are still treated to rhinos, piranhas, hippos and headhunters, arguably with an ounce of cultural indifference. Ironically, one of the original inspirations for Disney’s attraction was a movie itself – The African Queen. The film was frequently mentioned by imagineer Harper Goff during the ride’s development, with the ride themselves based on the titular steamer that transported Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in the 1951 classic.
Could Disney have another hit franchise in Jungle Cruise? The casting of Johnson is a solid start, and the attraction sources a great combination of comedy and action that has kept Pirates plundering. It helps that the storyline has an escapist element, in another place and time, that’s also been essential to the success of the Pirates films. Not to be forgotten, there’s a built-in audience that’s kept the original attraction sailing down its man-made rivers. From the “Temple of the Forbidden Eye” to the Schweitzer Falls (home of “the back side of water”), there’s a lot to explore.
We will bring you more information on Jungle Cruise as it becomes available.