Who’s ready for an adventure?
In Disney’s Jungle Cruise, Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt take the helm for a rip-roaring river adventure that goes beyond the banks of a Brazilian port town and into the heart of the Amazon to unearth secrets borne of ancient myth and legend. If that doesn’t get you excited, perhaps our report from the Hawaii-based set of the soon-to-open movie will. We’ve got interviews with the leads, as well as supporting characters played by Jack Whitehall and Paul Giamatti coming your way this week, but to get you all comfy-cozy for your river cruise, we’ve put all the highlights together in one convenient location for you before the movie opens in theaters and Disney+ Premier Access on July 30th.
Check out the official synopsis to get acquainted, and then dive in to 15 Things to Know about Disney’s Jungle Cruise:
Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” is an adventure-filled, rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila—his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities—possessing the power to change the future of medicine. Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate—and mankind’s—hangs in the balance.
- Jungle Cruise takes inspiration from the famous Disney Parks’ attraction in the same way that Pirates of the Caribbean did, and Disney is hoping for the same level of success with this potentially franchise-launching first movie.
- Part world-tripping adventure, part action-packed quest for the truth behind ancient secrets and legends, Jungle Cruise really starts steaming once Johnson’s rough-and-tumble skipper Frank Wolff and Blunt’s progressive and independent explorer Lily Houghton meet up in a Brazilian port town.
- The core of the narrative here is definitely the adventure along the Amazon river (and beyond) but the heart of the story is the relationship between the leads.
- Romancing the Stone, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The African Queen were often cited as inspiration for Jungle Cruise.
- Complicating Wolff and Houghton’s journey into the unknown is the local businessman Nilo (Paul Giamatti) who wants to run Wolff out of business to control everything in the town, as well as the more worldly antagonist Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), who is as well-connected as he is devious and deceitful.
- Wolff and Houghton aren’t alone in their journey; they’ll have the somewhat stuffy but charming McGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall), Lily’s brother, by their side, along with some unexpected allies.
- McGregor, a very proper British gentleman, has quite the wardrobe in this movie. Whitehall has somewhere on the order of 10 costume changes, which is more befitting a leading lady in classic Hollywood productions than a supporting male character. (He had a team tasked with following him around to keep his all-white three-piece suit crisp and clean in between takes on the muddy jungle set.) Jungle Cruise plays this up quite comedically, especially when McGregor and Wolff first meet aboard the skipper’s rickety steamer ship, La Quila. As Whitehall himself said of the character, “McGregor might just be the worst person that you could have in this environment.”
- McGregor also acts as the voice of reason, a counterpoint to his headstrong sister Lily.
- Whitehall’s mother, Hilary Gish, read lines with him for his audition tape, playing the part of both Blunt and Johnson’s characters. We’re told the footage of this exists somewhere, but we have yet to see it (and would love to.) Meanwhile, Whitehall and his father Michael can be seen together in Netflix’s Travels With My Father.
- During our set visit, Whitehall had to act opposite an actor in a leotard performing as a jaguar which was terrorizing the tavern. Whitehall has worked opposite real animals before, such as some rather rude horses in The Nutcracker, but on this occasion he remarked, “It’s so good that this is not a real jaguar.”
- The early villain of the piece, Nilo, is a well-appointed but severely sunburned businessman, played with plenty of personality by Giamatti, who had quite a bit of latitude when it came to shaping his character.
- The “really wacky” script, as Giamatti said, called for Nilo to have an animal friend in the movie. Originally this was intended to be a monkey, which can be found throughout the port town’s market, but eventually they went with a cockatoo named Lover — named Rosita in the film itself — for the final shoot. Giamatti’s rapport with Lover ended up getting the bird more time in the spotlight and even a few more lines in the script.
- While Nilo will antagonize our heroes in the first section of the movie, he’s not the Big Bad of Jungle Cruise. Knowing that, Giamatti wanted to make him a little goofier, a little funnier, and a little more cartoonish.
- Johnson in particular did a lot of research into the iconic ride for this movie, including spending time with the Imagineers in the Disney Vault. He and the whole team are quite proud of the movie, especially since the adventure ride was so important to Walt Disney, who was the attraction’s first skipper when Walt Disney World first opened.
- Roughly the first half hour of Jungle Cruise takes place on the Hawaii-based stand-in set for the Brazilian port town, where our set visit took place. The hotel, the market, the tavern, and all the boats and boathouses along the docks were practical creations for the set, and they’re all phenomenal. If they had been left standing, they would have been quite the adventurous attraction for tourists to explore. Sadly, these sets were dismantled when the production moved to Atlanta in order to explore more of the magic and mythology (and “Adventureland” Easter eggs) that can be found in the remainder of Jungle Cruise.
Jungle Cruise opens in theaters and Disney+ Premier Access on July 30th.
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