‘Jungle Cruise’: How Disney Turned a Theme Park Ride Into a $200 Million Blockbuster

Disney’s latest film, Jungle Cruise, is one of the most anticipated of the year. Based on the Disneyland ride of the same name, the film stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt and required a massive $200 million budget to complete.

Now that the film is here, there are dozens of questions about how Disney’s theme park ride was brought to life. 

a sign for the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland
Jungle Cruise in Adventureland at Disneyland in Anaheim, California | Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

The ‘Jungle Cruise’ set was designed to look exactly like the theme park ride

After Disney executives greenlit the development of Jungle Cruise, producers decided to select Hawaii as the movie’s filming location. On the island of Kauai, set designers worked tirelessly for months to create backdrops that looked exactly like the Disney ride. 

“We had heard that the set was spectacular for months as they were building it,” Johnson told Entertainment Tonight. “But when we finally stepped on set — we stepped on set together — we were just blown away. Very inspired. Had goosebumps.”

Disney executives saw huge potential with ‘Jungle Cruise’ after the success of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ 

Even though Jungle Cruise came out recently, Disney had been trying to make the film for decades. Other attempts to turn rides into films hadn’t always been successful, but Disney executives saw enormous potential with the Jungle Cruise ride. 

“When you heard Pirates of the Caribbean was being made into a feature, you really didn’t understand it. And then we saw that trailer and it blew our minds,” producer Beau Flynn said. “Jungle Cruise had that same feel when we read it.”

‘Jungle Cruise’ writers used jokes from the ride for the script 

When the time came to draft a script, the movie’s writers relied on the corny puns that can be heard throughout the real-life ride experience. 

“We’ve had such a fun time writing those. Dwayne has really jumped into that and connected with tons of skippers that have been a part of the Disney ride,” Johnson’s production partner, Hiram Garcia, said. “We have a bunch of Easter eggs that we’re going to spread out all throughout.”

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt have perfect chemistry for the movie 


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Choosing the right cast for a film can be tricky, but Jungle Cruise’s choices appear to be just right. After Johnson was brought on he personally reached out to Blunt, lobbying for her to join. His persistence paid off greatly, as everyone involved with the film claims the two make the perfect on-screen pair. 

“The energy and chemistry that they have in this throwback way — knock on wood — you can feel we’re doing something special,” Garcia said. “They’ve become best of friends. You would think that they’ve known each other forever, and the way they bust each other’s chops, you for sure would think that they’ve known each other forever. There’s something really special.”

Based on the hype surrounding Jungle Cruise, it seems like Disney has plans to turn the movie into a film franchise with several sequels. Jungle Cruise is now playing in theaters everywhere.