It’s a Jungle Out There: The History of Jungle Cruise Horticulture

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Since the day Disneyland park opened, the Jungle Cruise has been one of its most popular attractions. As you cruise the rivers of the world, you’re surrounded by fascinating animal life and a lush jungle of exotic trees, plants and flowers – a unique ecosystem that has its own storied past.
Bill Evans Surveys Construction at Jungle Cruise
When building the Jungle Cruise, Walt Disney turned to Imagineer and horticulturist Bill Evans to create the landscape. Rather than create a true-to-life jungle though, Bill’s goal was to develop a “Hollywood Jungle,” a mixture of exotic plants and trees that would give the feeling of traveling through exciting and uncharted territories. To create his Hollywood Jungle here in Anaheim, Bill developed some intrepid techniques, like smuggling plant seeds inside the cuffs of his socks and planting orange trees upside down to resemble mangroves.

Bill also worked with the site’s existing horticulture when designing the Jungle Cruise. Originally planned for the east side of Disneyland park (where Tomorrowland would be built), Adventureland was moved to the west side of Main Street, U.S.A., to incorporate the large eucalyptus trees planted there by the orange farmers who previously owned the land. Planted to function as a windbreak for the orange groves, these trees made the perfect visual barrier, hiding all the mysteries that lay within the Jungle Cruise.
Jungle Cruise, 1955
Through the years, the tall trees engulfing the Jungle Cruise have created a lush canopy that regulates the temperature inside this Hollywood Jungle, allowing plants that you won’t find anywhere else in Southern California to thrive right here in Disneyland park.

If you want to learn more about the horticulture of the Jungle Cruise, as well as other areas of Disneyland park, check out the Cultivating the Magic Guided Tour, where you will discover how horticulture is used to help tell stories and helped achieve Walt Disney’s vision for his original Magic Kingdom.


  • Loved this article & the wonderful pictures.
    We recently saw a tree we’ve been trying to identify at the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House & several years ago in the Animal Kingdom, I believe. Very large tree with huge chunks of a cottony-looking flower/fruit. Can you help with the identity of these amazing tree?

  • This really is a classic ride. I like the old truck in the picture too ! 🙂

  • Ever since I first experienced The Jungle Cruise last year, it has become one of my favorite rides at Disneyland. The entire experience is excellent and the bad puns are just pun-ny! Definitely a must on any visit to the Happiest Place on Earth!

  • Bill Evans was a true miracle worker with Landscaping and especially on his first Jungle Cruise. He once told me how to reactivate my old plum tree which had not barren fruit. He said to give it some special attention and take a baseball bat and tap around the bark at the base and reawaken its capillaries or waterways under the bark and water often. I placed some old iron wheels at the base which washed with sprinklers the iron into it’s roots. It worked and I brought him some fruit off it. I think he used to have a drink at lunch of lemon aide with coke in it or something like that. His assistant’s should remember. It was good.

  • the Backside of Water looks great in that picture 🙂

  • The Jungle Cruise is, I think, one of the most “magical” rides in Disneyland. It’s not a showstopping E-ticket or a breakneck thrill ride, but it does have such a rich atmosphere. The boat putters away from the dock and everything else in the world melts away. For a few minutes you’re enveloped in this verdant, humid, exotic adventure of imagination. I wouldn’t put it on a conscious list of favourite Disneyland rides, but I don’t think I would even bother going on a trip there if it was down for refurbishment. It wouldn’t be Disneyland without the Jungle Cruise.

  • My parents loved Jungle Cruise in the 60s, I loved it as a kid in the 80s, and my kids love it now. Shoot … we all love it now! The jokes and all, it has timeless charm. We had an awesome vacation this past summer (three generations) and the Jungle Cruise was a highlight for all of us – ages 3 to 68 🙂

  • Such a great informative story about one of mine and Walt Disney’s favorite attractions. I’m definately going to book the tour on my next visit to the Disneyland Resort.

  • I still enjoy this attraction…bad puns and all! It’s really fun at night, too!

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