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Jungle Cruise, the big-budget adventure film starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, started its journey to the big screen Saturday night at Disneyland, just feet away from where its namesake river boat ride has been running for more than 60 years.
That also meant that for Blunt, the world premiere served as the first time she had ridden the Jungle Cruise ride, stepping onto the red carpet after a loop around the attraction. “It was beautiful and nostalgic and magical and whimsical and fun, and it was surreal riding it knowing that we’re in the movie of it. It was weird for me, it was kind of mad,” she told The Hollywood Reporter after the experience, though noting that costar Johnson is in quite a different boat. “This one, you can’t get him off a Jungle Cruise ride. Fifty times he’s been on it. Loves a pun and loves the ride.”
Though Blunt teased that “I guess I don’t do my research” for not having ridden it before shooting, Johnson said “it was actually the best thing.”
“Now when you look back on this perspective, we made the movie and the movie is epic and adventurous and dynamic, but then for her to ride the ride for the very first time — and the ride is really a distilled-down, charming version of the movie — so I loved sitting next to her in the boat watching her watch all of these elements of Jungle Cruise that are so rudimentary,” he said on the carpet. In the film, Johnson stars as skipper Frank Wolff, a tie to the ride’s wise-cracking, dad-joke-laden guides, who Blunt’s Dr. Lily Houghton has hired to take her and her brother (Jack Whitehall) down the Amazon River in search of the healing Tree of Life. As one might expect, the trip doesn’t go quite according to plan.
The film’s release is also tied to the debut of the updated Jungle Cruise ride, which reopened July 16 after a few months of renovations to remove racially offensive depictions of Indigenous people. The film’s producers, including Beau Flynn, John Davis and John Fox, consulted on the renovation as well, which now ties in more directly to the project.
Edgar Ramírez, who also costars in the movie, said he would also ride the Jungle Cruise attraction for the first time on premiere night, and had plans to “let it free and go,” riding “as many [rides] as I can” at the afterparty in the park.
He also celebrated the ability to have such a large premiere amid the coronavirus pandemic, where guests were required to get tested or show vaccination cards.
“I think what is beautiful about this event especially tonight is that when we come together and we trust each other and we follow protocols and we follow guidelines and we trust science and we’re responsible with information then this can happen in a safe way,” Ramírez said. “This took an enormous effort for us to be celebrating this movie tonight so I’m very grateful about that because the pandemic is not over and it will be over if we trust science in the same way that we trusted it with Polio and so many other diseases in the past.”
Jungle Cruise has had a long road to its debut in theaters and on Disney+, having been in the works since 2015. Dany Garcia, Johnson’s producing partner at their Seven Bucks Productions, said that after growing up “deep in Disney,” she and brother Hiram Garcia, Seven Bucks’ president of production, were automatically in after hearing interest from the studio.
“We both are over a billion dollars in box office with our movies, but we got that call and we were giggling, we were like, ‘This is it!'” The Rock seems to mirror that same passion for the project, telling the audience, inside the screening “we wanted to make a movie that was truly the adventure of a lifetime. It was more than a tagline for us, it was something that we wanted to deliver to families all around the world in hopes that they have a good time. We hope you guys have a good time, we hope we achieved our goal.”
After declaring that “after this year, year and a half we’ve had, welcome to Disney’s Jungle Cruise in what should be the most epic and biggest premiere of 2021,” Johnson and Blunt continued their signature banter — arguing over who was receiving more applause — on the park’s Fantasyland Theater stage, in front of a crowd donning skipper hats handed out before the film. “It’s beautiful to be here because the film was made in the spirit of this whimsical, magical place. It’s so beautiful for us to finally be bringing the film out,” Blunt said, as Johnson gave a final shoutout to the man behind the ride. “Walt, I hope you like this movie.”
Once the film ended, guests were guided through the closed park for an afterparty in Adventureland, and invited to ride Indiana Jones Adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean, and of course, Jungle Cruise, with classic Disneyland treats like churros, cotton candy and Dole Whip also on hand.
Jungle Cruise hits theaters and Disney+ with premier access on Friday.
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