The African Queen is a 1951 adventure film adapted from the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester. The film was directed by John Huston and produced by Sam Spiegel. The screenplay was adapted primarily by James Agee. It was photographed in Technicolor by Jack Cardiff. The film stars Humphrey Bogart (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor – his only Oscar) and Katherine Hepburn.
I just picked up an amazing Commemorative DVD Box Set about the movie:
Senitype representing The African Queen (boat) as filmed in the Technicolor Process
You may recognize the style of boat from the above picture? It should remind you of a famous Disney attraction vehicle!
For Disney fans, the most interesting fact about The African Queen film is that it’s reported to have inspired The Jungle Cruise! Actually, there are said to be two sources of inspiration for the attraction, one being the 1955 True-Life Adventure film entitled “The African Lion,” about a pride of lions, and the film The African Queen. Imagineer Harper Goff referenced the African Queen frequently in his ideas; indeed, it appears his designs of the ride vehicles were inspired by the steamer used in the film.
The small steam-boat used in the film to depict the African Queen was built in 1912, in England, for service in Africa. Let’s compare it to its Theme Park counterpart. First, let’s look at the steering:
In the movie, Ms. Hepburn steers the boat from the rear using a tiller, but in the attraction, the Skipper uses a wheel in the front of the boat:
At one time the original boat used as The African Queen in the movie was owned by actor Fess Parker, giving us another Disney tie to the movie. In December 2011, plans were announced to restore the boat. Restoration was completed by the following April and the African Queen is apparently now on display as a tourist attraction at Key Largo, Florida. So if true, this would make an awesome side trip for any Disney fan!
One more cool comparison is found in the 5′ long model used for filming in the movie:
Any scene in the movie where the boat is filmed in a long shot, and in danger, it is actually this 5′ model. And if you like to play with toy boats, you can get your fix just outside The Jungle Cruise in Walt Disney World:
So both The African Queen and The Jungle Cruise have little models of the boats made, but admittedly, WDW’s versions are smaller!
The boat in the movie is called ‘African Queen’, but the boats in the Jungle Cruise attractions have a variety of names. In Disneyland, the queue and station are themed as the headquarters and boathouse of a River Expedition Company, located in a (presumably British) colony of the 1930s. And I believe the names presently in use are:
- Amazon Belle
- Congo Queen (nudge, nudge)
- Ganges Gal
- Hondo Hattie
- Irrawaddy Woman
- Kissimmee Kate (nudge, nudge a.k.a. Katherine Hepburn?)
- Nile Princess
- Orinoco Adventuress
- Suwannee Lady
- Ucayali Una (Wheelchair equipped)
- Yangtze Lotus
- Zambezi Miss
Names decommissioned in 1997:
- Magdalena Maiden
- Mekong Maiden
At Walt Disney World, the Jungle Cruise is set up as a depression-era British outpost on the Amazon river, operated by the fictional company, The Jungle Navigation Co., and their boats are named as follows:
- Amazon Annie
- Bomokandi Bertha (Wheelchair lift equipped)
- Congo Connie
- Ganges Gertie
- Irrawaddy Irma
- Mongala Millie
- Nile Nellie
- Orinoco Ida
- Rutshuru Ruby
- Sankuru Sadie
- Senegal Sal
- Ucyali Lolly
- Volta Val
- Wamba Wanda (Wheelchair lift equipped)
- Zambesi Zelda
- Kwango Kate (nudge, nudge a.k.a. Katherine Hepburn again?)
Keep in mind these lists are as accurate as I could make them. But now, onto the last bit of Jungle Cruise lore: Is there going to be a live-action movie of the attraction? Let’s read a Disney Press Release:
The Walt Disney Studios is excited to be in development with Mandeville Films and writer Roger S.H. Schulman on a feature film based on the Jungle Cruise, one of the most iconic attractions in Disney theme park history. The film will pair up Tim Allen and Tom Hanks in their first live-action project, after their previous collaborations in the Toy Story trilogy. (Original announcement in 2012, source updated in 2014)
Since this original announcement, talk has died down with no new, er… news. If it does go ahead, it likely will take on a much lighter tone than The African Queen film (set in the first World War) opting instead for comedy, more in line with the Jungle Cruise attraction speils and jokes. And with Tim Allen and Tom Hanks on board (pun intended) that seems logical.
This great little reproduction (the size of the DVD box) was included in The African Queen Commemorative Box Set and chronicles Ms. Hepburn’s adventures while filming the movie. In a nutshell: It… was… Hell. Actually filmed in Africa, the cast and crew had to deal with disease, injury, and a total lack of comforts and amenities. Let’s hope that if Disney does go ahead with a Jungle Cruise film, it will go better for all involved!
So what do you think: Are there enough similarities to justify a connection between The African Queen and The Jungle Cruise?