Jungle Cruise Skippers Ship Out to Tokyo

Here’s more information and background on the two Jungle Cruise skippers heading to Tokyo Disneyland according to the OC Register’s Around Disney blog:

Kevin Lively and Mickey Wright are two wisecracking men who take their craft seriously –- so much so that they’ve been vetted by Disney executives to represent the Anaheim operation at a Tokyo summit.

This professional conference –- Friday through March 6 –- will be a lot more entertaining than most.

Disneyland is sending Lively and Wright, two of its Jungle Cruise skippers, to Tokyo for a nine-day round-table forum on “jungle humor” with skippers from three other Disney theme parks.

The Jungle  Cruise, of course, takes passengers in a boat around a winding, vegetation-shrouded river filled with animatronic jungle animals and spear-wielding residents. The skipper spouts off a continuous stream of corny jokes.

“You can’t lose with cannibalism,” Lively said on picking the right note of humor for the ride. “I like when we have kids on board, because to them, the ride is 100-percent real.”

Lively, 23, of Fullerton has worked at the park since summer 2007. He said he likes working with kids — he helped direct childrens theater in college.

Wright, 58, of Lake Forest started in November 2007 after he got hired at a Disney job fair. Though he said his friends figured he’d be a natural when they found out he got the job, Wright struggled with the script at first.

“The truth is, I actually had a hard time with the spiel,” he said. “I have a little ADD and all the distractions were hard to deal with.”

He’s a pro, now though, as evidenced by his selection for the Tokyo visit.

In Tokyo, skippers from Disneyland, the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, the Tokyo Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland will tour the park there and trade tips on the best spiels and practices for running the Jungle Cruise.

The trip is part of a promotion by the company that operates Tokyo Disney — it’s the 25th anniversary of that park. The company decided to fulfill 25 employees’ wishes this year. This conference is a result of Kenichi Ito, a supervisor for the Tokyo Jungle Cruise.

The competition began in January from among the 60 skippers. Feb. 6, the six finalists had to do their act before a panel of execs, including Pixar chief John Lasseter and Imagineering chief Tony Baxter.

The majority of the skippers speak English, but a translator will be available for those who don’t. Also, the skippers will get to experience the Tokyo Disney Ride in Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese.

The Disneyland Jungle Cruise is one of the park’s original rides — it opened with the park in 1955.

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