A conservative Disney aficionado was upset about Disney theme parks division's recent announcement of upcoming anti-racist changes to their attractions. He whined about it in an op-ed published in The Orlando Sentinel, on April 23, 2021.
The piece was titled, "I love Disney World, but wokeness is ruining the experience."
Jonathan VanBoskerc—a self-described "Christian Republican" of North Las Vegas, Nevada—grumbled about the Disney theme parks being in the process of taking "the woke scalpel" to attractions like Adventureland's headliner river expedition, the Jungle Cruise.
Twitter, however, was having none of it and his column even caught the attention of celebrities like James Gunn, Patricia Arquette and Patton Oswalt.
They—and many others on social media—slammed the Republican Disney fan and defended the company's commitment to modifying racist elements found in the Jungle Cruise and other rides like Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean in both Disneyland park in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida.
I love Disney World, but wokeness is ruining the experience | Commentary https://t.co/vobMA2IX6y https://t.co/wpNmXXzgBK— Orlando Sentinel (@Orlando Sentinel)1619183334.0
Earlier this year, the Disney Parks Blog announced Disney's plan to remove "negative depictions of native peoples" found in the Jungle Cruise attraction—one of which includes a caricature of a presumed South American Indigenous man being portrayed as a headhunter named "Trader Sam" originally found at the end of the ride.
For those who were confused about VanBoskerc's use of the term, "wokeness" is defined by Cambridge Dictionary online as "a state of being aware, especially of social problems such as racism and inequality." Apparently blatant racism was an integral part of VanBoskerc's enjoyment of the parks since eliminating it—per his own admission—ruins the experience for him.
"Trader Sam is out because he might offend certain people. Every grown-up in the room realizes that Trader Sam is not a representation of reality and is meant as a funny and silly caricature."
"It is no more based in racism than every Disney caricature of an out-of-touch White American dad."
He explained how the removal of the character has ruined his future ride experiences.
"The next time I ride Jungle Cruise I will not be thinking about the gloriously entertaining puns of the skippers, I will be thinking about Disney's political agenda."
"That's a mood killer."
Social media users mocked VanBoskerc for his gripe with Mickey.
@StreamedHams @orlandosentinel yes how dare they remove, uh... this???????????? (jfc) https://t.co/JdJpXZ3BXf— Bryan, the dumbest giraffe (@Bryan, the dumbest giraffe)1619187888.0
@orlandosentinel My cousin went into a blood sugar coma at Disney because the animatronics didn't say the n-word enough to keep him awake— ben "effort grunt" flores (@ben "effort grunt" flores)1619189745.0
@orlandosentinel Wow this is definitely an opinion. This comes off super pretentious and entitled. Walt's original… https://t.co/wKSJeARVCw— ♦️Jason♦️ (@♦️Jason♦️)1619183599.0
@orlandosentinel Won’t someone please consider the delicate sensitivities of a middle aged white man when designing children’s theme parks?— Adrienne (@Adrienne)1619187820.0
@orlandosentinel I’m sorry the park about cartoons for children is too soft around the edges for you— the campaign to put a Hooters in parliament (@the campaign to put a Hooters in parliament)1619187779.0
@orlandosentinel Disney World used to be a place where thousands of characters in Goofy costumes would walk around… https://t.co/GfzqsQZO1C— Jordan - Early Vote No on Prop B (Austin) (@Jordan - Early Vote No on Prop B (Austin))1619189938.0
Democratic Representative Val Demings from Florida's 10th District commented, saying she had the "privilege of having Disney World in my district along with other world-class attractions."
"I am proud to represent a community that is welcoming, tolerant, and always eveolving to offer the best possible experience."
I have the privilege of having Disney World in my district along with other world-class attractions. I am proud to… https://t.co/JmHLvWtNDG— Rep. Val Demings (@Rep. Val Demings)1619193193.0
VanBoskerc also condemned Disney execs' decision to incorporate more gender inclusivity for its cast members by allowing them to wear jewelry, paint their fingernails, and have a broader range of hairstyles— regardless of their gender identity.
The new appearance guidelines also lifted a ban on employees sporting visible tattoos as part of its new "A Place Where Everyone is Welcome" campaign.
"Recently, Disney announced that cast members are now permitted to display tattoos, wear inclusive uniforms and display inclusive haircuts," wrote VanBoskerc, adding, "Disney did all of this in the name of allowing cast members to express themselves."
"I'm not traveling across the country and paying thousands of dollars to watch someone I do not know express themselves."
"I am there for the immersion and the fantasy, not the reality of a stranger's self-expression. I do not begrudge these people their individuality and I wish them well in their personal lives, but I do not get to express my individuality at my place of business."
In response to his screed against Disney, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn tweeted:
"The 'wokeness,' specifically, is seeing cast members tattoos & removing a character named 'Trader Sam' from Jungle Cruise."
"A grown man sees these things (or doesn't see them) & gets all worked up & the experience is 'ruined' for him. Somehow he doesn't see this as HIS problem."
The "wokeness", specifically, is seeing cast members tattoos & removing a character named "Trader Sam" from Jungle… https://t.co/dGGJPDFo0G— James Gunn (@James Gunn)1619194904.0
Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Arquette joined the conversation, adding:
"This guy is taking the Christ right out of Christian if he doesn't understand why racist imagery is not acceptable."
@orlandosentinel This guy is taking the Christ right out of Christian. If he doesn’t understand why racist imagery is not acceptable.— Patricia Arquette (@Patricia Arquette)1619192080.0
And Patton Oswalt tagged fellow comedian Scott Seiss asking him to weigh in with a TikTok response.
If EVER something demanded a TikTok video response from @ScottSeiss, this is it. https://t.co/XUnvtkSzR0— Patton Oswalt (@Patton Oswalt)1619196338.0
The Jungle Cruise is not the only attraction slated for an overhaul—nor would it be Disney's first time making updates to their attractions.
Last June, the Walt Disney Company announced they would retheme their popular log-flume ride, Splash Mountain, at both U.S. parks by nixing its Song of the South theme based on the 1946 film, which was criticized for its racist depictions. Disney Studios removed the film from circulation years ago, recognizing the racism in the film.
The new Splash Mountain would send future riders "Going Down the Bayou" with Tiana and her cohorts in a new Princess and the Frog adventure from the 2009 animated film—Disney's first film to feature a Black princess.
If Disney’s distancing from “Song of the South” bothers you, it bothers you because you want to enjoy the work with… https://t.co/sl74Df7E6x— Hilluminati (@Hilluminati)1619191399.0
Previously, the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction replaced the "auction scene" depicting pirates auctioning off women.
The revamped vignette now features male and female buccaneers selling stolen goods from pillaged towns.
Similar changes were made to Pirates in 1997, where a scene in which women being chased by the "ne'er do-well cads" was replaced by women holding trays of food to depict peckish pirates lusting after the provisions, instead.
VanBoskerc cited how the removal of references to rape and human trafficking ruined the ride for his family.
"Pirates used to be one of my favorite attractions. My family would always ride it first on our first day at the Magic Kingdom. Now, we do not even ride it every trip."
"When my family rides Pirates now, each of the changed scenes takes us out of the illusion because they remind us of reality and the politics that forced the changes."
I hope Jonathan Vanboskerck and people like him stop going to Disney. I love it and would like fewer bigots there.… https://t.co/4hS0HkW0MT— John Pavlovitz (@John Pavlovitz)1619204463.0
VanBoskerc even predicted Disney World with less racism and fewer rape and human trafficking references would "lose us as customers if it continues down this path."
"I do not want to have Disney World taken away from us because Disney cares more about politics than happy guests."
Twitter disagreed with his prediction of empty Disney parks.
@orlandosentinel "This should matter to the people of Orlando because, if Disney drives away customers like me, Orl… https://t.co/LIWO5Vvgfq— Rob Plays (@Rob Plays)1619186810.0
@orlandosentinel As far as I can tell the recent change to the Pirates ride is getting rid of a scene where "wenche… https://t.co/fHJShU3GVt— Van Owen (@Van Owen)1619190211.0
@orlandosentinel Dear Jonathan Vanboskerck. Black Americans love Disney too. As well as Latinx, Asian, and Indigen… https://t.co/QlpQutAZi3— Al😷! (@Al😷!)1619207980.0
Rando: "If Disney World doesn't dial back the wokeness, people like me will stop going." Me, not having to wait in… https://t.co/DWfitUXkyb— Dr. NerdLove (@Dr. NerdLove)1619189372.0
In an interview with the Disney fan club magazine, D23, Disney Imagineering Creative Portfolio Executive Chris Beatty commented on the changes coming to the ride that originally opened in Disneyland in 1955.
"It's the Jungle Cruise you know and love, with the skippers still leading the way, and at the same time, we're addressing the negative depictions of 'natives.' So that's one of the scenes we're going to go in and change."
According to WDW News Today, Trader Sam and the relating props to his scene have already been removed as more gradual changes are expected throughout 2021.
The "new version of the ride," which would "reflect and value the diversity of the world around us," is expected to be completed at an unspecified date.
The chairman of Disney's parks division, Josh D'Amaro, stated the upcoming changes in the parks are part of an effort to reflect more inclusivity for park visitors.
"We want our guests to see their own backgrounds and traditions reflected in the stories, experiences and products they encounter in their interactions with Disney."
"And we want our cast members—and future cast members—to feel a sense of belonging at work."