Disney's newest adventure comedy Jungle Cruise is officially out in theaters and on Disney+, and although the classic Disneyland ride that it's based on has been entertaining people for decades, the film is treating fans to something new that they've been waiting a long time for: LGBTQ+ representation.
Set in the early part of the 20th century in the World War I era, Jungle Cruise tells the action-packed story of a British scientist named Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her brother McGregor (Jack Whitehall) who are trying to navigate the Amazonian jungle in an attempt to find the mystical healing powers of the Tree of Life with the help of weathered, cynical, and lying steamboat captain Frank "Skipper" Wolff (Dwayne Johnson). And the film features a tender moment between McGregor and Frank, the likes of which has never been featured in a Disney film before.
During a stopover, Frank and McGregor open up to each other about their pasts. Though a specific sexuality/label is never mentioned, McGregor does go into detail with Frank about how he was once engaged to be married to a woman, but because his interests "lie elsewhere" (as the film puts it, alluding to his queerness) he couldn't bring himself to do it. McGregor also opens up about he owes his sister Lily all of his love and loyalty for accepting him no matter what, even when it was socially unacceptable to be out and proud, and Frank assures him that there is nothing wrong with your interests lying elsewhere.
"I felt that the scene was really exactly what it was, which was two men talking about what they loved and who they loved," Johnson said during a recent Jungle Cruise press conference when asked about the importance of filming the groundbreaking (for Disney) scene with Whitehall. "It was as simple as that, and we were sharing a drink."
"It was a scene that we really wanted to get right," Whitehall added. "I think what's so great about this movie is that all of the characters feel so fleshed out, and all of them have interesting backstories and are fully realized. In a lot of movies of this kind of genre, sometimes you'd have characters that are a little bit kinda two-dimensional. But I think it's so great that we get to understand so much about each of these characters, and they all have reasons for being where they are and interesting and rich textured backstories.
"It makes you invested in them, and it makes you care about them," he added. "It makes you really on that journey with them."
"I think it was a really well-written scene, and one that we certainly thought about and talked about," Whitehall told Variety. "I hope that it's a scene that audiences enjoy...I certainly felt at the time that I was proud of the work that we'd done."
\u201cJack Whitehall opens up about playing a gay character in #JungleCruise, teasing a "significant scene in the movie" that was "thought about and talked about a lot" behind the scenes.\u201d
While there are arguments to be made about how queerness specifically is never mentioned in the scene, considering the crumbs we've been getting from other big-name Disney titles when it comes to meaningful LGBTQ+ representation, we'll say Jungle Cruise is taking a small but major step in the right direction, and we can't wait for what the future has in store from more upcoming Disney projects! (Goodness knows queer fans have been waiting forever.)