The day the Jungle Cruise got a special guest visitor
The following is a true story that happened at Disney’s Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom in 1998 to Skipper Andrew.
To set the story up, there are a few things you must know. First of all, it is forbidden for any Disney cast member to approach a celebrity, ask for an autograph, or treat them in any way other than any other park guest. ‘Everyone is a VIP at Disney,’ as the mantra goes. So for a Cast Member to accidentally recognize or acknowledge a celebrity is a potential point of embarrassment and possible dismissal. Every cast member knows not to do it.
The second thing you must know is that the Jungle Cruise has a sixteen page script that each Jungle Cruise Skipper must memorize. The ride is composed of 10-11 show scenes, and for each show scene there are two or three variations of script that a skipper may choose from. Quite often a skipper invents his own material on purpose, or sometimes by mistake.
Day after day, week after week, the Jungle Cruise spiel becomes second nature to a Jungle Cruise Skipper. As each scene happens, visual cues trigger a particular part of the script. At a certain point the spiel and jokes just flow off the tongue without even thinking. So comfortable did Skipper Andrew become with his spiel that the thought never even crossed his mind about the potential disaster that awaited him the day O.J. Simpson got on his boat.
The official script calls for the following spiel when departing from the dock, “Say goodbye to those nice people on the dock, because you may never see them again!” Other variations say, “We’re off on a cruise that will last for six exotic days and five romantic nights.”
Inevitably, as the monotony of the working on the Jungle Cruise wears on day after day, some Skippers vary the joke for their own entertainments’ sake. “We’re off on a cruise that will last for six exotic days and five romantic nights” became, “We’re off like a thundering herd of jelly donuts on the run from the law!” Or sometimes, a tired skipper might simply say, “We’re off!” and hit the throttle.
If Skipper Andrew had used any of those variations of the spiel he would have been fine. But Skipper Andrew picked the other one… the version of the spiel that applied very much to the Jungle theme, and to headhunting, which was another theme prevalent in the Disney Jungle Cruise. It was a joke that caught on like wildfire with the other Jungle Cruise Skippers for sheer boredom and the need to say something different while departing from the dock. But it was a joke that spelled disaster for Skipper Andrew.
That day when Skipper Andrew departed the dock, with O.J. Simpson in the front seat with his kids and 30 other park guests on board, he said the same words he had no doubt said hundreds of times before to other cruises. Those innocent words would have been fine had any other person on the planet been on board. But in this case, it was O.J. Simpson. Those words would go down in the history of the Jungle Cruise as one of the funniest jokes ever spieled by accident: That day, as they departed the dock, Skipper Andrew said very innocently, “We’re off, like a severed head!!”