A bigscreen version of Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” theme park ride has been docked in development for years, but interest from Tom Hanks and Tim Allen to star in a family adventure that Mandeville’s David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman will produce could finally see the project set sail at the studio.
Hanks and Allen, of course, have been working together since 1995, as the voices of Woody and Buzz Lightyear in Pixar and Disney’s “Toy Story” franchise. But the duo have yet to co-star in a live action project together.
After considering several ideas around town, Allen, a longtime fan of the “Jungle Cruise” ride and film prospects, sparked to a new idea from scribe Roger S.H. Schulman and pitched it to Hanks. Schulman will now tackle the script.
Scribe currently works as a writer and executive producer on the Disney Channel show “Jonas,” starring the Jonas brothers. Schulman co-created the series. His credits also include scripts for the animated films “Shrek,” “Balto,” “Jungle Book 2,” “Mulan II,” “Bambi II” and “Fox and the Hound 2.”
Plot points for the “Jungle Cruise” pic are being kept under wraps, but project is expected to combine comedic elements in an adventure tale aimed at families.
A number of writers have tried to essentially crack the story of Disney’s version of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” including Al Gough and Miles Millar and “Sweet Valley High” creators Josh Goldstein and John Norville (“Tin Cup”).
“Jungle Cruise” was one of the first rides to open at Disneyland in 1955, and was designed around “The African Queen,” with skippers taking guests through the jungles of Asia, Africa and South America on board a riverboat, avoiding crocodiles, lions, hippos, piranhas and cannibals along the way.
Disney is naturally eager to lock down Hanks and Allen for another pic after the success of the “Toy Story” franchise; the third installment earned $1 billion at the worldwide box office last year.
Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, who has been close to the thesps since helming the first “Toy Story,” is also keen on making a “Jungle Cruise” movie after having served as a skipper on the ride during summer breaks in the 1970s while attending Cal Arts.
Lasseter considers the attraction his favorite at Disney’s parks and made a guest appearance as a ride operator in 2005, during Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration. At the time, he said “Jungle Cruise” taught him “a lot of what I know about comedy and comic timing.”
The exec is now chief creative officer, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative advisor of Walt Disney Imagineering, the division that develops theme park attractions.
Mandeville, which produced “The Fighter,” is behind the next Muppet movie that Disney will release over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Getting “Jungle Cruise” closer to launch comes as Disney is readying to release its latest theme park ride film “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” this summer, while it’s working with Guillermo del Toro on a “Haunted Mansion” thriller and with Jon Favreau on “Magic Kingdom,” a family adventure pic set inside the Mouse House’s entire park. A film based on “Tomorrowland” has also been considered.