Danger lurks around every gray-green curve of Disney’s World Famous Jungle Cruise. Trouble lurks there too, in the form of pun-lobbing, pistol-wielding jungle Skippers.
But Skippers don’t leave their particular form of trouble behind when they tie up the Congo Queen to the dock for the last time. Nay. When these sly-tongued sailors move on to other shores, they bring jungle trouble to the real-world in their own creative ways.
You see, jungle water runs thick as blood and never quite leaves the system. Over the years, former Jungle Cruise Skippers (is there really such a thing as a former Skipper?) have found ways to keep the spirit of the jungle alive through off-center humor, clever art, and great storytelling.
You may have heard of the famous ones like Costner and Lasseter. Skipper Kevin has a new book that’s super junglie. And Skipper John, well, he’s responsible for Up, The Incredibles, and Hawaiian shirts.
And no, Steve Martin never worked there. Look it up.
Then there are some of the lesser knowns who have taken jungle love to the masses in new ways. Skipper Brandon Kleyla birthed the amazingly detailed Trader Sam’s tiki bars at Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Polynesian Resort as a tribute to Skippers everywhere. Skipper Loren Hoskins took the jungle out to sea as part of the musical scallywagging duo Sharky and Bones on Disney Jr.’s Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
Skipper Rick Wetzel twisted his mic cord around his fingers for so long that it gave him the idea for Wetzel’s Pretzels. And Skipper Grant Baciocco dried off his boots and picked up a puppet to join the casts of Mystery Science Theater 3K and the Muppets!
But I’m more interested in the scrappy Skips who, like me, take what they learned criss-crossing Schweitzer Falls and turn it into real-life jungle adventure for everyone to enjoy.
Here are the tip of the top, the cream of the crop of ex-Skipper creatives who keep the law of the jungle alive.
Dr. Skipper David Marley
This pun-tificating professor earned his doctorate at night while stirring up the green water during the day. Today he teaches history at a local University and is part of a secret Disney history society. He founded “Skipper Standup,” a regular comedy night featuring, you guessed it, Disneyland Jungle Cruise Skippers. He makes some pretty cool jungle themed crafts too. Ever the historian, Dr. Skipper released a book in 2016 of tales told by Skippers about life on the rivers of adventure. Skipper Trevor Kelly designed the art for the cover and it’s chock full of funny tales from Skips throughout Disneyland’s history. I’m proud to be included in the book among the Skipper storytellers.
Skipper Kyle Crocker
The river-thick wit of Skipper Kyle carries his podcast, Tales From The Jungle Crews, through all the watery twists and bends of jungle Skipper lore. He set forth from the dock in 2013 to collect an oral history of the attraction by interviewing wise-cracking hippo shooters (sounds like a drink from Trader Sam’s) from the early years of the park right up to today. I was honored to be interviewed for the podcast, along with Skipper Jeff Bailes, back in 2016 (listen to part 1 & part 2 below). Kyle has made a boatload of cool jungle swag including sweet card games and t-shirts. Kyle’s also a professional product photographer who can make broccoli look delicious.
Skipper Jen Chavez
Since the mid-nineties (do I really need to use this word?) “pioneering” women have taken the helm and cracked wise side by side with the boys, making the jungle a little less dense and whole lot funnier. Skipper Jen took the mic in the 2000s and hasn’t put it down, even after she left the park. A regular comic at Skipper Stand Up, as well as comedy clubs throughout Southern California, she deftly mixes jungle khaki jokes with bottle blond bluster that will keep you laughing for more. She’s also the curator of Tales of the Jungle Cruise social media presence showing off an impressive collection of historic Disney jungle content you won’t see anywhere else.
Skipper Andrew Remnet
Back in the 80s, Skipper Andrew slipped punch lines past guests so slyly they didn’t know what hit ’em. He took what he learned in the jungle, and with a wave of his hand, turned that experience into a new character, “The DIY Magician.” Besides being a prestidigitator for hire, he helps other magicians build their own props and set pieces via his funny and family-friendly YouTube channel. Like many a Skipper before and after him, Andrew credits the thousands of trips around the river for his ease in front of an audience. “To paraphrase the late Joan Rivers,” he says, “It gave me a place to be bad!” Now watch him pull that Bengal tiger out of his leopard skin hat.
Skipper Alex Stewart
Ever wonder what happens when you strand a river Skipper in the mountains of Colorado? In the case of Skipper Alex, you get a weird and wild podcast that longs for the lazy daze of Adventureland. Side by side with his childhood homeboy Harrison Ownbey, he researches Disneyland’s most amazing secrets and myths to share with listeners of “The Back Side of Water” podcast. Start from the beginning of their land-by-land park tour or pick your favorite attraction to explore. You’ll soon find yourself coming back for more.
With 60+ years of cracking jokes and popping caps in hippos, there are surely many more former Jungle Cruise Skippers who haven’t totally forsaken the wearing of the khaki.
Leave a message in the comments below if you are or you know an ex-Skip who still regurgitates dad-jokes like a pro. I’ll add them to this post as they come in to make sure they get the credit they deserve.
Keep in mind I’ll need a picture of them from their Disneyland days and a link to their current projects.