This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Secrets of Disney’s Skipper Canteen! Regular readers of the SATURDAY SIX know just how much we love all the little details hidden throughout Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. These theme park “Easter Eggs” are a great touch for longtime guests, whether it’s a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Nautilus in the queue for the Little Mermaid ride, Back to the Future’s Doc Brown in The Simpson’s Ride, or even references to the former Seashore Sweets bakery in BoardWalk’s AbracadaBar. This week we are going to look at six of our favorite references in the Magic Kingdom’s Skipper Canteen, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…
# 6 – Jungle Cruise Imagineers
It’s no shock that Skipper Canteen (full name Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd Skipper Canteen) has a lot of nods to the Jungle Cruise attraction, but one of the best references is the faux upstairs offices for Skipper Marc, Skipper Bill, and Skipper Harper. “Marc” refers to Marc Davis, one of the most well known Imagineers in Disney history. While Marc was involved in creation of the Jungle Cruise, he is also known for his design work on other beloved attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and the Country Bear Jamboree.
Another door honors Morgan “Bill” Evans. The plant studies designation underneath his name refers to how instrumental Bill was in developing the horticulture of the Jungle Cruise. In fact, Bill Evans and Disney landscaping includes the creation of Disneyland itself. When Walt Disney needed to convert acres of orange groves in Anaheim into a theme park environment, he called the team who had just landscaped the grounds of his personal home. Those men were Bill Evans and his brother Jack.
“Walt told me we were all out of loot and that the time had come to put Latin names on the weeds.” – Bill Evans
The last door references Harper Goff, who – like Marc Davis – was an artist who had worked with Walt Disney in the film world before the parks. Harper was behind many of the amazing effects in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, was the set director for a little film called Casablanca, and you just may remember his incredible art direction in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (the good one, not the Johnny Depp remake.) Harper worked with Walt Disney on the Jungle Cruise attraction and has been credited for suggesting to Walt that the ride experience should be like the movie The African Queen.
# 5 – Albert Falls
The backstory of Skipper Canteen is that it is owned and operated by Alberta Falls, granddaughter of Dr. Albert Falls. In storyline, Dr. Falls established the Jungle Navigation Company (the company behind the Jungle Cruise.) One of the best (worst?) jokes of the Jungle Cruise is when you approach the famous Schweitzer Falls, which is revealed to be named after Dr. Falls instead of Dr. Schweitzer, a physician whose work includes setting up hospitals in Africa. With business on the Jungle Cruise doing so well, Alberta opened up the restaurant in order to serve hungry travelers.
Inside the Skipper Canteen there are several references to both Albert and Alberta Falls, including paintings of each. There is a bookcase that leads to the Society of Explorers and Adventures dining room, and one of those books is by Albert Falls.
# 4 – Cambodian Temple
There is a ton of great artwork lining the walls of Skipper Canteen, but one of our favorite paintings contains several elements of the Jungle Cruise ride. In the forefront of the painting is large snake wrapped around a tree branch, which is just one of the many exotic animals you encounter along your cruise. In the background you see an actual Jungle Cruise boat making its way out of a Cambodian Temple. One of my favorite parts of every trip on the Jungle Cruise is going through this mystical – and creepy – temple. Not only does it have a unique atmosphere compared to the rest of the attraction, it is also the only part of the ride where the skippers aren’t spieling, which also makes it stand out.
# 3 – Adventureland Neighbors: The Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Orange Bird
We mentioned the bookcase earlier, and just about every book – whether the title or the author – is specifically related to something you can connect to in the Disney Universe. Some of our favorites include the books which refer to other things in Adventureland, including the Enchanted Tiki Room and Pirates of the Caribbean, along with the little Orange Bird at Sunshine Tree Terrace. Books include Songs Of The Tiki Bird by Prof Boag (Boag is referencing Wally Boag, a Disney Legend who voices Jose in the Enchanted Tiki Room,) Native Orange Birds Of the Southeastern United States, Pirates of the Caribbean by Coats (Claude Coats was an Imagineer who worked on the Pirates attraction), and Profiles of Legendary Pirates of the Caribbean by Gibson (Blaine Gibson was a Disney sculptor who worked on attractions such as Pirates, Haunted Mansion and Tiki Birds.)
# 2 – The Backside of Water
Maybe the most groan-worthy moment of the Jungle Cruise is when we all pass by the “backside of water.” Of course I mean that in the most respectful way possible as it is a signature moment in the ride, and if it were taken out guests might riot. Inside the Skipper Canteen you’ll find a barrel containing some “backside of water” to be shipped!
# 1 – The Society of Explorers and Adventurers. (S.E.A.)
For hardcore Disney fans, the world building of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.) is getting fun. Members of this group include Harrison Hightower III (of Tokyo Disneyland’s Tower of Terror), Mary Oceaneer (of the recently opened Miss Fortune Falls at Typhoon Lagoon), and Lord Henry Mystic (of Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland). We mentioned earlier that Albert Falls was also a S.E.A. member, and the group has a storyline tie-in to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as well. It all stems from the beloved Adventurer’s Club at the former Pleasure Island, but it seems as if more and more references of the group are being added to the Disney parks. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get a dedicated S.E.A comic book in the future from Marvel’s Disney Kingdoms line (we’ve already had one based on Big Thunder, Haunted Mansion and the Enchanted Tiki Room.)
The Skipper Canteen contains several references to the S.E.A. including an entire dining room dedicated to the group. There are S.E.A. fez hats that belong to several members, and there are books in the bookcase references S.E.A. projects (such as Treasures From The Manor by Henry Mystic.)
HONORABLE MENTION – Jingle Cruise
One of the most recent changes to the Jungle Cruise has been the whimsical Jingle Cruise overlay during the Christmas season. Inside Skipper Canteen you’ll several some Jingle Cruise props sitting on some shelves, along with a Jingle Cruise advertisement on the bulletin board. Like the bookcase, the bulletin board is filled with a ton of references and tributes and is worth going out of your way to check out if you are a fan of Disney history.
So there you have it: Six Secrets of Disney’s SKIPPER CANTEEN! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles (which we just celebrated our THREE YEAR ANNIVERSARY), or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan)
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Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, the bad boy of Rhode Island’s Most Dangerous Man Ryan Kennedy, the newest member of Team SATURDAY SIX Michael Carelli, the sommelier of Tony’s Town Square Brian Carey, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-host Aengus Mackenzie and fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.