By most any measure, at the opening of Disneyland, the crowing achievement on the attraction list was the Jungle River Cruise, the centerpiece of the new park's lushly beautiful Adventureland. Walt Disney was justifiably proud of his Imagineers for this thrill ride through the exotic and dangerous. This beautiful piece of concept art depicts headhunter country. Guests instantly queued for the attraction and have never stopped. It's a long time favorite with corny jokes from skippers with just the right playful, irreverent attitude.
The significance of the attraction goes beyond opening day and its continued popularity. I would venture this attraction and its impact had the most to do with Michael Eisner giving the ok to build Disney's Animal Kingdom. Sure, Michael's competitive nature was also driven by Busch Gardens' success down in Tampa, but I believe it was also the public's love of the attraction- and Joe Rohde's clever tiger in the boardroom stunt- that tipped the scales in favor of a brand new wild animal kingdom.
Today, the newer Jungle Cruise inspired park is not the success the suits hoped it would be. Long story short, the team working with James Cameron on the Pandora / Avatarland project had better make it a huge success- or more heads are gonna roll.
(Art copyright the Walt Disney Company.)