The Jungle Crews' Underground Newspaper

by David Koenig, staff writer
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Years ago, to build camaraderie and keep morale up among the troops, Disneyland actually encouraged cast members to create their own unofficial area newsletters. In theory, the publications would be more personal and more light-hearted than the weekly Disneyland Line, which was distributed to all cast members of every stripe.

At one time, there were newsletters for Main Street workers, parking lot attendants, Tomorrowland cast members, even Haunted Mansion operators ("Now That You Mansion It"). But the gold standard was "Jungle Drums," launched in the early 1970s by Jungle Cruise skippers.

Several unofficial newsletters that cast members began producing in the early 1970s.

The "land papers" would include Tomorrowland's "The Tom Crier," Fantasyland's "Mouse Tracks," Frontierland's "Smoke Signals," and the Haunted Mansion's "Now That You Mansion It." But the gold standard was Adventureland's "Jungle Drums."

Launched in the early 1970s, "Jungle Drums" appeared every week or two, usually during the summer, until at least the early 1980s.

The paper really hit its stride in 1979. The eight issues that year were composed by skippers Jim McCaffrey and Jeff Rhoads, assisted by "reporter" John Verdone and illustrator Eddie Sotto (the soon-to-be celebrated Imagineer whose projects included the Jungle's future neighbor, the Indiana Jones Adventure).

Each issue of "Jungle Drums" was packed with recounting of recent incidents in Adventureland; gentle swipes at popular targets like rising prices, mindless supervisors, and the cast member cafeterias; ingenious cartoons by Sotto (such as a Jungle Cruise board game, a Supervisor Cut-Out Doll, or an installment of "Eddie's Believe It or Rot"), and an assortment of fake "News Briefs, presented by Fruit of the Loom."

Here are a few of the most memorable Briefs, from the Summer of '79:

  • In an inter-office communication this morning, Park culinary officials announced the introduction of a new dessert style item which will be featured park-wide. The imaginative new "Frozen Water on a Stick" will be reasonably priced at 95 cents and also available to employees at the Inn Between.
     
  • From the Disney Studios last week came the startling announcement that the long-running television show "Wonderful World of Disney" will be renamed "Disney's Wonderful World." The top brains in the Disney organization worked for months and spent thousands of dollars in consulting fees and feasibility studies to come up with the creative new title. Other possibilities considered were: "World Disney of Wonderful," "Disney's World of Wonderful," and "Wonderful Disney of World."
     
  • On a sad note, Old Dobbin of Main Street streetcar fame and postcard legend passed away today, but in his memory the Park will provide a limited edition of O' Dobbin Sure-Stick Glue.
     
  • Noted gourmet Elmer Dills has just concluded a visit to the Park and proclaimed that the food served in the Pit is "food fit for a King." However, Park officials refuse to let his dog "King" past the main gate to find out.
     
  • The growing concern over the duck population on the River increased last Monday as several ducks dragged a small girl off of the balcony of the Hungry Bear Lodge and fed her to baby ducklings. A Park spokesman termed the incident, "Unfortunate but not serious."
     
  • The Nevada Gaming Commission has complained to the Park about the vending machines in the break areas, claiming that their presence her in the Park constitutes a clear violation of California anti-gambling laws.
     
  • A Hollywood man barricaded himself inside of one of he teacups in Fantasyland to protest the high price of coffee, but after Park officials left the ride running for 12 hours straight, the man threw himself up to authorities.
     
  • The California State Supreme Court dismissed Knott's Berry Farm's copyright infringement lawsuit against the Park last Tuesday. Judge Hugh G. Kickback made the ruling when Park attorneys pointed out that while "Montezuma's Revenge" is a ride at Knott's, here at Disneyland it is merely a result of eating at Casa de Fritos.
     
  • Due to the Park's low attendance figures during the first part of this summer season, economy measures have been instituted on a Park-wide basis. The latest attraction to be affected is the Frontierland Shooting Gallery. Instead of using expensive rifles and ammunition, guests will now be issued clubs (large and small sizes for adults and children respectively) and allowed 15 swings at the moving target of their choice.
     
  • A Park employee is listed in critical condition at Palm Harbor Hospital following that accident at the Inn Between last Monday. Evidently the employee was in the food line and had placed a hot beef sandwich on his tray. Jostled by a large group of maintenance men, a lump of gravy fell off of his tray and onto the floor. It ricocheted back and hit the main in the forehead causing massive cranial injuries. If the employee does not respond to treatment, as is expected, Park officials have guaranteed him a job as an area supervisor.
     
  • Park officials are chagrined over the accident that occurred on the Voyage through Inner Space yesterday in Tomorrowland. Due to a malfunction in the section of the ride that enlarges the guests back to normal size, a tour group of 23 senior citizens remained approximately six inches in height. Until the ride defect is corrected by maintenance, the Park has graciously given the guests relief shifts on the Small World attraction and turning the little glass barrel on popcorn wagons.
     
  • The decision to open Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ahead of schedule has been made, and the name has been changed slightly as the first guests enjoyed the Big Thunder Mountain Hike today.
     
  • An outraged letter from an offended guest triggered a move by Park officials to put a canvas sheet inside Schweitzer Falls. She was reportedly offended by having to subject her children to the sight of "the backside of water."
     
  • The Sierra Club would like to see "Sparky," the charging hippo, armed with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol in an effort to, as they put it, "even things up."

 

Comments

  1. By olegc

    it would be interesting to see something like this come back but as blogs and mobile ready. However, the environment is such that any kind of online jabbing - even in the vein of the above humor, may be construed as unwanted and could get someone in trouble. Thicker skin was definitely prevalent in the old days. I guess it could also be said that folks writing may not be as "reserved" as those in the 70s. Bottom line - the newsletters I think build a sense of camaraderie amongst cast members and allows them to feel more tied to each other and the park. It may not be as feasible in the modern individualistic content era.

  2. By amyuilani

    Man, this makes me miss my old Skipper days!

    Quote Originally Posted by olegc View Post
    it would be interesting to see something like this come back but as blogs and mobile ready. However, the environment is such that any kind of online jabbing - even in the vein of the above humor, may be construed as unwanted and could get someone in trouble. Thicker skin was definitely prevalent in the old days. I guess it could also be said that folks writing may not be as "reserved" as those in the 70s. Bottom line - the newsletters I think build a sense of camaraderie amongst cast members and allows them to feel more tied to each other and the park. It may not be as feasible in the modern individualistic content era.

    Lighten up, it's by-skippers-for-skippers.

  3. By olegc

    Quote Originally Posted by amyuilani View Post
    Man, this makes me miss my old Skipper days!



    Lighten up, it's by-skippers-for-skippers.

    i think you missed my point. I like it - and think it shoudl continue but I don't think the current social environment (not in Disneyland, in general) won't let it be succesful. Someone on David's Facebook page even stated as much (a somewhat current attempt to restart). And, even though David focused on the Jungle Drums docs my comments were in general for all. You have to love your job and where you work (and who you work with) to make it a long term stay. Poking some fun at each other is a good way to make that happen.

  4. By jimthedj

    I remember reading this. Worked in Frontierland at the time.

    It was a different time. There was one park only, with literally 1/10 the employees there are now. They did a cast member christmas party where supervisors ran the rides, free food was given and satirical, "non- standard" ride experiences happened. There was great health insurance, better than average pay and a fun to be at work atmosphere.

    There were no Blogs, email, IM, facebook, text or anything else and they only way to communicate was through print.

    The Eyes and Ears was well read by everyone, and they some very creative guys at Adventureland/Mainstreet ops decided to do there own for a while. Everyone loved it.

    With so many options for communication, it would not be as appreciated and too many people that would have access to it would not understand it's intent.

    just my 2 cents from someone that was also there.

    :-)

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