By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Skipper Canteen



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

SKIPPER CANTEEN

By Jim Korkis

One of the gags in the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland for decades was guides pointing out that the name of the dramatic waterfall that the boat narrowly misses is Schweitzer Falls named after…Dr. Albert Falls, rather than the expected Dr. Albert Schweitzer, noted for his humanitarian work in Africa.

One of the newest Magic Kingdom restaurants is named the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. Skipper Canteen. It is operated by Alberta Falls, the granddaughter of the fictitious Dr. Albert Falls. This 222-seat restaurant is located in the former Adventureland Veranda area across from the Swiss Family Treehouse and is home to “World Famous Jungle Cuisine”. It opened December 16, 2015.

The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. which operates the Jungle Cruise boats was started by Dr. Falls on April 8, 1911. His granddaughter Alberta, who is the third generation owner, has repurposed the company’s tropical headquarters into a restaurant in order to generate additional revenue from the hungry cruise passengers.

Dr. Falls had a son who married a woman from India and they had a daughter who they named Alberta in honor of her grandfather. When she was eight years old, she was sent to live with him and learn the business. The company was originally a tropical river cargo shipping venture (“and logistics services”) but as business declined Alberta opened up sight-seeing cruises for passengers. A banner states that the inaugural cruise was October 1, 1931.

The restaurant includes three dining rooms. The Crew’s Mess Hall (which servers point out is not actually messy at all) is the largest one, and includes wall hangings of photos, documents, native musical instruments, and other expedition mementos gathered by the skippers on their travels.

The Jungle Room, which was the family parlor, is a more intimate location and features memorabilia culled from the Falls’ family archives. The third dining area is behind a bookcase, and was actually the secret meeting place for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A., an organization of which Falls was a member), and features artifacts from the mysterious organization.

The menu features cuisine inspired by the rivers of the world locales on the attraction including Asia, South America and Africa.

Alberta has even enlisted the skippers to interact with the guests when they are not on a cruise. The servers are encouraged to share the same corny humor, quips and “groaners” that guests loved on the attraction. A waiter will say, “I’d like to point out some of the highlights of the restaurant.” He then points up to the overhead fixtures. “There’s a light. There’s another one. That one is pretty high.” Another waiter might add, “I don’t want to mention the elephant in the room” and then point at an elephant statue on a shelf.

In a typewritten letter affixed to the menu, Alberta briefly explains the history of the Jungle Navigation Company and the restaurant. She concludes it by writing, “We enjoy having you and we hope you enjoy being had. Please relax, enjoy your meal, then get out.” Her postscript adds: “I’m sorry that was rude… Please get out.”

The area was previously used as a Pixie Hollow meet-and-greet area for the fairy characters. When the characters moved out, Imagineers considered several options for a themed Adventureland eatery including Tarzan, Aladdin and pirates.

As a tribute to some of the Imagineers responsible for the original Jungle Cruise, there are three offices on the upper floor for Skipper Marc (Davis), Skipper Harper (Goff) and Skipper Bill (Evans). On Jungle Cruise, Davis was responsible for the visual gags, Goff designed the waterway and the boats, and Evans did the landscaping.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.
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