The time honored tradition of looking up, down, and all around becomes almost second nature once you step inside the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen. It would be easy to miss one or two, or two hundred, details with all the layers and layers of storytelling being presented throughout the restaurant. One thing you should not do, however, is overlook the office doors on the second floor of the Crew Mess Hall. There are four in total, one off by itself and the other three along a singular corridor. Who do these doors belong to? Well, let us tell you.
The first, and perhaps most overlooked door, is actually above the entrance to the mess hall from the waiting area. Here we see the door for Alberta Falls. Notice the A added on to that first name? That’s because the door originally belonged to her grandfather, Dr. Albert Falls, when he began the cargo company all those years ago. Rather than have the entire door repainted, she simply added another A, with some flourish I would say, and moved along.
Alberta was sent to the jungle to live with her grandfather when she was just eight years old, and considers the skippers her family. This means that the self-described owner, manager, bookkeeper, interior decorator, and sous chef is not only welcoming you into her home, but also into her family. We’d best be respectful then when we visit!
The other three doors upstairs are assigned to specific skippers who each have a particular area of expertise. Skipper Marc is over Animal Biological Studies, Skipper Harper is in charge of Cartography, and Skipper Bill is known for Plant Studies. These doors are placed in a space of reverence, where we have to be looking up to them, and are illuminated because these are some of the luminaries of Adventureland. Books can, and in some cases have, been written about their contributions, so we’ll try to keep it brief here.
Skipper Marc pays respect to Marc Davis. Marc started out as an animator with Disney, crafting some of the most fantastic villains we’ve ever seen in Cruella De Vil and Maleficent and working on numerous other features. Once over in Imagineering, he created stories, concepts, vignettes, characters, and other pieces for some of the most famous attractions in the world. While this list includes the Jungle Cruise, it also contains the likes of the Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Tiki Room, it’s a small world, and Pirates of the Caribbean, and that’s before we start looking at his influences on EPCOT Center and Tokyo Disneyland!
We’ve talked on the Gazette before about Skipper Harper, aka Harper Goff, but he is worth revisiting. Harper was the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea designer of the Nautilus and it’s plush, Victorian interiors, concept artist for the original Haunted Mansion that would have been featured off of Main Street, U.S.A., member of the Firehouse Five Plus Two, and he even worked on several of the World Showcase Pavilions for EPCOT Center. His rendering of the Jungle Cruise boathouse remains one of my all-time favorite pieces of artwork.
Skipper Bill is none other than horticulturist Bill Evans. Bill was first tapped by Walt Disney to create the distinct environment needed for the Jungle Cruise. Rather than create an authentic jungle in Anaheim, and later in Orlando, he created a Hollywood Jungle filled with some authentic flora and other plants that would give the feel of traveling through rarely seen jungles. Bill was not above planting trees upside down to give the illusion of gnarled and mysterious root systems. He would go on to be the Director of Landscape Architecture for Disney and work on park and resort projects right up to and through Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Bill Evans, Harper Goff, and Marc Davis have all been rightly honored as Disney Legends, but it’s wholly more satisfying, I feel, to be honored in the places where you poured in your blood, sweat, and tears. The jungles of Adventureland wouldn’t be the same without these three, and they are certainly Skippers Emeritus. As for Alberta Falls, at least she has been honored time and again as the Adventureland Chamber of Commerce’s Business Woman of the Year, even if she had to keep adding the wo- in woman for far too long.