My wife and I started playing board games with our children when they were very young. Almost 18 years later, the games may have changed, but we still enjoy this family pastime. Playing board games is fun and that’s reward enough, but it also serves other purposes. Board games cultivate social skills. They teach you how to compete, how to accept disappointment with grace, how to concentrate, how to strategize, and even how to count.
Since the early days of Mickey Mouse, the Walt Disney Company has been creating toys and games. When I was a young, I had an abundance of Disney toys and my wife and I made sure to provide plenty for our children. During this time, eBay emerged as an easy platform to shop for a wide variety of items. It was through eBay that I discovered the world of Disneyanna, a name broadly given to all manners of Disney-themed merchandise. If I could purchase something made in America, I would. If I could purchase something of an antique variety that still has a practical use, I would. So began my hunt for vintage Disney board games and record albums. No longer confined to tag sales and thrift stores, I had access to Disney memorabilia from all over the country if not the world, and I found a lot of interesting things which I will write about in time.
One day I discovered Disney’s Adventureland Game. This board game was produced by the famous Parker Brothers game company. Created in 1956, it was obviously inspired by The Jungle Cruise attraction in Disneyland. At the time I discovered the game, we had been to Disney World two or three times and had plenty of free time at home (those days are long gone). We read, we played with toys and we played board games. Playing board games themed to Disney World attractions was an exciting proposition.
The conceit of the game is you are on a boat trip in the rivers of Adventureland, which for all intents and purposes means The Jungle Cruise attraction. While cruising the rivers you are assigned to take three photographs of the animals or landscapes you may encounter. The first person to successfully take their assigned photos and return to the dock wins. There is no skill involved; it is based purely on luck. Its appeal lies in your willingness to pretend that you are on a real expedition. This is very easy for children to do, particularly if the adult sets the example.
I handily won the eBay bid for the board game which cost only a few dollars plus shipping. There was a good reason why no one but me seemed to be interested in this item. While the board was in excellent condition, it was missing all the game tokens and some of the cards, and the spinner was broken. But I didn’t care – I wanted, no, needed, to have this vintage board game.
The missing tokens were tiny boats similar to the ones on the Jungle Cruise. I looked for those tokens on eBay, as well as anything resembling a tiny boat. No luck. I did find a collection of metal Disney character figures for sale from a Disney themed Monopoly game. For $1 I had tokens and even if I would have preferred the boats, the children were delighted with the Disney characters. I tried to repair the spinner, but to no avail. Easy fix, I used a die.
The last challenge was to replace the missing cards. The game is supposed to include two sets of 12 cards, colored white and pink. Each card contained an image of animals or landscapes you might encounter on the river. For every white card there is a corresponding pink card. The players are dealt three pink cards at the beginning of the game, and the object is to “take a photo” of each assigned image by matching it to the corresponding white card. You have the opportunity to take a photo when you land on a space with the image of a camera. At the time you would draw a card from the white pile. It it matches one of your pink cards, it is considered that you have successfully taken on of your assigned photographs. Unfortunately, the game was missing two pairs of cards. I suppose we could have played the game anyway, but I got inspired. That summer, our local supermarket was selling plums from a purveyor called Flavor Safari. On each plum was a detailed color painting of a wild animal. Well, I bought some plums and some pink and white card stock and made two more sets of pictures. We were ready to go.
The game was an instant hit. It was so much fun to pretend you were on an authentic adventure tasked with photographing exotic subjects. I remember watching the children trying to correctly move their tokens. The counting was messy, but in a relatively short time, they learned how to accurately move their tokens on the board to the corresponding number on the die.
Two or three years after I purchased the game through eBay, Disney re-released it with several other board games from that era. I could have purchased a brand new Adventureland game with a working spinner, the authentic boat tokens, and a complete set of cards, but our repaired version with the home made touches had its own charm. We still have the game and several others from that time. For many years, it brought us hours of fun. I think after I finish writing this, we’ll play a round or two for old time’s sake. In the background, we’ll listen to The Jungle Cruise souvenir record album narrated by the inimitable Thurl Ravenscroft and, for half an hour, it will feel like we are in Disney World.
– by Martin Blanco
Photo credit: Kathryn Blanco