"George of the Jungle" is a live-action feature film adaptation of the classic late 1960s cartoon series created by legendary animator Jay Ward.
The movie's opening credits play during a brief animated retelling of George's origins. An airplane flying over the deepest interior of central Africa crashes and a baby who had been on the airplane is never found by the passengers who survived the crash. The baby was raised by gorillas, and grew up to be a amicable but not particularly smart vine-swinging "king of the jungle." The main story of the film begins when the beautiful and wealthy Ursula Stanhope (actress Leslie Mann) becomes separted from her safari while in search of a legendary "white ape" rumored to live in the region. Ursula is attacked by a lion, but the attack is thwarted by the timely arrival of George of the Jungle (Brendan Fraser). George takes Ursula back to his treehouse, and eventually she takes him back to her home in San Francisco, after which various plot complications, a love story, and comedic events ensue.
In one scene, a pair of Latter-day Saint missionaries ride their bicycles through the background. The scene takes place in a moderately-sized town deep in the interior of central Africa. The Latter-day Saint elders have no lines and have nothing to do with the story. Their presence is apparently just a throw-away sight gag, intended to add something visually or interesting or humorous to the film while two characters in the foreground have a discussion. The scene suggests that missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be found essentially everywhere, even in a remote town in the heart of Africa.
The scene in which the missionaries are seen is one in which the chief sidekicks of the film's main villain discuss their nefarious plans. "Max" (played by actor Greg Cruttwell, using a heavy Australian accent) and "Thor" (played by Abraham Benrubi) are two thugs who work for "Lyle Van de Groot" (Thomas Haden Church). They plan to capture "Ape," the intelligent talking gorilla friend of the jungle king "George." The voice for "Ape" is provided by famed Monty Python comedian John Cleese.
The missionaries are clearly visible and easy to spot if you know where to look for them. But because they are in the background in a scene during which other characters are the focus of the scene, it is possible to miss seeing the missionaries. The scene with the missionaries begins 42 minutes, 28 seconds after the start of the movie. The scene ends 43 minutes, 4 seconds after the start of the movie. The entire scene is 36 seconds long.
The missionaries appear in the background during only part of the scene. The first missionary appears at timecode 42 minutes, 34 seconds (6 seconds after the scene begins). The second missionary, who is riding just a few feet behind the first, leaves the screen at timecode 42 minutes, 41 seconds. The missionaries appear on screen for 7 seconds, which makes this one of the shortest appearances on record of Latter-day Saint characters in a feature film.
Screen shots from the movie, in which the missionaries can be seen, are shown below:
Below is the actual dialogue from the movie:
[Max and Thor discuss what to do next as they walk through a market in a moderately-sized town in the African interior. Two Latter-day Saint missionaries ride by in the background, behind Max and Thor.]
Thor (Abraham Benrubi): No, Max! Forget about it. I do NOT want to listen to any more of your ideas.
Max (Greg Cruttwell): You'll like this one. We're gonna steel Georgie-boy's talking ape.
Thor: You mean, back up the mountain?
Max: Thor, that ape is our ticket out of poaching and into show business.
Max: Think about it! We got a talking ape. What do Siegfried and Roy have?
Max: Exactly. Get ready for room service, mate, and girls. We're gettin' our ape, and going a Vegas. By next weekend we'll be headlining at the Tropicana. Nobody is gonna stop us.
Thor: Right. George of the Jungle must be halfway to Frisco by now.
[NOTE: The dialogue shown here is a transcript from the film as it actually was released. Where there are discrepancies between our transcript and the optional English subtitles shown onscreen on the DVD, it is the transcript that is correct. Mistakes in the DVD subtitles are usually a result of presenting subtitles based on the shooting script rather than transcribing the audio track.]
The dialogue spoken by the characters in this scene has nothing whatsoever to do with the missionaries in the background specifically, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints generally. Or does it?
Max and Thor mention two cities in this scene, both of which were founded by Mormons. The characters talk about using a talking gorilla to establish themselves as a major attraction in Las Vegas, Nevada - a city that was founded by Latter-day Saints in 1855.
At the end of the scene Thor mentions that George of the Jungle must be halfway to San Francisco. (San Francisco is Ursula's home. She takes George there to be treated by a doctor after her fiance Lyle Van de Groot shoots him.) San Francisco, California was formed by Latter-day Saint settlers under the direction of Elder Sam Brannan, who arrived at the small port Yerba Buena on the sailng ship Brooklyn on July 31, 1846. The Latter-day Saints transformed the port of Yerba Buena into a city, the name of which was changed to San Francisco a few months later, in 1847. Latter-day Saints were the predominant group and the majority of the population, until the majority of them left in response to Pres. Brigham Young's request that they move to Utah. Many books are available about this pivotal period in California history. An excellent PBS documentary by Scott Tiffany details these events: Forgotten Voyage: The Mormon Sea Trek That Sparked the Gold Rush (2002).
"George of the Jungle" is essentially an animated comedy version of the classic "Tarzan" character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Soon after the lead female character in "George of the Jungle" meets George, she refers to him as a "Tarzan wannabe."
Edgar Rice Burroughs lived for many years in predominantly Latter-day Saint areas of southern Idaho, and for a time in Salt Lake City, Utah. Burroughs expressed admiration for Mormon pioneers and contemporary Latter-day Saints, but was not a Latter-day Saint himself. Along with his Tarzan stories, Burroughs' other famous and influential works include the John Carter Mars Series (A Princess of Mars; The Gods of Mars; etc.), Venus Series and Earth's Core series. Burroughs based some of his writings on the Book of Mormon, particularly his descriptions of Barsoom in his Martian saga.