Disney Is Redesigning Splash Mountain to Be Based Around 'Princess and the Frog'

Kayla Keegan
Photo credit: Disney
Photo credit: Disney

From Good Housekeeping

Yesterday, news broke that Disney theme parks would be "completely reimagining" Splash Mountain, one of its most popular rides since first opening in 1989.

Instead, Disney is vowing to recreate the ride using characters and songs from the 2009 film The Princess and the Frog, a fairy tale that featured Disney's first Black princess.

The announcement comes as Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder continue to bring about reflection and important changes in American society.

Why Disney is changing its Splash Mountain theme now:

The log flume ride is based on the 1946 movie Song of the South, a live-action/animation hybrid centered around Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus books. Though it appears criticism for the ride's characters and usage of the Oscar-winning song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" is recent, the film has long been deemed controversial. In fact, Disney has kept Song of the South locked away in its vault for decades, not ever releasing it on home video in the U.S.

Critics say that through the movie's characters — Uncle Remus (an old Black plantation laborer), Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox, Br'er Bear, along with the ducks, chicken, and frogs — the film created a romanticized view of the post-Civil War South, one rife with problematic racial hierarchies and racist minstrel characters.

Upon its release, the film received criticism from civil rights groups, including the NAACP. At the time, the organization said in a statement that while it applauded the film's technical achievements, the NAACP "regrets, however, that in an effort neither to offend audiences in the North or South, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery ... [The film] unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts."

Photo credit: LMPC
Photo credit: LMPC

A reporter for The Guardian wrote in 2019 that “the world and themes of both [the live-action portion and animated segments starring B'rer Rabbit] reinforce a nostalgia for a plantation in the Reconstruction era.”

When it came time to launch Disney+ last November, executives chose to keep the title off the streaming service. Well before the decision was made, Disney CEO Bob Iger said in 2011 that he felt Song of the South "wouldn't necessarily sit right or feel right to a number of people today" and that "it wouldn't be in the best interest of our shareholders to bring it back, even though there would be some financial gain."

According to The New York Times, Disney executives had been privately talking about getting rid of the Song of the South theme in Splash Mountain for at least five years. In light of this summer's protests though, Disney reportedly sped up unveiling its makeover plans to the public.

The new Splash Mountain ride has yet to be renamed.

The Princess and the Frog project timeline is largely dependent on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Even still, there are some exciting new details to share about the attraction. The new nine-minute long flume ride is set to tell the story of what happens after The Princess and the Frog film. It will center around Princess Tiana and Louis, a trumpet-playing alligator, as they head to a Mardi Gras concert. The ride will take Disney guests through winding caverns and decorated show scenes before arriving at a grand musical finale.

Tony Baxter, who oversaw Splash Mountain’s creation in 1989, voiced his support for making over the ride.

“When Splash Mountain came to life over 30 years ago, the wave of Disney Animation that started with The Little Mermaid had not yet begun,” she explained. “New stories would give us characters, music, and wonderful places that now reside in the hearts of audiences everywhere. Following conversations with Imagineering’s leaders about the new attraction’s scope and resources, I had a great sense of reassurance — the attraction will be one to be proud of ... bringing to life places, characters and music from the animated classic The Princess and the Frog.”

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