Splash Mountain, one of the mainstay rides at Disneyland whose theme was based on the Uncle Remus Br’er Rabbit story from Disney’s controversial 1946 film Song of the South, will be reimagined based on the animated film The Princess and the Frog.
The news comes amid growing calls to change the ride’s theme in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed calling for racial justice and social change that have dominated the national conversation.
Disney said Thursday that the conversion has been in the works for the flume ride at both the Disneyland in Anaheim and the Magic Kingdom park in Orlando. The new incarnation picks up the story of the 2009 movie after the final kiss, following Princess Tiana (played by Anika Noni Rose) and Louis as they prepare for their first Mardi Gras performance. Rose is involved in the project.
Song of the South long has been criticized for its depiction of African Americans and romanticizing the Antebellum South. Disney has kept the film locked away in its archives and never has released it on video. A recent Change.org petition was among the calls to re-theme Splash Mountain with Princess and the Frog, which features Tiana as the Disney’s first black princess.
“While the rides [sic] storyline is not an exact version of the movies [sic] plot line it is derivative from it, the characters, the songs and locations are all main features of the ride,” the petition reads. “Disney has removed Song of the South from its library, refusing to share it on DVD or their streaming services. The best next step to remove all traces of this racist movie would be to re-theme Splash Mountain into a Princess and the Frog themed ride.”
Michael Ramirez, Public Relations Director for the Disneyland Resort, said in a blog post that “the retheming of Splash Mountain is of particular importance today. The new concept is inclusive – one that all of our guests can connect with and be inspired by, and it speaks to the diversity of the millions of people who visit our parks each year.”
He added: “It’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou. In 1966, Walt himself opened New Orleans Square when it became the first new ‘land’ added to Disneyland park, so it feels natural to link the story and the incredible music of The Princess and the Frog to our parks.”
There is no timeline when the rides at either park will be completed and open. Both theme parks are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s not the first time Disney has reacted to a social movement by altering one of its popular theme park rides. Amid the #MeToo outcry in early 2018, it made changes to the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The “bride auction” scene, which featured a female character named Redd as part of a “wench sale” with signs that read “Auction take a wench for a bride” was changed to a pirate who’s just pillaged the town’s rum supply and has something to say about it.