Disney is doing their part to make sure we all stay United equal as one. Disney has decided to change the Splash Mountain ride at its Disneyland park in California and Magic Kingdom park in Florida, so it’s no longer based on a movie that the company now acknowledges is offensive. The ride, which is famous for its 5-story drop in a long boat that drenches park goes, was inspired by the animated sequences in the 1946 movie Song of the South.
The film famously won an Oscar for its song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. The movie follows a young boy visiting his grandmothers’ plantation after the Civil War. Several people have criticized its deception of Black people and its romanticized view of the era. The company stated several designers have been working since last year to “re-theme” the park ride as a bayou-inspired tribute to the loving 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog.
The Disney film features Tiana, who is Disney’s first Black princess. More than 20,000 people had signed an online petition on Change.org pleading the company to change the ride’s theme to The Princess and the Frog. The ride is said to include the story after “the final kiss” in the movie, and will join Princess Tiana and her adorable trumpet-playing alligator Louis on a “musical adventure.” It will feature music from the film as they prepare for their Mardi Gras performance.
Disneyland Resort public relations director Michael Ramirez released a statement on the company’s website, reading,
“With this longstanding history of updating attractions and adding new magic, the re-theming 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.”
The changes come after there have been several calls from park-goers asking Disney to overhaul the ride amid the Black Lives Matter protest occurring in the US since the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. The protests have also spurred conversation and introspection in Hollywood in regard to the depiction of race in popular culture. Films such as Gone With the Wind and TV episodes that include the use of blackface have all been re-evaluated and pulled.
Last year, Bob Iger, Disney chair, stated song of the South would not be streaming on their new streaming service Disney+ nor would it be available for purchase. Iger stated, “I’ve felt as long as I’ve been CEO that Song of the South — even with a disclaimer — was just not appropriate in today’s world. It’s just hard, given the depictions in some of those films, to bring them out today without in some form or another offending people, so we’ve decided not to do that.”
Carmen Smith, who is the creative development and inclusive strategies executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, stated she was “incredibly proud” to see the new ride and the makeover at the theme parks, saying it was important for their guests to be able to see themselves in the experiences that Disney creates.