Disney is revamping the beloved Splash Mountain ride with a new theme. The log flume ride, which is at both Disneyland and Disney World, will soon feature The Princess and the Frog.
But why is Disney updating such a classic and popular ride at their theme parks? The answer may surprise you.
Splash Mountain Draws Theming Elements From Controversial Film
That’s right. Many people aren’t aware that Splash Mountain is a spin-off attraction based on their most controversial film.
Splash Mountain first opened in Critter Country at Disneyland in 1989. It then opened at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland’s Critter Country, both in 1992. Although they vary slightly, all three versions of the ride draw theming elements from 1946’s Song of the South.
It features the earworm of a song, “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” The tune is one of Disney’s most well-known songs and won an Oscar in 1947. And if you’ve ever wondered where that song came from, it’s also from Song of the South.
The film, which features a blend of animation and live-action, has long been condemned for perpetuating racist stereotypes.
The ‘46 flick is set in the Reconstruction-era American South. You can probably guess that it’s dripping with minstrelsy, caricatures, and romanticized depictions of post-Civil War plantation workers. It portrays the lives of Uncle Remus and other former slaves on a plantation as idyllic. Yikes.
Song of the South Doesn’t Appear in Disney+’s Library
It’s so controversial that the company won’t even put the movie on Disney+. And while it earned $65 million at the box office (which is a lot when you adjust for inflation since the ‘40s), and was re-released to theaters in 1986 to the tune of $17 million, it was never released on any home video format in the United States, either.
In 2010, Disney chief executive Bob Iger called the movie “antiquated” and “fairly offensive.” He would later say the film “wouldn’t necessarily sit right or feel right to a number of people today.”
At this point, it seems like the company is doing everything they can to bury the legacy of the controversial film… including removing it from Splash Mountain.
Since the ride’s introduction three decades ago, you could catch Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear as you ride through the attraction. The scenes are taken from animated segments of Song of the South. Missing, though, are some of the most problematic elements from the 1946 movie, such as Uncle Remus himself. Which leads me to my next question…
Does Splash Mountain Really Need a Makeover?
Do we really need to re-theme Splash Mountain?
The short answer is yes.
Here’s the truth. It doesn’t matter if Uncle Remus isn’t inside Splash Mountain. It doesn’t matter if there’s no reference to a plantation, or depictions of oddly cheerful former slaves still working at the plantation.
We all know where the music, the characters, and the stories came from. And it all came from a movie full of genuinely ugly content. The elements that were used just stand as a reminder.
The new revamped Splash Mountain is slated to feature The Princess and the Frog’s main character, Princess Tiana. Guests will follow Tiana in the bayou, as she plots a Mardi Gras celebration with Naveen and Louis (the jazz-loving alligator).
Disney is working hard to not only incorporate the film’s beloved characters, but to also incorporate the culture of New Orleans into the look and feel of the ride. And if we really want to get into it, present-day park-goes care infinitely more about The Princess and the Frog than anyone does about Song of the South.
There is no word on when the overhauled rides will open, or what they will be called. But for now, Disney has released new details to tide you over.
Disney commissioned paintings from Sharika Mahdi, a New Orleans artist, to use as key elements for the new ride. Check this out:
For more info about the upcoming The Princess and the Frog-themed ride, check the release from Disney Parks.