Splash Mountain, the popular log flume ride ride featured at Disneyland, Disney World, and Tokyo Disney, will be “completely reimagined” in the wake of controversy surrounding its history that resurfaced earlier this month, Disney announced on Thursday. Instead of taking inspiration from the 1946 film “Song of the South,” a portrait of the post-Civil War South filled with racial stereotypes and problematic Black characters, Splash Mountain will now celebrate “The Princess and the Frog,” the 2009 animated hit that featured Disney’s first Black princess.
Splash Mountain has been a mainstay at California’s Disneyland since 1989, and opened at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida in 1992. Changes will be implemented at those locations, according to Thursday’s announcement. While a timeline for the ride’s reconstruction hasn’t been set just yet, Disney did say the ride will continue the story of “Princess and the Frog,” picking up where the movie left off for a musical adventure featuring Princess Tiana and the alligator Louis.
“Tiana is a modern, courageous, and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important,” Disney said on Thursday in a statement. “It’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou.”
The news follows petitions initiated earlier in June that called upon Disney to remove the ride’s ties to the 1946 Uncle Remus adaptation “Song of the South.” The film contained images of minstrelsy and divided audiences in its depiction of the lives of post-Civil War plantation workers, even though it has remained commercially resonant for Disney all these years later. Still, Disney’s Executive Chairman and former CEO Bob Iger has said the film will never stream on Disney+.
“There is a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need. ‘Princess and the Frog’ is a beloved princess movie but has very little representation in the parks,” one petition read. “Tiana could be one of the first princesses with a thrill ride, as well as giving her a much deserved place in the parks.”
The petitions have arisen in the wake of the death of George Floyd, and in a moment where America has been increasingly examining its inclusiveness.
“As you know, Splash Mountain is based on the film ‘Song of the South,’ which Disney refuses to put into circulation because it glorifies slave culture and the racist tropes used to portray black people during the minstrel period of our performance history,” another petition reads. “With all the BLM protests going on, I think it’s time for Disney to renovate the ride in both parks.”
Back in March, Bob Iger during a shareholder meeting said, “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.”
Still, the movie’s legacy is hard to shake. After all, it is the origin of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Film historian Karina Longworth explored the movie’s complicated history in depth in the last season of the podcast “You Must Remember This.”