While Disney CEO Bob Iger has said that the controversial 1946 Uncle Remus adaptation “Song of the South” will never stream on Disney+, that doesn’t mean that the racially problematic movie, set in post-Civil War South, doesn’t still haunt the Mouse House. That includes the ride Splash Mountain, first launched at California’s Disneyland in 1989 before opening at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disney in 1992, and Disney fans are petitioning the company rebrand the iconic log flume ride, whose characters, songs, and locations all come from “Song of the South.”
The movie has long drawn criticism for its problematic portrayal of the post-Antebellum South, as well as its racist stereotypes, and there are several petitions on Change.org asking Disney to move the ride away from that painful legacy. One of them is calling upon the company to re-theme the ride around “The Princess and the Frog,” the 2009 animated hit that featured Disney’s first Black princess.
“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,” the petition says. “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.”
IndieWire has reached out to Disney for comment. For now, Disney’s parks remain closed.