Who knew Splash Mountain was offensive? The outrage mob, that’s who. Earlier this month, CNN reported that fans were calling on the ride to be re-themed.
And they got their wish.
I’ve never been on the ride, but millions of people have enjoyed it since 1989. Apparently, in 2020, it has finally reached the point where the delicate snowflakes couldn’t take it anymore, and Disney World has announced the ride will be re-themed after the 2009 Disney film, The Princess and the Frog.
Today we are thrilled to share a first glimpse of a project Imagineers have been working on since last year. Splash Mountain – at both Disneyland park in California and Magic Kingdom park in Florida – will soon be completely reimagined. The theme is inspired by an all-time favorite animated Disney film, “The Princess and the Frog.” We pick up this story after the final kiss, and join Princess Tiana and Louis on a musical adventure – featuring some of the powerful music from the film – as they prepare for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance.
Tiana is a modern, courageous, and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important. 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.
The ride, which I’ve never been on, was originally themed after the controversial 1946 film, Song of the South, which I haven’t seen, but which is widely recognized as being racially insensitive, if not outright racist. The Princess and the Frog is the first Disney movie to feature a black princess.
Disney is always updating its parks and rides, so it’s hardly unusual for a ride to be re-themed. But is The Princess and the Frog really an “all-time favorite animated Disney film”? According to IMDB, the movie only made $786,190 on its opening weekend and made less domestically ($104,400,899) than its estimated budget of $105,000,000. So, unless it was a home video sensation (and maybe it was?) I think Disney doesn’t want to admit that it felt pressured to update the ride for this specific movie for another reason.
Disney fans had mixed reactions to the news on the Disney Parks blog. “That’s so sad! No more laughing place at Disney. I have never seen Song of the South, so I just appreciated the cute animal characters,” wrote a commenter named Chris.
“This is disappointing news on 2 levels,” wrote Debra in the comments of the Disney Parks blog. “1) Tiana deserves a whole new & not some half baked and probably cheap redo like they did to Maelstrom for Frozen. 2) I love Splash Mountain as is. There is nothing offensive in the ride and it’s just a fun and happy ride as is. Yes, I understand it’s based on a movie that has objectionable segments but the ride is fine.”
“I couldn’t be more happy and excited!” wrote Holly.
“The world changes, and when it changes for the better, it’s wonderful to see Disney changing with it. While the original ride is a classic, there’s no way to escape its movie roots,” wrote Chant.
Disney does a great job of updating its rides. Having recently been to Disney World earlier this year before the lockdowns ruined everything, there’s something nice about rides that have been updated and refreshed. But Disney’s leaders should be more honest about why they’re doing it.
Disney is a company that seems intent on making up for its past mistakes, but sometimes it goes too far. Its live-action reboot of Lady and the Tramp, which was set in 1909, features the characters of Jim Dear and Darling as an interracial couple 58 years before interracial marriage was even legal in the state in which it took place. Shortly after I watched it I wrote that because of Disney’s influence on culture, “the damage they could to our nation’s sense of history, growth and overcoming past failings seems to insult the memories of those who worked so tirelessly and sacrificed so much to achieve racial equality in our country.”
In the end, updating a ride makes a lot more sense than rewriting history in Disney’s movies. But maybe some of these Disney fans have a point, why not create a brand new ride for The Princess and the Frog? Maybe Splash Mountain, despite its roots, needs to stay as it is to show us how far we’ve come.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis