Updated on December 10, 2021
In the wake of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, many corporations are continuing to rethink legacy problematic names and themes. Recent brands undergoing major changes or being ditched entirely include the Eskimo Pie ice cream bar, Aunt Jemima pancake mix, and Land O’Lakes butter.
Disney’s the latest such conglomerate, which is unsurprising given it was founded in the 1920s, and now owns a massive amount of stuff. On Thursday, the House of Mouse announced it’s giving its Splash Mountain theme park ride a complete overhaul. The popular Disneyland and Disney World log flume ride will instead become one based on the 2009 animated film “The Princess and the Frog.”
“Song of the South”‘s problematic legacy
The current Splash Mountain ride is based on the 1946 film “Song of the South,” which Disney’s withheld from distribution in the United States since a 1986 theatrical re-release. However, clips of the animated portion of the film have appeared on various Disney audio/video compilations up through the 2000s, mostly of the film’s famous song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” The film’s animated characters (Br’er Rabbit, Bear, and Fox) have made appearances in some 21st century media, such as the anthology series “House of Mouse.” Their most recent appearance is in a 2011 “Disneyland” Xbox 360 video game release.
That said, “Song of the South” is problematic for a variety of reasons, and I can see why Disney’s not exactly jumping to release this one from the “Vault.” Meanwhile, it’s nice to see “Princess and the Frog” get attention, especially as a recent 2D animated film/one starring African-American characters.
Disney park rides have changed before
Disney’s changed up its rides at its theme parks before, so this isn’t anything new. It also helps it’d be a ride tied to a film that actually is on video, and has stronger ties to modern Disney merchandising. Finally, I was surprised to learn Splash Mountain’s only existed as a ride since 1989. I thought it was much older than that, given the characters it’s using, plus the online reaction by some as if it were a fundamental part of the park.
The new ride’s “story” will show what happens with Tiana and Naveen after the events of the film. I’ll assume the film’s villain, Dr. Facilier, will (somehow) get some role in this.
If wondering, I’ve never been to a Disney theme park, so I don’t have any nostalgic attachment to Splash Mountain (or the film it’s based on). Growing up, the main theme park near my hometown was Six Flags (whose characters are largely Warner Bros. ones: the DC superheroes, Looney Tunes, etc.). However, I’d like to visit Disneyland or Disney World some day.