The beloved ride is based on a now-controversial film that features what many call "strong racist tones."
Splash Mountain - one of Disney's premiere theme park attractions - is getting "completely re-imagined," the company announced on Thursday. The ride, which is based on the controversial 1946 film Song of the South, will be revamped to the theme of Disney's 2009 animated motion picture The Princess and The Frog. It is incredibly noteworthy that the film features Disney's first black princess.
"Tiana is a modern, courageous, and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what's really important," Disney said in a statement Thursday. "It's a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou."
According to Disney, the story for the new ride will pick up at the end of the film's "final kiss" scene.
"The Imagineers are giving us The Princess and the Frog Mardi Gras celebration we’ve been waiting for,
and I’m here for it," said Tony Award-winning actress, Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Princess Tiana in the film.
More than 20,000 people signed a Change.org petition to re-name the ride. Splash Mountain debuted at Disney's Magic Kingdom in Orlando and Disneyland in California in 1989. For just over three decades, it as been a mainstay attraction at the parks.
Walt Disney World in Orlando is coming up on its 50th anniversary in 2021, and some attractions like Peter Pan's Flight and Jungle Cruise have been in operation since the park opened in 1971.
The film the ride is derived from - Song of the South - has been locked away in the Disney vault for a very long time. Disney remained steadfast with the decision and did not make the film available for streaming when it launched its landmark Disney+ service. Best known for the song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" which is featured throughout the Splash Mountain experience, the film has long been criticized for its offensive stereotype of African Americans, and romanticizing the South for blacks during America's Reconstruction period.
Charita Carter, the senior creative producer leading the project at Walt Disney Imagineering shared, “Like Princess Tiana, I believe that courage and love are the key ingredients for wonderful adventures. I am delighted to be a part of bringing this fun-filled experience to our guests.”
Disney did not give an exact date for when the new attraction will open, but stated that "conceptual design work is well underway."
"Imagineers will soon be able to conduct preliminary reviews and develop a timeline for when the attraction transformation can begin," the company said.
- Matt Bishop