The Walt Disney Company made a big splash on Thursday when it announced plans to remove “Song Of The South” references from its Splash Mountain ride at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
Instead, the ride will be revamped to focus on the characters from the 2009 film “The Princess And The Frog,” Disney officials said.
Both films are set in the American South and feature Black characters, but “Song Of The South,” which came out in 1946, has long been called Disney’s most notorious film because of its stereotypical portrayal of a Black storyteller character, Uncle Remus, and its sanitized depiction of plantation life.
Animated characters from the controversial film, like Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox, have been part of “Splash Mountain” since the log flume ride first debuted in 1989.
Although the news comes at a time when Americans are closely examining racial issues, Disney officials say the change has long been in the works.
“We continually evaluate opportunities to enhance and elevate experiences for our guests,” Carmen Smith, creative development and inclusive strategies executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, said in an official statement. “It is important that our guests be able to see themselves in the experiences we create. Because we consider ourselves constant learners, we go to great lengths to research and engage cultural advisors and other experts to help guide us along the way. I am incredibly proud to see this work continue to move forward with great support from leadership across Disney.”
Making “The Princess And The Frog” the focus of the revamped ride will probably come as no surprise.
Earlier this year, more than 20,000 people signed an online petition on Change.org asking Disney to change the ride’s theme to the 2009 animated film, according to CNN.
The storyline of the new ride will focus on the film’s protagonist, Princess Tiana, and the trumpet-playing alligator Louis as they go “on a musical adventure.”
The Los Angeles Times noted that the new theme will tie in nicely with nearby New Orleans Square at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
The paper also noted that this isn’t the first time that Disney theme parks have updated their rides to respect changing times.
For instance, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride has been updated many times, including one recently removed set piece depicting a bridal auction theme.
The LA Times also predicted that Disney might soon consider updating the Jungle Cruise to remove depictions of white people as colonialists and native people as savages, as well as the “exaggerated vocal caricatures of the Enchanted Tiki Room.”