It’s transformation central in Disney Parks in the U.S. as Disney officially announced that it has big plans for Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
The popular water ride will soon be re-themed to Disney’s 2009 film about a frog prince wanting to be human again. If you guessed “Princess and the Frog” you’re correct.
“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,” Disney said.
According to the Disney Parks Blog, the idea for re-theming the 1989 thrill ride started over a year ago but the change also comes at a time when racial tensions are at a high.
“The new concept is inclusive – one that all of our guests can connect with and be inspired by, and it speaks to the diversity of the millions of people who visit our parks each year,” Disney officials said.
We're thrilled to share Splash Mountain at @Disneyland & @WaltDisneyWorld will be completely reimagined with a new story inspired by an all-time favorite @DisneyAnimation film, “The Princess & The Frog.” Learn about what Imagineers have in development:https://t.co/MWLaZ7dST4 pic.twitter.com/J39tOgxtjv— Disney Parks News (@DisneyParksNews) June 25, 2020
News 6 spoke with UCF professor and theme park expert Dr. Ducan Dickson about Disney’s move to re-theme the iconic attraction.
“It’s time move on, time to bring it up to date, bring it into something more reasonable,” Dickson said. “It’s fairly easy to repurpose the attraction. you don’t have to change the log flume system, you just change the story settings out and you have a new ride.”
The attraction is based on the 1946 Disney film “Song of the South,” which has been criticized for its stereotypes of Black people.
If you haven’t heard of the film, you’re not alone. The film isn’t available to the millions of subscribers of the company’s new Disney Plus streaming service, and it hasn’t been released in theaters in decades.
The film features Disney’s iconic tune “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Groups including the NAACP protested the film’s initial release.
“What was good and current in 1946 is not good and current in 2020, so let’s adapt it and change it and bring it up to date and I think that’s what Disney is doing,” Dickson added.
If you’re unfamiliar with Splash Mountain, here’s a little background.
Splash Mountain follows happy-go-lucky Br’er Rabbit as he looks for his “laughing place.” All the while, Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox are in hot pursuit Br’er Rabbit. The cruise ends with a 5-story splashdown into a thorny Briar Patch.
“You take down a major attraction like splash mountain in slow times it’s not going to affect wait lines and that sort of thing as much as if they were having 60,000 attendance days and three-hour lines -- now is the time to get it done,” Dickson explained
Numerous petitions recently popped up online, CNN reports, calling for Disney to remove all mentions of the movie from the attraction.
“Disney parks should be a home for all to enjoy regardless of race, age, whatever your background may be,” said an online petition asking for the ride to be changed. “While the ride is considered a beloved classic, it’s history and storyline are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes from the 1946 film Song of the South.”
But Splash Mountain also has its supporters. One online petition asked that the ride remain the way it is.
“Many adults and children ride this attraction because it brings back childhood memories,” the “Keep Splash Mountain” petition said. “Disney already took out the racist songs which was a good move on their part.”
The voice of Princess Tiana, Anika Noni Rose chimed in with her thoughts on Disney’s new ambition.
“It is really exciting to know that Princess Tiana’s presence in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will finally be fully realized! As passionate as I am about what we created, I know the fans are going to be over the moon. The Imagineers are giving us ‘The Princess and the Frog’ Mardi Gras celebration we’ve been waiting for, and I’m here for it!”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no date has been announced for construction.