The beloved attractions at Disney parks have shaped the childhoods of millions. At a young age, kids across the world learn the power of magic, love and friendship, and later become adult Disney enthusiasts that travel to Disney World, Disneyland and its international locations, such as Tokyo Disneyland. And in the spirit of loving Disney, many are calling for Disney to do better.
The Black Lives Matter movement has opened the eyes of many individuals across the United States and the world to racial inequality. In response, Disney has once again embarked on a journey of lifting up underrepresented voices.
A petition and 21,380 Disney enthusiasts have now helped to create change — Disney World and Disneyland are re-imagining Splash Mountain to revolve around the 2009 animated film “The Princess and the Frog.”
The History of Splash Mountain
In 1989, Disney created the Splash Mountain ride as an ode to the 1946 film “Song of the South.”
The film is set in the Reconstruction era in the American South, following the end of slavery. Based on Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus tales, the movie depicts the story of 7-year-old Johnny visiting his grandmother’s plantation. Johnny becomes great friends with one of the workers on the plantation, Uncle Remus, and their relationship blossoms as Uncle Remus tells little Johnny stories about Br’er (Brother) Rabbit, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. By the end of the film, the stories have taught Johnny how to cope with living on the plantation.
However, not everyone is a fan of “Song of the South.” The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has praised the cinematography of the movie and how it blends animation and live-action, but believes that “the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery …[the film] unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship, which is a distortion of the facts.”
The movie, which is not included on Disney Plus, has been criticized for being extremely problematic and having stereotypical racist tropes. Disney has even removed “Song of the South” from its library and has refused to share it on DVD.
Splash Mountain and the image that it presents are controversial. That is why Disney has decided to take action. The beloved attraction is getting a whole new look by incorporating a modern, courageous Disney princess.
The Petition That Pushed for Change
In mid-June, Disney enthusiast Alex O took to Change.org to petition The Walt Disney Company to make some changes.
Alex requested that Disney re-theme Splash Mountain to “The Princess and the Frog.” He said, “Disney parks should be a home for all to enjoy regardless of race, age, whatever your background may be.” He emphasized that diversity in the parks is nonnegotiable and re-theming Splash Mountain would be a huge step in the right direction.
In Disney parks, “The Princess and the Frog” has a minor presence. Princess Tiana would be one of the first princesses with her own thrill ride, which would provide great representation for women in Disney and an incentive for people to buy “Princess and the Frog” merchandise, said Alex.
But not everyone agrees that Splash Mountain should be re-themed.
“I don’t think Disney should re theme Splash Mountain because it’s not only a popular ride at Disneyland since the 1980’s but it’s to [sic] expensive to re theme into The Princess and the frog,” said Joseph Goodman on the Change.org petition. “Also Disney has lost a lot of money due to the COVID -19 Pandemic so Disney might not do it.”
Another Disney enthusiast, Barbara Dangleman, said the ride should remain as is: “If Disney caves to this we will be done. Splash mountain is Disney’s History you cannot change history. Walt would not do this. It’s part of the Magic.”
Regardless, Disney has sided with the 21,380 petition signers.
So, how will they re-theme the ride?
On the Disney Parks Blog, the media giant’s parks and resorts subsidiary said that they are thrilled for the change and project Imagineers have actually been working since last year to redesign the attraction.
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
Right now, Splash Mountain is located adjacent to New Orleans Square in Disneyland. The re-imagining of the attraction would be fairly easy as “The Princess and the Frog” was set in The Big Easy. In Disney World’s Magic Kingdom park, the attraction sits on the Rivers of America and is across from Tom Sawyer’s Island (which is set in Mississippi). Imagineers are working on incorporating the story into both settings.
The attraction will depict an epilogue of Princess Tiana and Louis’ life after the final kiss, as they prepare for their first Mardi Gras performance.
Voice actress of Princess Tiana, Anika Noni Rose, is onboard with the change: “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. Imagineers are giving us ‘The Princess and the Frog’ Mardi Gras celebration we’ve been waiting for, and I’m here for it!”
Disney said they are proudly committed to the new concept, as it is inclusive and speaks to the diversity of the millions of people who travel to the parks every year.
Walt Disney often referred to re-theming as “plussing” the attractions and always wanted to capture a fresh and relevant story in his parks. Charita Carter, the senior creative producer of Walt Disney Imagineering, is delighted for the opportunity and excited to show what Disney is capable of:
“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.”
Soon, Princess Tiana’s story will be brought to life in the parks. Hopefully, it will continue to spread Disney’s message of love, magic and friendship.