Disney changing Splash Mountain, ride tied to Jim Crow film

June 25, 2020
Disney changing Splash Mountain, ride tied to Jim Crow film
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Amid calls to change the Splash Mountain over its ties to Song of the South, a 1946 movie which many view as racist, Disney officials said Thursday it was recasting the theme park ride to reflect The Princess and the Frog, a 2009 Disney film centred on a young Black woman.

Changes to the ride will be made both at Disneyland in California and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida, the company said in a post.

Though Disney said the changes had been in the works since last year, it comes after a number of similar decisions. Throughout the United States, companies are renaming racially charged, decades-old brands amid worldwide protests for racial justice after the police custody death of George Floyd in Minnesota last month.

“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,” the Disney post said.

Splash Mountain first opened as a log-flume ride at Disneyland in the late 1980s.

The revamped ride will follow the contours of the animated movie, The Princess and the Frog. In that film, actor Anika Noni Rose voices the role of an aspiring young chef in 1920s New Orleans who kisses a prince that has been turned into a frog, and then becomes one herself.

Anika Noni Rose poses next to a poster of the animated character Tiana at the 2009 premiere of The Princess and the Frog in Burbank, Calif. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

With racist stereotypes and Old South tropes, Song of the South is a mix of live action, cartoons and music featuring an old Black plantation labourer named Uncle Remus who enchants a white city boy with fables of talking animals.

Groups including the NAACP protested Song of the South‘s initial release. 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 theatres in decades.

“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, its history and storyline are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes from the 1946 film Song of the South.”

The 1940s-era Disney film Song of the South, which inspired the Splash Mountain ride, has been widely criticized for containing racist stereotypes and Old South tropes in its story of an old Black plantation labourer who enchants a white city boy with fables of talking animals. It isn’t available on the Disney Plus streaming service and hasn’t been released in theatres in decades. (Rotten Tomatoes/Disney)

But Splash Mountain had its supporters. Another online petition asked that the ride remain in its current incarnation.

“Many adults and children ride this attraction because it brings back childhood memories,” said a petition called Keep Splash Mountain.

“Disney already took out the racist songs, which was a good move on their part.”



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