Disney fans call for Splash Mountain attraction to be re-themed due to racism

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

A call is being made to change the theme of one of Disney’s most well-known attractions: Splash Mountain.

The log flume ride is a popular one at Disneyland, Walt Disney World Resort and Tokyo Disneyland. It’s based on the 1946 film Song of the South, which Disney has locked away in its vault and permanently banned from Disney+ because of its racial depictions.

As protests demanding racial equality take place across the country, a petition has been created to change Splash Mountain. It’s being suggested that the ride be made over with a theme inspired by 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, which tells the story of Disney’s first black princess, Tiana. So far, nearly 13,000 people have signed, including Disney loyalists and employees.

A petition is calling for Disney to re-theme its Splash Mountain attraction, which is based on the controversial film Song of the South. (Photo: AP Photo/John Raoux)

The petition notes that “Disney parks should be a home for all to enjoy regardless of race, age, whatever your background may be.” And while the ride “is considered a beloved classic,” its premise and history “are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes” from Song of the South. “There is a huge need for diversity in the parks,” it continues, and “Princess and the Frog is a beloved princess movie but has very little representation in the parks.”

Yahoo Entertainment has reached out to a Disney Parks spokesperson for comment and will update this story when we get a response.

Some who say they are current and past cast members — the term Disney uses for its employees — are voicing their approval for the makeover. Frederick Chambers even shared a thorough plan for executing the redo.

This person responded to a suggestion from screenwriter Brian Lynch (The Secret Life of Pets, Minions) that the theme should be changed to Moana.

Hercules was also floated.

This person said Disney should “go ahead and retheme it” because “nobody rides it because they actually enjoy Song of the South” anyway.

The ride opened at Disneyland in 1989 and at Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland in 1992. It varies a little from park to park, but each version shows scenes taken from the animated segments of Song of the South, with characters including Br’er Rabbit. The ride is set to “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Interestingly, the descriptions of the ride vary on the different parks’ websites. While Disneyland notes that it’s inspired by Song of the South, Disney World doesn’t mention the controversial film.

(Image: Disneyland)
(Image: Disney World)

Splash Mountain has attracted many riders, including famous ones. Princess Diana, together with Prince Harry, got splashed on it at Walt Disney World in 1993.

Prince Harry, front row left, and Princess Diana, back right, on the ride in 1993. (Photo: AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)

It should be noted that Disney has modified rides before. In 2017, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was changed to remove its bride auction scenes and the sign kids on the ride saw saying, “AUCTION—Take a Wench for a Bride,” which had long been criticized as sexist.

Song of the South, a live-action/animated film, has remained unreleased for decades due to its racially insensitive portrayal of African-Americans in the Reconstruction era. When Disney+ launched, the company made clear it was making changes to some historical content — like the Jim Crow character from the original Dumbo being edited out and Toy Story 2 cutting a casting-couch joke from its credits. However, Song of the South remained locked awayand former Disney CEO Bob Iger said at the company's annual shareholder meeting in March that it would remain that way due to its “outdated cultural depictions.”

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, there have been calls for widespread change. We’ve already seen Gone With the Wind being taken off the HBO Max streaming site for romanticizing slavery. With police brutality at the forefront of the news, Cops and Live P.D. have been canceled. (The latter was because a Live P.D. film crew was shooting during the fatal arrest of 40-year-old Javier Ambler last year. Like Floyd, Ambler cried “I can’t breathe” as well as “I am not resisting” and “I have congestive heart failure.”)

NASCAR made the surprise announcement on Wednesday that the Confederate flag — which has long been associated with racism and white supremacy — would be banned at events.

Protesters in Virginia toppled a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who had more than 100 slaves and championed the unrestricted expansion of slavery. Statues of Christopher Columbus have also been defaced or knocked over in multiple cities. (While he was credited with “discovering” America, people were already living here, and there was a Native American genocide.)

The Disney parks are preparing to reopen after being shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic. Disneyland will start reopening its Downtown Disney District on July 9, with Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park expected to follow on July 17.

In Orlando, Walt Disney World theme parks will open beginning July 11. Disney Springs has already reopened. Various restrictions will be in place at the venues.

Tokyo Disneyland remains closed.

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