Disney has announced it will ditch Splash Mountain’s racist theme based off the controversial 1946 film Song of the South, and will reimagine the attraction based on Princess and the Frog, which featured the studio’s first black princess.

Splash Mountain came under harsh criticism for being based off the film which includes racist portrayals, and a petition racked up over 21,000 signatures urging Disney to change the theme of the fan-favorite log-flume ride at their parks.

Song of the South has been slammed for its problematic portrayal of the post-Civil War South, racist stereotypes and glossing over slavery.

While the movie isn’t mentioned on the ride, its characters Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox are featured along with the movie’s famed song, ‘Zip-a-dee-doo-dah’.

‘We’re thrilled to share Splash Mountain at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will be completely reimagined with a new story inspired by an all-time favorite Disney Animation film, “The Princess & The Frog”,’ the company announced today.

 

 

‘It is really exciting to know that Princess Tiana’s presence in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will finally be fully realized!’ said actress Anika Noni Rose, who played Tiana in the 2009 film.

With the new theme, guests will follow Tiana and her alligator friend Louis on a musical adventure through the backdrops of New Orleans, the Louisiana Bayou and Mardi Gras.

‘I think this is great news, or as Louis would say – HALLELUJAH!!’ said Michael-Leon Wooley, the actor who was the voice of Louis.

Disney says they’ve been working on the change since last year and the Princess and the Frog theme will be adopted at Splash Mountain Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida.

Disney World will reopen its doors on July 11 after shuttering in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Disneyland in California was previously scheduled to reopen on July 17 but the company said Wednesday that date will be postponed due to a delay in the state’s reopening protocols.

According to Disney, no work has taken place on Splash Mountain at either park during their closures, so visitors will see the original theme and characters when the parks reopen.

A date has not been set for the debut of the Splash Mountain ride makeovers.

‘Tiana is a modern, courageous, and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important. It’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou,’ Disneyland Resort Public Relations Director Michael Ramirez wrote.

‘In 1966, Walt himself opened New Orleans Square when it became the first new “land” added to Disneyland park, so it feels natural to link the story and the incredible music of ‘The Princess and the Frog’ to our parks,’ Ramirez added.

The Splash Mountain makeover will be led by Imagineering senior creative producer Charita Carter, who is also working on the new Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway dark ride set to debut at Disneyland in 2022.

‘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,’ Carter said.

The Song of the South theme was set up by Imagineer Tony Baxter for Disneyland in 1989, according to Disney’s D23 fan club.

Now, three decades later, Baxter will serve as a creative adviser for planning and designing the Princess and the Frog makeover.

‘The attraction will be one to be proud of. I look forward to being a part of a new adventure in Disney magic and fun,’ Baxter said.

 

Fans of Walt Disney World and Disneyland wanted the theme of Splash Mountain changed because it relies on characters from the film ‘Song of the South’, which has been slammed by critics as racist.

 

Song of the South has never been available on home video in the US and it is not available on the studio’s streaming site Disney Plus.

The Frog and the Princess tells the story of Tiana, a young black waitress in New Orleans in 1926 who kisses a frog, who is really a prince who had fallen victim to a voodoo spell, in hopes of making her dream of opening a restaurant come true.

Instead Tiana is changed into a frog herself and has to find a way of becoming human again.

By comparison, Song of the South, is based on Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus stories, and takes place during the Reconstruction Era that followed the civil war.

The film stars James Baskett as Uncle Remus and won an Oscar for best original song in 1948.

‘There are plenty of examples of pernicious racism in Song of the South’, wrote Scott Tobias in a 2019 story in The Guardian’s about the film’s legacy and how it was never released on video in the US after becoming so controversial.

‘The minstrelsy of the animated characters, particularly Br’er Fox; the slang in the dialogue; a wandering chorus singing traditional black songs; and, most notoriously of all, a fable where Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear use a tar baby to fool and ensnare Br’er Rabbit,’ the writer explains.

‘That part didn’t make Splash Mountain,’ he adds.

Br’er Rabbit, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, also is based on a folklore character known to slaves brought from Africa to the US.

 

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