One of the most debated rides at the Disney parks is getting an update that millions of The Princess and the Frog fans will appreciate.
Splash Mountain has been a fixture at several of the Disney parks since 1989. It’s based on the 1946 movie Song of the South, which takes place in the Reconstruction era and is steeped in racism. While it has won awards for its music, the NAACP disapproved of the movie’s release and people protested in front of theaters. Walter Francis White, executive secretary of the organization in 1946, sent this to the press:
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recognizes in Song of the South remarkable artistic merit in the music and in the combination of living actors and the cartoon technique. It regrets, however, that in an effort neither to offend audiences in the north or south, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery. Making use of the beautiful Uncle Remus folklore, Song of the South, unfortunately, gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of Song of the South, I suggest this podcast that does an in-depth look at the creation and controversy.
Song of the South has been removed from distribution by Disney in 2000, and former CEO Bob Iger did not include it in the Disney+ line-up stating that is was not appropirate. This will not be the first time the ride has been changed to distance itself from the movie. Michael Eisner replaced Uncle Remus with Brer Frog as Splash Mountain’s storyteller and had some of the stories updated in the 1990s.
Both the California and Florida parks are being updated with the new The Princess and the Frog theme. The log ride will remain, it will just be re-dressed to something more modern and without a racist history. Based on the press release, the revamp which has been underway for a while. Updating attractions is a regular occurrence at theme parks to keep up with audience tastes – Galaxy’s Edge recently took the spot of ‘Streets, of America’ and several other unpopular attractions. I think the new theme makes perfect sense – the concept art looks like it keeps what folks find fun about Splash Mountain and ditches the questionable elements while bringing in a new fan base.
The voice of Princess Tiana and Tony Award-winning actress, Anika Noni Rose, shared, “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!”
This is a great move forward – and, again, not a new action for Disney’s parks and Imagineers. Walt Disney encouraged change in the parks to create new tech and tell new stories that inspire visitors. If you’re interested in the Disney parks’ history I highly recommend watching The Imagineering Story and One Day at Disney on Disney+. The two cover the conception of Disneyland in the 1950s through the daily operations at the modern parks.