Splash Mountain, one of Disney’s problematic theme park attractions will be “completely reimagined” from its current theme, which has its roots in Song of the South, a Disney movie the company has long disavowed.The official Disney Parks blog broke the news today with a first-look rendering of the new theme for the ride, which it says Disney engineers—known as “imagineers”—”have been working on since last year.” The 2009 film, which is the only one to feature a Black Disney princess, tells the story of Tiana, an aspiring New Orleans restaurateur who meets a prince cursed into frog form.“We pick up this story after the final kiss, and join Princess Tiana and Louis on a musical adventure—featuring some of the powerful music from the film—as they prepare for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance,” according to the blog post.The idea for revamping Splash Mountain actually began trending on social media in early June as people began to reexamine racist relics of the past within modern American life in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. But it really took off when self-described “Disney parks afficionado” Federick Chambers showed off his renderings and storylines for the ride, which he said he’s been working on for years. Princess and the Frog Splash Mountain retheme for Disneyland thread. Just put on the soundtrack and a splash ridethrough while reading this. pic.twitter.com/8z5wOalyB7— Frederick Chambers (@FreddyFromBatuu) June 9, 2020 The ride’s current storyline stars Br’er Rabbit escaping from Br’er Fox, characters from Disney’s 1946 movie Song of the South. The film is based on the widely criticized Uncle Remus books of Black folktales framed in Southern plantations, which were written by white author Joel Chandler Harris in the 1800s.“Tiana is a modern, courageous and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important,” Disney’s blog post continued. “It’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou.”It’s a particularly poignant change that the racist history behind Song of the South is giving way to the only Disney movie starring a Black princess.“The retheming of Splash Mountain is of particular importance today,” the blog post said. “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.”Disney did not announce a timeline for the project. Earlier this year, Disney shelved renovations for another iconic ride, Spaceship Earth. Changes to the ride inside Epcot’s signature “golf ball,” which depicts how the tradition of storytelling began and how it may continue in the future, had been set to begin earlier this year.Disney has disavowed Song of the South for decades. The controversial movie was even kept off its Disney+ streaming service, which debuted last October. Other streamers have chosen to deal with problematic fare differently, such as HBO pulling Gone With the Wind for its depiction of Black slaves while it adds a “discussion of its historical context.”The change to Splash Mountain comes as Disney grapples with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Its 12 parks worldwide started closing in January and have only recently begun to reopen at partial capacity. Shanghai Disney reopened on May 11 at 30% capacity, with guests required to make reservations and wear face masks, among other safety measures.But reopening its American parks, which had been set for July, has been met with resistance from some cast members, Disney’s term for its theme park employees. One cast member wrote an open letter in a closed Facebook group shared to Reddit, where they said that given the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Florida, ” as eager as we may be to come back, we are also afraid.”Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., just delayed its reopening, which had been set for July 17, telling the Los Angeles Times it’s waiting for safety guidelines from the state government. The four parks that comprise the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., meanwhile, remain on track to reopen on July 11 and July 15, with “most attractions” open, according to the blog.
Join Adweek and many of this year’s Pride Stars, LGBTQ leaders creating an impact in advertising, marketing, and culture, this Friday at 12pm ET for a live discussion on how they are personally and professionally navigating these turbulent times. Save your virtual seat.