Basically every big company is coming under scrutiny right now for their response (or lack of response) to the Black Lives Matter movement. As one of the biggest companies in the world, Disney has not escaped that scrutiny.
People have been calling for Disney to make some serious adjustments to Splash Mountain, one of the most popular Disney rides at both Disney World and Disneyland. Is Disney renaming rides? While a new name for Splash Mountain isn't clear, the retheme is.
Is Disney renaming rides at their theme parks?
Some people have been wondering whether Disney will be renaming Splash Mountain, but the truth is that the name of the ride isn’t really the problem. It’s the theme of the ride itself. Like all of the rides and attractions at Disney theme parks, Splash Mountain is based on a specific Disney movie. Therein lies the problem.
Splash Mountain is based on Song of the South, a Disney film that has been the subject of controversy since it first came out in 1946. The plot of the ride (as much as a Disney ride can have a plot) is a composite of several Uncle Remus stories featuring Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear, who also appear in Song of the South. The ride is a mostly peaceful dark ride that ends with a 52-foot drop into the “briar patch” — that’s where the “Splash” in the name comes from.
People have been requesting for years that Disney consider removing the Song of the South characters and theming from the ride. Complaints have surrounded the film since its initial release, with people saying it glorifies plantation-era slavery and also presents a stereotypical depiction of Black people.
Disney made a LOT of...uh, problematic...movies, but none quite so indefensible as Song of the South, a Reconstruction movie in which a formerly enslaved man tells a young, wealthy white boy about how nice things were during the slavery era.— Cory Doctorow #BLM (@doctorow) June 10, 2020
As a result of this controversy, Disney has never released the film on home video in the United States, and it also does not appear on Disney Plus. Former Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger confirmed in March of 2020 that the film would never appear on the streaming service, saying it is “not appropriate in today’s world.” But Splash Mountain still exists and is a clear reference to the movie — that’s what people want to change.
A Change.org petition has been making the rounds asking Disney to change Splash Mountain into a ride based on The Princess and the Frog instead of Song of the South. “There is a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need,” Alex O., the organizer of the petition writes. “Princess and the Frog is a beloved princess movie but has very little representation in the parks. Tiana could be one of the first princesses with a thrill ride, as well as giving her a much-deserved place in the parks.”
It turns out, that exact retheme was already in the works.
Disney Parks Blog shared on June 25 that the Walt Disney Imagineers had actually been working on a Princess and the Frog retheme since 2019. Moreover, the ride will not just simply be a retelling of the original movie. Instead, "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."
We're thrilled to share Splash Mountain at @Disneyland & @WaltDisneyWorld will be completely reimagined with a new story inspired by an all-time favorite @DisneyAnimation film, “The Princess and the Frog.” Learn about what Imagineers have in development: https://t.co/HyKfdDSH3j pic.twitter.com/DV6476KAVX— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) June 25, 2020
Senior creative producer Charita Carter will be leading the project at Walt Disney Imagineering and voice actors from the original movie, including Tiana's voice, Tony winner Anika Noni Rose, will be returning for the ride.