Disney’s Splash Mountain to Drop ‘Song of the South’ Depictions

Disney’s Splash Mountain to Drop ‘Song of the South’ Depictions

The popular log flume ride will be remade around “The Princess and the Frog,” the 2009 musical that introduced Disney’s first black princess.

A rendering of New Adventures With Princess Tiana, which will have a bayou theme. Credit…Walt Disney Imagineering

Disney said Thursday that it will remake one of its most popular attractions in the Splash Mountain theme park, which features characters and songs from Songs of the South, a 1946 racist musical. The 31-year-old flame ride will be modeled on The Princess and the Frog, a 2009 musical, featuring the first black Disney princess, Tiana.

The name Splash Mountain will also be removed. New Adventures with Princess Tiana – the working title of the upcoming attraction, which will be held in the Gulf of Louisiana.

“It is important that our guests can see themselves in the experience we are creating,” said Carmen Smith, vice president of creative development and integration at Walt Disney Imagineering, on her blog. Imagineering is a research and design division of Disney.

Overhaul at Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California, the theme parks in which the trip will be organized, will easily cost tens of millions of dollars.

Disney crosses out the image of “Song of the South” – “Br’er Rabbit” and other animal minstrels – at the time of national reckoning for racial justice. Protests against police brutality and racism caused by the murder of a black man, George Floyd, who is in police custody in Minneapolis, prompted a wide range of companies to make long-overdue changes. For instance, Quaker Oats said that Aunt Jemima, a 131-year-old brand based on racist images, will step down.

Splash Mountain at Disney World in its “Song of the South” form. Credit…Gregg Matthews for The New York Times

In the case of Splash Mountain, Disney leaders privately discussed abandoning the Song of the South theme for at least five years. Last summer, according to Disney, a plan was launched to create the story “Princess and the Frog”. Bob Weis, president of Walt Disney Imagineering, commissioned concept art. Disney said it sped up the public opening of the project due to the current cultural talk about race.

“It has been a year or more since we started talking about this particular concept,” said Mr. Weis in an interview published on D23.com, a Disney fan site.

In recent weeks, online petitions began to circulate about Splash Mountain. More than 21,300 people signed one asking Disney to remove the ride’s “offensive stereotypical theming.” About 26,300 people have signed a dueling Change.org petition demanding that Disney keep the “iconic classic ride” as it is.

Sparring from a trip to a theme park may seem silly, especially against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, which is intensifying again. But Disney is a huge part of how many people live their lives – how they create their memories – and even the smallest changes in the company’s theme parks can cause outrage. For the same reason, adding a major attraction themed around a black heroine could have a positive effect on young visitors, especially color ones.

Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella have locks. The Little Mermaid and the “Frozen” Sisters are riding. Why not Tiana?

“The Princess and the Frog” tells the story of a young black woman who is persuaded to kiss a frog who is really a prince. The spell has unpleasant consequences, and it also becomes an amphibian. Accompanied by firefly Cajun and a simple alligator, she seeks a cure.

Like other modern Disney princesses, Tiana is a strong-willed songbird (kindly provided by Tonic Anika Noni Rose). The story unfolds amidst hoarse voodoo and jazz when Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Lewis voice the characters supporting this story.

The film received strong reviews and was nominated for three Oscars. But ticket sales were overwhelming, in part because it was hard for kids raised on Pixar’s computer magic to get involved in hand-drawn animations of the film. “The Princess and the Frog” raised about $ 257 million worldwide, or $324 million in today’s dollars.

Since the release of “The Princess and the Frog” has become the star of merchandising for Disney, Princess Tiana’s dresses sold especially well for young girls.

Disney has not made “Song of the South” available in any form for 33 years because of its racist images. The Mountain Burst does not have a clear mention of the film, but the ride is built around the stories of Rabbit and Rabbit that form its center. The ride also features an Oscar-winning song from the movie Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.

Over the years, Disney has updated other trips to make them more suitable for children and remove obsolete images. For example, in 2017, the Pirates of the Caribbean auction was taken out from an auction of brides and a place where bullying haunted women through the house. Also in the same year, Disney closed the popular Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a hotel with wildly broken elevators, and turned it into a new trip based on Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

At least one Surge Mountain will survive at the moment: The ride is also at Tokyo Disneyland, which Disney doesn’t have. (The company licenses its characters and products for Oriental Land.) There are no plans to turn this model into a Princess and a Frog, a spokeswoman said.

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