One of Disney’s most iconic rides is undergoing a pretty significant transformation. Splash Mountain at Disneyland and Disney World is being redesigned in a Princess and the Frog theme.
The 30-year-old ride has recently been the subject of controversy, as it’s currently themed after Disney’s Song of the South, a 1946 movie known for its Antebellum setting and racist stereotypes. In the wake of the racial justice movement following the murder of George Floyd, Disney fans have been petitioning on social media to re-theme the water ride, suggesting the 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog, which features a Black female lead.
Disney appears to be answering the call, though they claim the redevelopment has been in the works for a year. The ride will now follow the story of Princess Tiana and Louis the alligator and pick up after the final kiss of the movie — when Tiana is a human woman and not a frog. It will also feature music from the film and follow the characters as they prepare for a Mardi Gras performance.
According to Carmen Smith, Disney’s Creative Development and Inclusive Strategies executive, “We continually evaluate opportunities to enhance and elevate experiences for all our guests. It is important that our guests be able to see themselves in the experiences we create. Because we consider ourselves constant learners, we go to great lengths to research and engage cultural advisors and other experts to help guide us along the way. I am incredibly proud to see this work continue to move forward with great support from leadership across Disney.”
With the re-design of Splash Mountain, it would seem Song of the South is disappearing from the Disney canon entirely. The film is one of the few not available for streaming on Disney+, and purchasing a copy is near impossible. The ride was the last remaining tribute to Song of the South, even though the ride only featured the animal characters instead of the more problematic human character, Uncle Remus. However, the main song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” still features prominently throughout the park, for now.
This isn’t the first time Disney has re-themed a major ride for a more modern reference. In Disneyland, the Tower of Terror was recently redesigned from a Twilight Zone theme to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Other smaller attractions have been revamped over the years, such as the ride at the Norway pavilion in EPCOT, which transitioned from a Viking theme to a Frozen theme.
Although Disney hasn’t yet shared a timeline for the Splash Mountain project’s completion, park closures due to COVID-19 will delay the project. Disneyland parks in California were slated to reopen on July 17, but since the state won’t announce new guidelines until July 4, the reopening is now delayed indefinitely. When parks reopen, the existing Splash Mountain will also be open for riders.