Disney's Splash Mountain to get new theme amid calls to ditch racist history
Amid a national push to rethink racist stereotypes in popular culture, Disney is giving its Splash Mountain attraction a new theme based on its 2009 film "The Princess and the Frog" and centered on Disney's first Black princess.
The move follows a Change.org petition calling for Disney to drop the original inspiration for Splash Mountain, the 1946 film "Song of the South." The film was controversial from the beginning for what its critics, including the NAACP, considered a glossed-over portrayal of slavery.
Its live-action narrator, an elderly Black man named Uncle Remus, was played by James Baskett, who was the second African American to win an Oscar. Baskett did not attend the film's premiere at an Atlanta theater where Blacks had to sit separately in the balcony.
The film has never been available on home video in the U.S., nor is it included in Disney Plus.
DIsneyland's Splash Mountain features characters from the 1946 film, “Song of the South,” and tells the story of Br’er Rabbit, who is on a journey to find his “laughing place.”
The online petition had pushed for Disney to center Splash Mountain on the story of Princess Tiana.
"It is really exciting to know that Princess Tiana's presence in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will finally be fully realized!" said Anika Noni Rose, the Tony-winning actress who provided Tiana's voice in the film.
According to Disney, the company has been working on the change since last year, and "The Princess and the Frog" will become the new theme at Splash Mountain in both Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida.
Disney World is scheduled to reopen on July 11 after being closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Disneyland was scheduled to reopen on July 17, but the company said Wednesday that the date would have to be postponed due to a delay in California's coronavirus reopening protocols.
The new Splash Mountain, according to Disney, will follow Tiana and her alligator friend, Louis, on a musical adventure against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana Bayou and timed for Mardi Gras.
“I think this is great news, or as Louis would say – HALLELUJAH!!" said Michael-Leon Wooley, the actor who was the voice of Louis.
According to Disney, no work has taken place on Splash Mountain at either park during their closures, so visitors will see the original theme and characters when the parks reopen.