One of the most famous attractions at Disneyland will be undergoing a significant transformation both in California and the Magic Kingdom park in Florida.
The Splash Mountain ride is being rethemed and reimagined to bring more diversity and inclusivity to the parks by channelling inspiration from the wildly successful Disney film The Princess and the Frog, a post on the Disney Parks Blog stated on Thursday.
What is particularly relevant to this update is that the princess in The Princess and the Frog, is Princess Tiana, the first-ever Black Disney princess.
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The ride will pick up at the conclusion of the film following “the final kiss,” and fans will journey with Princess Tiana and Louis on a musical experience featuring some of the movie’s best music as they get ready for their premier performance at Mardi Gras.
“Tiana is a modern, courageous, and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important,” the post explains. “It’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou.”
The original Splash Mountain ride is based on the controversial 1947 Disney movie Song of the South, which has been widely criticized for containing racist themes and featuring stereotypical portrayals of African American characters. The film has been considered contentious for years. So much so that it was removed from the Disney library and is not featured in the extensive streaming catalogue on Disney Plus.
The theme of the ride spurred enough public outcry that over 20,000 people signed an online Change.org petition requesting that Disney change its theme to abandon Song of the South and instead replace it with The Princess and the Frog.
“While the ride is considered a beloved classic it’s history and storyline are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes from the 1946 film Song of the South,” the petition explains. “The framing of the ride is such that it could be easily changed to tell the story of Tiana while not compromising too much of the ride/costing a fortune in remodelling for Disney. This change could kill two birds with one stone, remove the offensive stereotypical theming the ride currently has and bring much-needed diversity to the parks.”‘
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.
— Disneyland Resort (@Disneyland) June 25, 2020
However, President of Imagineering for The Walt Disney Company Bob Weis claims that the idea of reimagining Splash Mountain started over a year ago.
“It has been a year or more since we started talking about this particular concept,” he said in an interview with D23, the Official Disney Fan Club. “While we’ve explored many new themes in the past, that’s when we really began to hone in on Princess Tiana’s story.”
When asked why the change was being made now when The Princess and the Frog movie was released back in 2009, Weis stated that “there’s no expiration date on great storytelling.”
The approach to the retheme will be based on Disney Imagineers conceptualizing how they will expand on the ride experience while also telling “a fresh, relevant story.” It will be led by Imagineer Charita Carter who, in collaboration with Kevin Rafferty, previously oversaw the implementation of the Mickey & Miney’s Runaway Railway ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The Disney Parks Blog post explains that this reimagining is of “particular importance today.” Noting that the new concept will be inclusive and something that will inspire and create a connection with fans while also representing the vast diversity of the millions of guests that frequent the parks every year.
“For Imagineers, change is rooted in a tradition set by Walt Disney who encouraged new innovations, new ideas, new scenes and current storytelling,” it describes.
The Walt Disney Company announced earlier this month that it was pledging USD $5 million to support various non-profit organizations advocating for social justice, starting with $2 million being donated to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).