One of the biggest remaining references to the Song of the South in the Disney universe is getting an overhaul. The corporation announced today that it will redesign the flume ride Splash Mountain at Disneyland in Los Angeles and Disney World in Orlando with a theme based around the animated movie The Princess and the Frog, the first Disney movie centered on a black princess. Splash Mountain was first built at Disneyland in 1989, and later at Disney World and Tokyo Disney in 1992, and it incorporates songs, including the famous “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” and characters like the Br’er Rabbit from Song of the South, the ever-controversial Disney movie released in 1946. Song of the South is set on a Reconstruction-era plantation, and includes racist depictions of former slaves. The film was protested at the time of its release, and rereleased several times up through the 1980s, though Disney has more recently attempted to bury it (Song of the South is not available on Disney+, for instance). Splash Mountain has remained a rare, and sizable, tribute to its existence.
According to a report at People, the new version of Splash Mountain will focus instead on the plot of the 2009 movie Princess and the Frog, which takes place around New Orleans. Riders enter the 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.” As the protests surrounding the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have pushed entertainment corporations to reckon with their racist pasts, petitions circulated asking Disney to change the ride’s theme (in some cases specifically to Princess and the Frog), though Disney’s statement on the change insists that this is “a project Imagineers have been working on since last year.” Disney’s American theme parks are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the opening of Disneyland recently pushed back, though the company still plans to start reopening Disney World in July. The company hasn’t released a timeline for when Splash Mountain’s renovations would take place, but has said that “conceptual design work is well underway and Imagineers will soon be able to conduct preliminary reviews and develop a timeline for when the transformation can start to take shape.”