The Walt Disney Co. announced Thursday that it will be recasting the Splash Mountain theme park ride so that it is based on The Princess and the Frog amid calls to change the ride because of its ties with Song of the South, a 1946 movie many view as racist.
The changes to the ride, which first opened in 1989, will be made at Disneyland in California and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida.
Disney said the changes had been in the works since last year, but the announcement comes as companies across the U.S. are renaming racially charged, decades-old brands in the wake of protests for racial justice around the globe following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota last month.
The Princess and the Frog is the 2009 Disney film featuring Disney’s first Black princess, Tiana.
“The new concept is inclusive — one that all of our guests can connect with and be inspired by, and it speaks to the diversity of the millions of people who visit our parks each year,” the Disney post said.
“Tiana is a modern, courageous and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important,” Disney said on Thursday. “It’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou.
“Imagineers will soon be able to conduct preliminary reviews and develop a timeline for when the attraction transformation can begin,” the company said.
The move comes after fans urged Disney to re-theme Splash Mountain because of the racial stereotypes from Song of the South.
More than 21,000 people signed an online petition asking Disney to change the ride’s theme to The Princess and theFrog.
“Disney parks should be a home for all to enjoy regardless of race, age, whatever your background may be. The classic log flume ride Splash Mountain is featured in Disneyland, Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland,” the petition’s description read.
“While the ride is considered a beloved classic, its history and storyline are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes,” the petition continued. “There is a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need.”
The description said that there is “a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need.”
“Princess and the Frog is a beloved princess movie but has very little representation in the parks. Tiana could be one of the first princesses with a thrill ride, as well as giving her a much-deserved place in the parks. 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,” the description continued.
“This change could kill two birds with one stone, remove the offensive stereotypical theming the ride currently has and bring a much-needed diversity to the parks. As well as a much bigger merchandising opportunity for Princess and the Frog.”
The petition noted that “while the ride’s storyline is not an exact version of the movie’s plotline it is derivating from it, the characters, the songs and locations are all main features of the ride.
“Disney has removed Song of the South from its library, refusing to share it on DVD or their streaming services. The best next step to remove all traces of this racist movie would be to re-theme Splash Mountain into a Princess and the Frog themed ride.”
No date has been given for the unveiling of the new Princess and the Frog ride.
— With files from the Associated Press
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