Cop shows are being canceled. Movies are being removed from streaming. Confederate statutes are tumbling down. Racists are getting fired. They even banned the confederate flag at NASCAR! Monuments to racism are getting a long over-due re-examination and getting the boot, so now eyes have turned to one of the more subtle, but still very visible icons of an overtly racist past: Splash Mountain.
Splash Mountain, versions of which are in Disneyland and World, is a curious relic. The log flume ride opened in Disneyland 1989, which was, curiously, after the final theatrical run of the movie on which it is based: 1946’s Song of the South. You’ve probably have never seen Song of the South, and only know it outside of Splash Mountain from its Oscar-winning song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” That’s because it’s super racist and in almost every way, Disney has tried to distance itself from the film’s existence … except with Splash Mountain.
Song of the South takes place on a plantation in the post-Civil War reconstruction era and centers on a docile, happy former slave named Uncle Remus who spends his days amusing and helping out white children, and telling them fun stories about “B’rer Rabbit” and his friends and foes. It’s based on a book by a white man, Joel Chandler Harris, who appropriated many of his stories from Black Americans. The history of the film (and Splash Mountain) was recently given a thorough and fascinating examination by Karina Longworth on her podcast You Must Remember This, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Now, I shouldn’t need to say this but I will: the harmful narrative of a “happy slave” serving white needs is bad, and the racist caricatures and characters in live-action and animated sections are also BAD. The fact that in Disneyland the racist ride is practically adjacent to New Orleans square creates particularly bad optics as well, given New Orleans’ history with the slave trade. It’s all bad.
Even though the ride seems innocuous and has very little to do with Song of the South besides the story of B’rer Rabbit and the briar patch, it’s still what one might call the fruit of a poisoned tree. The racism in the ride is still there, in the slogans painted on the walls and the history of the story. This is why petitions (this one with over 11,000 signatures as of this writing) have sprung up calling for Splash Mountain to be re-themed, and we agree.
Interestingly, repurposing due to bad history wouldn’t even be unprecedented for Splash Mountain. Many of the animal animatronics in the ride aren’t based on or from Song of the South. Ever wonder where all the chickens and riverboat came from? They’re repurposed from an attraction called “America Sings” that was shut down because no one went to it oh and because someone was killed in it.
The internet is here to offer all sorts of ideas for what a new version of Splash Mountain could be. If we wanted to keep the Fox and Rabbit theme, we could make it into a Zootopia ride, while others have suggested the water feature might make it a fun base for a ride to honor Moana. But my favorite and by far the most fitting retheming would be to make it a ride for The Princess and the Frog.
Here’s an incredible twitter thread that outlines exactly how that could be done:
If Disney were to remake Splash Moutain into a Princess and the Frog ride, it would make the New Orleans square connection make sense, and be far less yikes. And it’s not like Disney parks aren’t always evolving and changing. Just recently the Hollywood Tower of Terror became a Guardians of the Galaxy ride because more people know Marvel than The Twilight Zone. There’s no reason they shouldn’t do the same for a ride whose thematic elements and history have no place in the park.
(image: Wikimedia commons; Disney)
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