Disney will overhaul the Splash Mountain ride at its California and Florida theme parks, the company announced Thursday, so it is no longer based on a movie the company now acknowledges is offensive.
The ride, famous for its five-story drop in a log boat that drenches parkgoers, was inspired by animated sequences in the 1946 movie Song of the South. The film, which won an Oscar for its song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," follows a young boy visiting his grandmother's plantation after the Civil War. Detractors have criticized its depiction of Black people and its romanticized view of the era.
The company said designers have been working since last year to "re-theme" the ride as a bayou-inspired tribute to the 2009 animated movie The Princess and the Frog, which featured Tiana, Disney's first Black princess.
"With this longstanding history of updating attractions and adding new magic, the re-theming of Splash Mountain is of particular importance today," wrote Disneyland Resort public relations director Michael Ramirez in a post on the company's website. "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."
Calls have grown online in recent weeks for Disney to overhaul the ride amid the protests sweeping the US since the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the subsequent reckoning with racism across all sectors of American life.
Last year, Disney chair Bob Iger said Song of the South would not be streaming on Disney+ nor would it ever be available for purchase.
“I’ve felt as long as I’ve been CEO that Song of the South — even with a disclaimer — was just not appropriate in today’s world,” Iger said. “It’s just hard, given the depictions in some of those films, to bring them out today without in some form or another offending people, so we’ve decided not to do that.”
Carmen Smith, creative development and inclusive strategies executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, said she was incredibly proud to see the new ride come to life.
"It's important that our guests be able to see themselves in the experiences we create," she said.