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Should Splash Mountain be rethemed? – DePaoli on DeParks

by Jeff DePaoli

There is a big movement currently happening in the world and it has reached all industries, even the theme parks. The Black Lives Matter movement has caused a lot of fans (and companies) to take a step back and look at their content to decide whether or not it’s deemed appropriate in the 21st century.

splash mountain
Photos courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog

Such is the case with the iconic Disney Parks attraction, Splash Mountain. Recently, there have been several petitions going around online encouraging Disney to retheme Splash Mountain to a ride inspired by “The Princess and the Frog,” as well as another petition pleading not to change the classic ride.

As you may not know (and I believe a lot of people who ride the attraction aren’t aware of this), Splash Mountain features characters from a long-criticized film, “Song of the South.” The Walt Disney Company feels the themes in the film are so problematic that they’ve never released the movie on home video in the United States. So why would Disney decide to theme a new ride (in 1989) around this problematic movie? I’m sure there were many reasons, but Disney clearly felt they could make it an enjoyable attraction while avoiding any of the controversy.

splash mountain

Politics aside, let’s just think about whether or not a “Princess and the Frog” replacement even makes sense for this type of ride system and the attraction’s locations. Splash Mountain’s classic log-flume design is certainly the perfect transport system for “goin’ down the bayou” as we see (and hear) in “The Princess and the Frog.” I think the thing a lot of people remember from Splash Mountain is the great music. “The Princess and the Frog” has equally catchy tunes from well-honored composer, Randy Newman. The music has always been my favorite part of “The Princess and the Frog” and I would love to see it featured in its own ride.

At Disneyland park, Splash Mountain lives in Critter Country, which touches the border of New Orleans Square. Now, if that doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven, I don’t know what does. Why on earth New Orleans Square in Disneyland Park doesn’t already have a Tiana’s Place restaurant is beyond my comprehension, but I digress.

splash mountain

This ride change at Disneyland would and should mean the complete transformation of Critter Country into a New Orleans Square expansion. The only other ride in Critter Country aside from Splash Mountain is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I enjoy this traditional dark ride, but it never seems to have a long wait time. I don’t think too many people would be upset if it was replaced with a new attraction to fit within the New Orleans theme. That space used to belong to The Country Bears, so perhaps it could be converted back into a theatre that features a year-round Mardi Gras celebration. Better yet, bring back The Country Bears and have them throw the Mardi Gras party! I kid… and I’m getting way off track.

My point is, setting a “Princess and the Frog”-themed ride as part of New Orleans Square is the perfect fit for this attraction in Disneyland. I also love the idea of continuing the tradition of repurposing pieces of Splash Mountain into “The Princess and the Frog,” the same way pieces of “America Sings” were reused in Splash Mountain. If you’re not aware, a lot of the animatronic figures used in Splash Mountain were taken directly from the former Tomorrowland animatronic show, “America Sings.” A “Princess and the Frog” ride could certainly re-use the paddle steamer found toward the end of Splash Mountain. Keeping this tradition alive seems serendipitous (and cost-saving).

Splash Mountain Full POV at Magic Kingdom | Walt Disney World

But what about Splash Mountain in Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland? Neither of these parks have a New Orleans Square, and the idea of putting this new ride concept into a Frontierland or Critter Country just doesn’t seem to make as much sense. If Disney did decide they wanted to retheme Splash Mountain in either of these parks, I would hope they would choose a concept other than “The Princess and the Frog” that would make sense in the parks’ respective lands.

I’m a big fan of having theme park experiences that are unique to a specific park. So what if Disneyland converted into a “Princess and the Frog” ride, Tokyo Disneyland remained Splash Mountain considering the film is less controversial overseas, and Magic Kingdom’s ride transformed into something completely original fitting in Frontierland?

People will always have opinions about whether or not it’s appropriate to have Splash Mountain in the parks. This concern is nothing new, as people have been speaking about it for many years. It’ll be interesting to see what The Walt Disney Company ultimately decides for this 30+ year old attraction. Will it remain an icon in the parks, or will it Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah-Out-the-Door-and-On-Its-Way?

What do you think? Would you like to see Splash Mountain transformed into something different or do you want to see the classic ride stay in the park? Let us know in the comments.


Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.

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13 comments

Sooz24 June 19, 2020 - 7:16 pm

NO! Do not retheme it. This is going too far.

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Paula June 20, 2020 - 8:29 am

No please don’t re-theme it. People don’t even care this movie was the first that a black man won awards on. Don’t destroy his legacy! What’s next Carousel of Progress because they family is Anglo? Or Hall of Presidents and the America Pavillion because they have Presidents showing from times in our history people find offensive? Or no more Tom Sawyer because the book has “offensive” language about races.

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Robyn Murov June 19, 2020 - 11:09 pm

It should NOT be re-themed! Okay. so the ride is loosely connected to Song of the South. But guess what? NO ONE KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT SONG OF THE SOUTH! All anyone knows about it is was controversial and thus, never released. Which means NO ONE HAS SEEN IT! All people know about it, is Zip a Dee Do Dah, which is a happy feel good song, a silly rabbit and a conniving fox and bear. And it has a great message of the power of your own home, that you can find happiness, even a place to laugh, right in your own backyard.
I agree that Tiana does deserve her own attraction, it is long overdue. But keep Splash mountain the way it is. In fact, Disney should just make a cartoon featuring Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear. Eliminate the controversy and give Splash Mountain an IP that they can feel proud of. That makes the most sense to me.

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Paul Dawson June 19, 2020 - 11:53 pm

Love Splash Mountain ! Leave it alone.

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Louise Herrick June 20, 2020 - 4:03 am

Great article as usual Jeff. Brer Rabbit is from traditional folk law not just Song of the South. Wikipedia says that Brer Rabbit was sometimes suggested to be a slave getting the better of his white masters. Surely that’s a good thing? He wins at the end of this ride just like slaves won their rights. Slavery was terrible, there’s no denying that but it must be remembered rather than written out of history to avoid it happening again. You might argue that a theme park is not a place for that but Walt loved American History. This is a subtle way of showcasing the bad & how the good can overcome & win. And for those that don’t know the backstory it’s a fun ride.

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catherine ann ruby June 20, 2020 - 1:46 pm

I think we would do well to continue Ms. Herrick’s knowledge of Joel Chandler Harris’s characters in the Uncle Remus stories. And like so many other “problems” with race in this country, we need a dialogue, not a “sweep it under the carpet” approach of just changing the ride. Harris was an African-American, and his tales were based on slave folklore.
I think a better reaction to this controversy would be to post historical markers along the ride’s waiting line–which is long–that enlighten riders to the history of the author and his stories. And of course, Disney could also publish some literature for purchase in the accompanying gift shop . . . Make this ride a tribute to a renowned and respected writer of the post-war era.

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Belle June 20, 2020 - 9:08 am

STOP ALREADY! This attraction has been enjoyed at Walt Disney world for years for its music, colorful scenes and just plain old fun! What happens in the laughing place- just that a lot of smiles, laughing and FUN. Have you tried getting a fast pass or stood in line for over 2 hours just to ENJOY it? That speaks volumes to me

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John June 20, 2020 - 9:26 am

Should we remove all the Presidents from the Hall of Presidents who owned slaves?
Ridiculous! These are harmless characters that tell a charming story – no offense to anyone. Going too far indeed!

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Gail Pollow June 20, 2020 - 4:25 pm

goofy leave it alone.

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John Phillips June 23, 2020 - 5:51 pm

No! this renaming thing has gotten out of control!! Use some common sense people.

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Duderson June 24, 2020 - 9:15 pm

I think it’s a wonderful idea for a few reasons. 1) Outside of the current climate, Song of the South is a film that should be forgotten in the context of entertainment, living only in history books. They should have done this the second Princess and the Frog came out. It’s a way of keeping the ethos of what Disney is all about up to date. 2) INSIDE of this current climate it’s an even better idea. I think as white people we’re unconsciously or consciously clinging on to the safety of our own bubble. To believe that we are all good when in fact we’re just comfortable with our own privilege and ability to pretend that racism isn’t a problem, when it always has been and has only been OUR problem. Put yourself in the shoes of young black Disney fan, seeing themselves reflected positively in a ride, rather than the stench of ugliness Song of the South exudes. Imagine the joy. It sends such a strong message that as a whole – we are not okay with this. It’s a huge opportunity to start righting the wrongs of the past and stop clinging to ‘tradition’ and ‘history’ when both those things are painful to our neighbors.

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Furious WALT from the GRAVE! July 16, 2020 - 1:37 am

Song of the South IN NO WAY CONDONES or EXCUSES slavery! Rather, it just creates an historical setting, which is absolutely necessary to the telling of the priceless wisdom-filled stories of Uncle Remus. Moreover, it is so far removed from being racist that it shows Uncle Remus to be a man of exceptionally high character – the very highest – and as one whose wisdom came from triumphing through exceptionally humble and difficult circumstances. There are no stereotypes in that movie; just an historical setting.

Moreover, Song of the South was presented by Walt Disney, the man. So if you are going to be consistent in eliminate Song of the South, guess what else you have to do! You have to TEAR DOWN THE PARTNERS STATUES from the middle of the hub of EACH of DISNEY’S PARKS and also take Disney’s name OFF of the company!

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J Black July 21, 2020 - 3:58 pm

My family visits WDW nearly every year. There are three essential rides that we verify are operational before we make the 1,000 mile road trip to Orlando:
Pirates of the Caribbean,
The Haunted Mansion,
& Splash Mountain.
If any of these 3 rides are down for refurbishment, we postpone or cancel our trip.
If Splash Mountain is permanently re-themed, I’ll never visit again. I wouldn’t even consider it.

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