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.
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.
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.
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).
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.