ORLANDO, Fla. (AP/WISH) — Amid calls to change the Splash Mountain theme park ride over its ties to “Song of the South,” the 1946 movie many view as racist, Disney officials said Thursday it was recasting the ride based on “The Princess and the Frog,” a 2009 Disney film with an African American female lead.
Changes to the ride will be made both at Disneyland in California and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida, the company said in a post.
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 amid worldwide protests for racial justice after the police custody death of George Floyd in Minnesota last month.
“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.
Splash Mountain first opened as a log-flume ride at Disneyland in the late 1980s.
The revamped ride will follow the contours of the animated movie, “The Princess and the Frog,” in which actress Anika Noni Rose voices the role of a 1920s aspiring chef in New Orleans who kisses a prince that has been turned into a frog and becomes one herself.
With racist stereotypes and Old South tropes, “Song of the South” is a mix of live action, cartoons and music featuring an old Black plantation laborer named Uncle Remus who enchants a white city boy with fables of talking animals.
James Baskett, an Indianapolis native, portrayed Uncle Remus. His role as the Black storyteller received an Honorary Academy Award in March 1948, making him the first Black male performer to receive an Oscar. He died in July 1948 at age 44 in Los Angeles and is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
Groups including the NAACP protested the film’s initial release. The film isn’t available to the millions of subscribers of the company’s new Disney Plus streaming service, and it hasn’t been released in theaters in decades.
“Disney parks should be a home for all to enjoy regardless of race, age, whatever your background may be,” said an online petition asking for the ride to be changed. “While the ride is considered a beloved classic, it’s history and storyline are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes from the 1946 film Song of the South.”
But Splash Mountain had its supporters. Another online petition asked that the ride remain in its current incarnation.
“Many adults and children ride this attraction because it brings back childhood memories,” the “Keep Splash Mountain” petition said. “Disney already took out the racist songs which was a good move on their part.”