The ride Splash Mountain in Walt Disney World and Disneyland, which is based on a film, Song of the South, that has been widely criticized as racist, is likely to remain open for the foreseeable future even after the company said last summer it would be rethemed, with a Disney executive saying Wednesday it will be a “lengthy process” for the controversial ride to be overhauled.
Disney announced in June 2020 it would replace the imagery on the Splash Mountain log flume ride with new material ride based on The Princess and the Frog, after the racial justice protests last summer inspired a fresh wave of criticism of the attraction.
The company said the ride’s reimagining had been in the works since 2019 but did not give a timeline for when Splash Mountain would close or a renovated version would reopen, and the ride is still open to theme park guests in both locations.
Melissa Valiquette, vice president of Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World in Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel replacing the ride was a “lengthy process” and was “going to take some time.”
“Sometimes decisions can be made many, many months, even years” about an attraction being replaced before the new attraction is open to the public, Valiquette said, and “it’s going to take us a little bit of time to reimagine Splash Mountain.”
Valiquette did not say when Splash Mountain would close to start construction on the new attraction, and Disney has not yet responded to a request for comment on the timeline.
Valiquette said “terrific work” has already been done on the new Princess and the Frog ride, and predicted the finished attraction would “capitalize on what’s already special about the ride Splash Mountain, but will really turn it into something that our guests will really cherish for generations into the future.”
“Our guests are going to have to put a little bit of trust into us for a bit because we promise not to let you down,” Valiquette said on the Orlando Sentinel’s Theme Park Rangers podcast. “We’re going to deliver a wonderful attraction.”
Splash Mountain has been among Disney parks’ most popular rides since it first opened in Disneyland in 1989 and Walt Disney World in 1992, even as Disney has pulled Song of the South from circulation. The 1946 film has been criticized for its romanticized depictions of race relations in the post-Civil War South, among other problems, and was last released in theaters in 1986. It has never been released on home video in the U.S. The ride’s impending removal has proved controversial, with fans of the attraction buying up merchandise in the wake of Disney’s announcement that it would be replaced. Though Splash Mountain is still open in the parks, Disney has already taken other steps to erase Song of the South from its theme parks, such as removing the song “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” from background music loops. Splash Mountain’s replacement is part of a broader diversity and inclusion initiative at Disney’s theme parks to address offensive content in its theme parks, and Walt Disney World and Disneyland have also retooled their Jungle Cruise attraction to address the ride’s negative depictions of native people.
Disney To Remove Controversial ‘Song Of The South’ Theme From Splash Mountain Rides (Forbes)
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Disney To Overhaul Jungle Cruise Ride After Criticisms Of Racism (Forbes)