Disneyland’s iconic Splash Mountain was a movie-themed ride based on the problematic 1946 Disney film Song Of The South. Though it has been a large part of the theme park since its opening in 1989, it always felt weird that there was a ride based on a film that no one could see. Not only that, but its structure and theme felt strange, and the material felt dated.
But significant changes are on the way for the ride. Disneyland Parks has announced that the ride will be getting a complete overall and be themed to the 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog. That film features the voices of Anika Noni Rose as Tiana, Bruno Campos as Prince Naveen, and Keith David as Dr. Facilier.
The original Splash Mountain would put riders in logs floating on water. Its current would then take them on an animated musical journey through the south. There, riders would encounter anthropomorphic wildlife like bears, foxes, and rabbits. Along the way, they would experience a few drops which would get the rider wet. And all of it would culminate to a giant plunge into water – don’t forget to smile before you fall into the water below.
There is no doubt that the ride itself was fun, mostly because of the splashes. But the atmosphere of the ride itself felt strange. Additionally, it was based on the film Song of the South, a controversial film due in part to its racist depictions of African Americans. Some may not have been aware of these tones, but something was disturbing about it in the sense that the material felt extremely dated.
The move also comes when the country is experiencing peak racial injustice, especially towards African Americas. There was a call to give the ride a major overall after the death of George Floyd. But I still think it was a ride that needed to be changed long before any of that. Regardless, the changes are happening, and I, as well as Princess and the Frog fans, couldn’t be any more excited.
“It is really exciting to know that Princess Tiana’s presence in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will finally be fully realized! As passionate as I am about what we created, I know the fans are going to be over the moon. The Imagineers are giving us ‘The Princess and the Frog’ Mardi Gras celebration we’ve been waiting for, and I’m here for it,” Rose said about the changes to the ride.
According to the Disney Parks blog, “the approach to retheming or “plussing” attractions (as Walt Disney referred to it) begins with Imagineers asking the question, how can we build upon or elevate the experience and tell a fresh, relevant story? It’s a continuous process that Imagineers are deeply passionate about. And with this longstanding history of updating attractions and adding new magic, the retheming of Splash Mountain is of particular importance today. 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.”
Charita Carter, the senior creative producer leading the project at Walt Disney Imagineering shared, “Like Princess Tiana, I believe that courage and love are the key ingredients for wonderful adventures. I am delighted to be a part of bringing this fun-filled experience to our guests.”
While there will be those who will resist the change, it is something that feels necessary. And it isn’t the first time that something like this has happened. Pirates of the Caribbean, went through similar changes to reflect the social climate. One of the things they took out was pirates chasing wenches. That was replaced with both wenches chasing pirates or pirates chasing after a bottle of rum.
It’s not clear when construction will begin. But based on the concept art, we can see that some of the aspects of the original Splash Mountain would be carried over to the new Princess And The Frog ride. As you may notice, the structure at the peak where you drop will remain, but there will also be a few new additions, like the memorable tree with an intriguing boat that is wedged into its branches.
We’ll keep you up-to-date on start and opening dates when that information arrives.
Read D23 Exclusive: Walt Disney Imagineering’s Bob Weis Discusses Reimagining Splash Mountain for Tiana and Her Friends!