Splash Mountain, the flume ride at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World in Florida, will be re-designed in honor of the film “The Princess and the Frog,” following criticism of the racist undertones of the movie on which the ride is currently based, officials announced Thursday.
The ride has come under scrutiny in light of recent nationwide protests against police brutality and in support of racial equality. Splash Mountain is based on the 1946 animated film “Song of the South,” which has been criticized for racist undertones and stereotyping of Black characters.
While not commenting directly on the criticism, Disney officials on Thursday proclaimed the ride will be “reimagined” and themed after the 2009 film “The Princess and the Frog,” which introduced Disney’s first Black princess, Tiana.
“Tiana is a modern, courageous and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important,” Disneyland public relations director Michael Ramirez wrote in an announcement about the change. “It’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou.”
An exact timeline for the changeover hasn’t been announced. Ramirez said “conceptual design work is well underway.”
Stars who lent their voices to “The Princess and the Frog” issued statements praising plans for the ride.
“It is really exciting to know that Princess Tiana’s presence in both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom will finally be fully realized,” actress Anika Noni Rose, who voiced the princess in the film, said. “As passionate as I am about what we created, I know the fans are going to be over the moon.”
Actress Jenifer Lewis, who voiced Mama Odie, also spoke out.
“The image of Mama Odie, in the fairy godmother role, truly reflected the New Orleans Black bayou tradition of the revered wise woman,” she said. “I am thrilled that `The Princess and The Frog’ is being honored for the joy it has brought to millions of Disney fans.”
Disneyland remains closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The park had planned to begin a phased reopening on July 17, but officials announced Wednesday those plans were being delayed due to a delay in state reopening guidelines. Some unionized Disneyland workers have been protesting the planned reopening, saying they felt it was still too soon amid the continuing pandemic.