Don't expect to see a less racist Splash Mountain anytime soon


Disney made huge headlines last year when the company announced it would remake Splash Mountain at Disneyland and Walt Disney World to remove its “Song of the South” inspiration and replace it with a “Princess and the Frog” theme. More than a year later — a year that has seen another ride remove its racist depictions — and parkgoers are still riding an attraction rooted in a movie that then-CEO Bob Iger called “not appropriate in today’s world,” which has never been commercially available for sale in the U.S. and isn’t available to stream on Disney+. 

The announcement last June that Splash Mountain would change was met with a chorus of complaints — but criticism of the movie as racist and problematic isn’t new. When the movie premiered in 1946, it was met with immediate pushback, including protests and picketing all over the nation. “You begin to wonder if Disney doesn’t think Lincoln was wrong in signing the Emancipation Proclamation,” one review in the New Yorker read.

Don't expect to see a less racist Splash Mountain anytime soon

Splash Mountain is set to be completely redone to strip away its connection to "Song of the South." The new theme will be "The Princess and the Frog."

Disney Parks

In contrast to those who can’t see the issue with a ride based on Disney’s most problematic movie, many others have embraced the change. “Splash Mountain is made after Song of the South, a racist Jim Crow movie. What's unclear?” said Twitter user @CodeAficionado. 

“Just because YOU think the ride isn’t racist doesn’t mean it isn’t,” added Twitter user @margoween.

Those fans have eagerly awaited work to begin on the “Princess and the Frog” overlay. But while Magic Kingdom Vice President Melissa Valiquette said on an Orlando Sentinel podcast last week that work was being done behind the scenes, no changes were coming soon.  “It’s going to take us a little bit of time to reimagine Splash Mountain,” she said.

“Though Splash Mountain is still open in the parks,” Alison Durkee wrote for Forbes, “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.” 

In the 14 months since the announcement, Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise was closed down and re-themed to remove problematic depictions of indigenous peoples. That announcement came in January of this year, and happened in seven months, with the new version opening in July. Disney didn’t explain why they chose to change Jungle Cruise first, but the blockbuster “Jungle Cruise” movie that has earned $150 million globally in just over two weeks since its July 30 release probably has something to do with it. Walt Disney World is making changes to its Jungle Cruise ride while still keeping it in operation. 

Don't expect to see a less racist Splash Mountain anytime soon

Signs in the window of Le Bat en Rouge in Disneyland's New Orleans Square.

Julie Tremaine

Still, there are some “Princess and the Frog” changes coming to Disneyland sooner rather than later. A new restaurant is headed to New Orleans Square, replacing dress shop Le Bat en Rouge. No official announcement has been made, but there are signs in the windows saying “Something new is cooking!” and “Gumbo is the spice of life!” Rumor on the Disney blogs is that the restaurant will be “Princess and the Frog” themed, since in the movie Tiana is famous for her gumbo. Two frogs that look very much like the ones Tiana and Prince Naveen become in the movie have also been added to a window display at Cafe Orleans. 

No opening date has been announced for the new restaurant. 

SFGATE managing editor Katie Dowd contributed to this report