For many years now, it seems anytime someone mentions movies that, culturally, haven’t aged well, sooner or later someone inevitably brings up Disney’s 1946 movie, “Song of the South,” which most people remember mainly for the earworm song, “Zip a Dee Doo Dah.”
Others, who grew up in more recent decades mainly know “Song of the South” through its connection with a ride at Disney World, the immensely popular log flume adventure, Splash Mountain, which was built around a motif celebrating “Song of the South.” For the past few years, the volume on the calls to rebrand, rename or otherwise reimagine Splash Mountain, doing away with the “Song of the South” décor, has been growing louder. Now, those voices seem to have finally been heard.
Disney recently announced the parks will “completely reimagine” Splash Mountain, with a new theme based on the 2009 animated film, “The Princess and the Frog,” a movie known for featuring the first black “Disney princess.” The idea is to get away from motifs that detractors called “stereotypical” and “offensive” in its portrayal of black people as well as the “glorification” of the antebellum South.
Disney telegraphed this move a bit when the company released the Disney+ streaming service, unlocking the fabled “Disney vault” but leaving “Song of the South” in the vault untouched and unreleased on the service. As the parks have been closed due to COVID-19, Disney has been watching what’s happening in the culture and, as many other brands have, they’re interpreting current events as a sea change. While Disney has been working on the new ride for some time, the company chose this time to release their plans to the public.
In keeping with that theme and motivation, Disney released a statement saying the new ride theme based on “The Princess and the Frog” will be “inclusive,” a ride that “all our guests can connect with and be inspired by …” The statement went on to say the new motif will, “Speak to the diversity of the millions of people who visit our parks each year …”
According to press releases, the new ride will pick up where the movie leaves off, whisking fans away “on a musical adventure” with Princess Tiana and her cohort, the horn-playing alligator, Louis. Music will be a key theme, as fans experience Tiana and Louis preparing to play their first Mardi Gras.
The statement described Tiana as “a modern, courageous and empowered woman who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important.” This is a message with which, Disney hopes, fans will readily agree.