OpEd: Should Splash Mountain Have Ever Existed?

in Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World

Disneyland Splash Mountain

Credit: Disney

I want to start off this piece by saying that the writers here at Inside the Magic have differing opinions on Splash Mountain and what is happening with the change as it transforms into an attraction based on Princess and the Frog.

I’ve been thinking about writing this for quite some time. But as a white British 29-year-old, it’s difficult to be able to put myself in the shoes of someone who has been riding this attraction since the late ’80s (in Disneyland, at least) and has always thought the attraction as something with racist undertones.

I have done a lot of reading over the last few weeks, and thanks to Twitter users and our audience, I have been able to gain a much better understanding of the racial undertones of the attraction.

I can’t claim to have the best-informed opinion on this; I don’t think any white person can. However, I want to share my viewpoint on things as I’ve learned more about the attraction.

Splash Mountain and Song of the South

Song of the South
Credit: Disney

We can debate until the cows come home on whether or not Splash Mountain itself is a racist attraction, but I believe the key point to ask is this: for what reason did Disney need to base a water attraction on Song of the South? From what I can tell, there are plenty of other characters and movies that date back to before the 1980s on which a water attraction could have been based.

I think that when deciding to make an attraction like Splash Mountain, Disney could have followed past precedent and come up with something new for the parks like they have with The Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Haunted Mansion. In my opinion, it just feels odd that even in the late ’80s this decision was made when by this point, it was widely agreed that the film was offensive.

I believe that there’s no redemption in using characters from a racist movie and placing them into an attraction to gain attention from millions of people.

Splash Mountain
Credit: Disney

Disney has stated as a company that retheming the attraction to Princess and the Frog is a project that has been in the works for years now. However many feel that the timing of the announcement seems to be too coincidental in that it followed the petitions to both retheme the attraction to Princess and the Frog and keep it the same, even with a Cast Member sharing his ideas and thoughts for the retheme on social media and in publications.

Still, no matter the timing of the announcement, I believe that the retheme is right and it can’t happen soon enough. That being said, I wouldn’t expect the attraction to close anytime soon as Walt Disney World enters the 50th Anniversary celebrations. Disney has shared that Guests visiting Magic Kingdom and Disneyland after the reopening will still be able to ride Splash Mountain, and a closing date for the attraction has not yet been announced.

Princess and the Frog Concept Art
Credit: Disney

In short, growing up I loved the attraction– why wouldn’t I when I was a child? But now as an adult I have had the chance to read more on what myself and many believe to be the racist undertones of the attraction, based on the film it was inspired by decades ago.

I would encourage you all Google the origins of the “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” song. I think in doing this you will understand why we should question how Disney allowed this song into an attraction in its theme parks in the late ’80s. I’m just upset that I didn’t educate myself on this sooner, as my family and I have been singing it for years.

All of this has led me to the opinion that Splash Mountain should never have passed the creative stage at the Walt Disney Company, and I welcome the retheme.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Inside the Magic overall.

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