Op-Ed: Cancel Culture Is Killing Disney

in Disneyland Resort, Op-Ed, Walt Disney World

Splash Mountain in black and white with Brer Rabbit and Fox

Credit: Inside the Magic

The controversial and problematic Splash Mountain has officially closed across Disney Parks from Disneyland to Walt Disney World. While the film that inspired the ride (Song of the South) is arguably the true source of the ride’s less-than-favorable reputation, why is a decades-old attraction under so much scrutiny all at once? Cancel culture strikes again.

Splash Mountain attraction
Credit: Disney

We’re not saying that the ride wasn’t showing its age, it was and there’s no getting around it, but it feels like the backlash for the attraction really didn’t rear its ugly head in full until recently. In fact, sources even report that the real reason for Splash Mountain, and others like it, falling out of favor is due to the actions of “radical social justice groups.” The question is, is it all really deserved.

Related: New Resorts Added to Walt Disney World’s Early Theme Park Entry List

Despite Marvel and Star Wars’ successful endeavors, Disney has been struggling with their image in the past two years. If they try to appease their larger audiences by catering to a more general taste, they’re crucified for not being more inclusive or having enough representation. If they try to appease the younger generation and appeal to more cultural norms, they’re dragged through the mud to the refrain of “go woke, go broke.” It’s a game they can’t win.

Cancel Culture Puts Disney Parks and More at Risk

An official poster announcing Tiana's Bayou Adventure, opening late 2024.
Credit: Disney Parks Blog

While Splash Mountain’s re-theme to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure with the cast of The Princess and the Frog is seen by many as progress from Disney, it might actually be doing more harm than good. Yes, the company should definitely strive to tell more diverse and inclusive stories, but there’s a difference between inclusion/representation and forced diversity.

The saga surrounding Splash Mountain is only the most recent example of Disney catering to one side of their very expansive audience, and it’s not just the Disney Parks that are feeling the after effects. The famous log flume ride isn’t the first Disney project to be surrounded by controversy, but it just might be one of the most iconic.

Related: Splash Mountain: Burning Down the Briar Patch

The term “cancel culture” is thrown around quite liberally every time something is changed or removed. Granted, some pieces of our popular culture have indeed aged out of favor and some change is absolutely demanded, but things being cut left and right due to what can best be described as “audience sensitivities” sets a very dangerous precedent for Disney and more.

Are Disney Parks, Movies, and Others in Danger?

Johnny Depp at D23
Credit: Disney

Splash Mountain isn’t Disney’s first casualty in the wake of the social justice movement, but it might be one of the biggest. Thus far we’ve seen Disney Legends like Johnny Depp lose their entire careers, historic pieces of the Disney Parks be gutted and replaced, and Oscar-winning songs removed to satisfy one particular audience, and it’s starting to wear and tear on the studio.

Contrariwise, we’ve also seen what happens when Disney goes to far to please the vocal minority, as demonstrated by the devastating aftermath of Strange World. However, the problem isn’t Disney trying to please all of the people all of the time, but rather a fear of even coming off as controversial.

Uncle Remus in Song of the South
Credit: D23

With so many movies, actors, musicians, songs, and other pop-culture mainstays falling in the wake of cancel culture, Disney unfortunately has to commit to a balancing act of avoiding even the slightest notion of doing something wrong in the public’s eyes. Because of this train of thought, we the audience are the ones who suffer.

Related: Oscar-Winning Disney Song Soon To Be Scrapped

Because of this school of thinking, Disney has forgotten how to take risks with their material. Instead of updating Splash Mountain, or even going a little dark by including Doctor Facilier in the retheme, they’re playing it way too safe. Instead of trying out new storylines with new creators, new casts, and new concepts, they’re constantly remaking their classic films to keep things familiar. Starting to get the idea?

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and while Disney has at least attempted to be more inclusive with casting, scripts, and more, it’s not happening in an organic fashion. As successful as the remake of The Little Mermaid is, it’s a passing fancy that just won’t be as culturally significant as the original. Disney isn’t thinking long term, and that’s precisely the problem.

Are Audiences Really That Offended?

Br'er Fox and Br'er Rabbit
Credit: Disney

Not everything Disney makes is golden, the same can be said for any other major studio. Even Fantasia, a passion project for Walt Disney and his studio that revolutionized the animated medium wasn’t a major success until much later. However, how much of the perceived backlash is actual backlash and not the chorus of the vocal minority?

Related: TikTok Captures Death of Disneyland Cast Member

If Splash Mountain was such an offensive and controversial ride, why was Disney putting out newer versions of the attraction as early as 1991? More accurately, why are all these changes happening so recently and in such quick succession? One word, image.

Mickey Mouse in front of Tokyo's Cinderella Castle
Credit: Tokyo Disneyland

From the day the ink of Walt Disney’s signature dried, the company has always presented themselves in this sweet, wholesome, family friendly image. Because of that, Mickey Mouse rules the world with just three circles. If anything puts that at risk, it is quickly and swiftly dealt with.

Related: VIDEO: Fan Mocks Splash Mountain Mourners

As crucial as their image is, Disney has truly been struggling with it in spite of more inclusive efforts. As stated before, the studio is currently suffering from two major problems, forced diversity and fear of controversy, and it’s amazing and unsettling how a negative response from only a small group can quickly alter a Disney project.


A great change by Disney for making this update! #disneyworld #disneynews #disneyparks #disneysecrets #disneytiktok #smallworld #disneyinclusion #disneydiversity

♬ It’s A Small World – Little Apple Band

One of the most shocking examples of this phenomenon concerns two nodding dolls from Disney World’s “small world.” According to @themouselets, two Asian-inspired characters were changed due to complaints from “many” Guests. The concerning factor isn’t the changing of the ride fixture, but how quickly this was dealt with and how little it took to get Disney to change.

Guests like those mentioned do not speak for the entire fanbase. In fact, an argument can definitely be made that most Disney Park regulars would rather see that time, effort, and money go towards refurbishing and repairing the rides rather than appeasing a minor complaint. However, Disney still has a reputation to uphold.

Can Disney Be Saved?

Bob Iger in front of the Disney logo
Credit: Disney

Shortly after returning to his seat of power, Bob Iger stated that Disney is not going to be able to please everyone, and that’s okay. Disney already has their Mickey mitts on a majority of our popular culture, why should they care if a small portion don’t get sucked in?

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One of the first things Disney needs to do is refocus on what matters to the majority of their fans, quality. So much is being pushed for bigger and better things that the company has neglected the conditions of certain current attractions and experiences. As exciting as Princess and the Frog attraction might sound, there are still rides glitching out or in massive need of an overhaul.

Additionally, Disney needs to learn how to take chances again, with both their theme parks and films. At one time, Disney was phenomenal for trying out new animation styles, new stories, and new techniques. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn’t, but it made for some seriously interesting content.

Alien Encounter Sign
Credit: Disney

Look at former Disney projects like ExtraTERRORestrial, the scariest ride ever made by the company and it was reportedly closed because of it, but people are still talking about it years after its closure. Or better yet, The Lion King, a “B-movie” that Disney made to fill up time before Pocahontas that ended up being one of the best animated features of all time. Sometimes it pays to take chances, make mistakes, and get a little messy.

Related: Disney World Rollercoaster to Close Imminently, Reports Say

The point we’re trying to make here is that cancel culture and social justice groups have forced Disney to give up a portion of their creativity. It’s not that the company would ever do something intentionally offensive, but they’ve lost the spark to try different things out of fear rather than out of actual negative consequences.

That’s not to say that everything Disney has done in the past has been okay. There were racial caricatures in some of Mickey’s old cartoons, there were mistakes made by people like Walt Disney and his imagineers, and some Disney Park Attractions just simply didn’t work. But is erasing their shortcomings better than learning from their history?

What Comes Next?

Cinderella Castle
Credit: Disney

Attractions like Splash Mountain definitely show their age, and there is definitely a time when the old projects have to be scrapped to make room for the new ones. Walt Disney always said that his Parks would constantly be changing, but there’s a difference between a paint job and actual change, just as there’s a line between inclusion and pandering.

Related: Disneyland Ride Shut Down After Alleged Death

Yes, people and companies like Disney need to be held accountable for their mistakes, but what’s the point of trying new things, concepts, and ideas if there isn’t any room to make them. Some audiences are going to be more receptive than others, but if Disney doesn’t step back and look at the real issues facing their brand, controversy will be the least of their worries.

Do you think cancel culture or the “woke” movement have ruined Disney? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!



in Disneyland Resort, Op-Ed, Walt Disney World

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