Disney Backtracks on New Splash Mountain Project After Backlash

in Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World

Splash Mountain sign at Magic Kingdom

Credit: tewphotography / Flickr

Disney has changed its mind regarding an upcoming expansion based on Splash Mountain

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

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Even if you aren’t a big Disney parks fan, you surely have heard about Disney’s Splash Mountain controversy. While it really all came to a head in 2022 and 2023, the controversy has been following The Walt Disney Company since the original release of Song of the South in 1946. This film provided the inspiration, theming, music, and characters for Disney’s beloved Splash Mountain attraction, a water log flume ride that could be found at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as Tokyo Disneyland. The ride became synonymous with Disney, slowly becoming one of the most popular and beloved attractions in Disney parks history. However, the ride was seemingly doomed from the very start, with the original film the ride was based on being incredibly problematic.

For decades, Disney attempted to hide or flat-out ignore the backlash it received as a result of Song of the South. Among many things, the film was heavily criticized for its portrayal of African Americans. Disney would eventually cave into the backlash, refusing to release the film in any physical form.

The film is also not available on Disney’s streaming platform Disney+. However, there was one problem.

Folks enjoying the now-defunct Splash Mountain
Credit: Disney

With The Walt Disney Company quickly sweeping the controversial film under the rug, many were left wondering what would happen to Splash Mountain, which had become one of the unofficial mascots of the Disney parks. To put it simply, Splash Mountain was what guests thought of when they thought about the Disney parks, alongside other icons like Cinderella Castle.

The ride’s theming was problematic, but no one could really imagine a future without this legendary ride. That is until Disney announced that it would, in fact, be retheming Splash Mountain entirely.

splash-mountain-water
Credit: Inside the Magic (Luke D.)

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This news came as a shock, especially to hardcore fans of the ride. The new theming would be inspired by Disney’s 2009 film The Princess and the Frog, turning Splash Mountain into an attraction themed to the bayou and New Orleans. The new ride is currently being worked on at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, with the third and final version of the ride at Tokyo Disneyland staying open indefinitely.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is the new ride and will feature the titular Princess Tiana as she takes guests on an all-new experience. For more information regarding this upcoming ride, click here.

Despite closing down this legendary ride, the effect of Splash Mountain’s success is something that could be seen, heard, and felt all across the Disney parks. Guests could hear Splash Mountain music on buses and in parades, as well as in the background music loop of Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. References to Splash Mountain and characters from Song of the South were present throughout the Disney parks, meaning there was a lot more work to do other than just closing down Splash Mountain.

Concept art for the Cotino Storyliving by Disney community, beachfront access
Credit: Disney Parks Blog

Over the last few years, we’ve seen every reference and allusion to this problematic ride disappear, vanishing before guests’ eyes. However, one peculiar decision involving Splash Mountain confused a lot of fans, causing enough backlash to make The Walt Disney Company reconsider entirely.

In February 2022, The Walt Disney Company officially announced a strategic venture and brand extension with Storyliving. This visionary undertaking is part of The Walt Disney Company’s broader Disney Living Development, Inc. subsidiary. This is basically a Disney-produced and owned neighborhood, allowing passionate Disney fans to live in a community created for them exclusively.

Cotino, nestled in Southern California’s picturesque Coachella Valley within the city of Rancho Mirage, stands as the inaugural Storyliving by Disney community currently in the development stages. This distinctive endeavor takes shape on land adjacent to, and once owned by, the renowned Annenberg Sunnylands Estate, signifying a harmonious blend of history and innovation.

Concept art of a dog park in Disney's Storyliving community.
Credit: Disney

Fans were excited by concept art until people started noticing a glaring issue. The problematic Splash Mountain attraction, along with the film the ride was based on, was actually referenced in this new community, seemingly contradicting Disney’s decision to erase all remnants of the ride and film from history.

According to the original Storyliving photos and descriptions on the Disney site, there would’ve been a ranch-themed dog park called Laughing Place Ranch. The “equestrian-themed” dog park will “be a favorite destination for “Man’s Best Friend.”

Many were quick to notice this blatant Splash Mountain reference make its way into a new Disney project, with Disney receiving lots of pushback and backlash regarding this decision. Now, it seems like Disney heard these complaints, with the concept art being updated to not include any references to Splash Mountain or Song of the South, as you can see below.

Concept art of a dog park in Disney's Storyliving community.
Credit: Disney

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is set to open sometime in 2024 at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, with Disneyland’s version following shortly after.

Are you excited about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure? Do you miss Splash Mountain?

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