Splash Mountain to “Reopen” Summer 2024 After Controversy

in Disney Parks, Walt Disney World

An animated scene of Splash Mountain (left) featuring a log ride with Brer Rabbit characters, and a crowded area near Cinderella's Castle at Disney (right) with many visitors sitting and standing. Blue sky and clouds are visible in the background, reviving the magic of a perfect theme park day.

Credit: Inside the Magic

If you are a fan of Splash Mountain, we have some good news for you — not all of your favorite characters have been washed away down the bayou, some of them will live on at Magic Kingdom in a way different to what you may have thought.

Disney Erradicates Splash Mountain

A colorful and detailed rock formation resembling a mountain, with rugged terrain, patches of greenery, and a distinct peak. The sky is overcast, adding contrast to the vibrant hues of the rocks. At its base, a wooden structure with a peaked roof hints at the Magic Kingdom's newest attraction launching next month.
Credit: Disney Parks

On May 31, 2023, a familiar landmark faded from the horizon of Walt Disney World’s Frontierland. Splash Mountain, the iconic log flume ride featuring a cast of singing animatronic critters, closed its doors after decades of operation.

For countless guests, the sight of the towering mountain, punctuated by a log plummeting down its slopes every 20 seconds, was an inseparable part of the Frontierland experience. While the water-based attraction remained a staple at Magic Kingdom initially, it ultimately underwent a thematic transformation, paving the way for a new chapter.

The decision to reimagine Splash Mountain stemmed from a desire to create a more inclusive and representative experience for all guests. The ride’s original theme drew inspiration from the 1946 film Song of the South, a motion picture with outdated cultural depictions that no longer resonate with modern audiences.

Disney made the conscious choice to move in a different creative direction, opting to replace the Song of the South theme with one based on the critically acclaimed 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog.

This exciting reimagining, titled Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, promises to transport guests on a magical journey through the heart of the Louisiana bayou.

Slated to open this month, the new attraction will feature familiar characters from The Princess and the Frog, including Princess Tiana, Naveen, and Louis the alligator. With an emphasis on music, humor, and stunning visuals, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure promises to be a thrilling and immersive experience for guests of all ages.

Splash Mountain’s closure at Disneyland mirrored the move at Walt Disney World, effectively marking a thematic shift across the Disney Parks landscape. This change signifies Disney’s commitment to evolving its storytelling and ensuring its attractions reflect a more inclusive and representative world.

While the original Splash Mountain holds a nostalgic place in the hearts of many, the arrival of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure ushers in a new era of storytelling, ready to captivate a new generation of parkgoers.

Originally themed after the 1946 film Song of the South, the attraction drew inspiration from folktales narrated by Uncle Remus, a former slave character. While characters like Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear became beloved through the ride, the film itself has been subject to ongoing criticism.

A group of people descend rapidly in Splash Mountain ride amidst a rugged, rocky landscape, splashing water around as they enjoy the thrill.
Credit: Disney

Song of the South has been widely criticized for its romanticized portrayal of the antebellum South. Critics argue that the film presents a sanitized view of plantation life, neglecting the harsh realities of slavery. Additionally, the portrayal of Uncle Remus as a kindly and submissive character has been seen as perpetuating harmful racial stereotypes, specifically the “happy slave” trope.

In recognition of these concerns, Disney made the decision to reimagine Splash Mountain. The upcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, scheduled to open on June 28, will draw inspiration from the critically acclaimed 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog. This thematic shift reflects Disney’s commitment to evolving its storytelling and ensuring its attractions align with a more nuanced and inclusive understanding of the world.

While acknowledging the nostalgic value of the original Splash Mountain for many guests, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure represents a new chapter for the attraction. This reimagining allows Disney to move forward with a story that celebrates diversity and cultural representation, ensuring a more welcoming and enjoyable experience for all park visitors.

Colorful indoor amusement park ride featuring a pirate ship with cartoon-like characters, vibrant lights, and autumn leaves decoration, creating a whimsical, festive atmosphere at Magic Kingdom.
Credit: Disney

When Splash Mountain shut down, many guests were not happy with the decision made by Disney, and even now that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure has been open to cast members with full ride-through videos released online (including many reports of the ride breaking down multiple times on a daily basis), some guests feel that Disney made the wrong choice.

While petitions were formed to keep the old attraction, at this point, many have had to accept that Splash Mountain is a thing of the past (unless you are going to Tokyo Disneyland).

Splash Mountain Returns to Disney World?

One of the best parts about Splash Mountain was the plethora of animatronics that littered the attraction, filling it with critters everywhere. Now, those animatronics are finding a new home.

Much like how some mechanics will buy an old car for its parts, Disney has taken apart the old animatronics for Splash Mountain to use their “innards” to bring some of the Country Bears from Country Bear Jamboree to life in a smoother way.

Country Bear Jamboree at the Magic Kingdom
Credit: Brittany DiCologero, Inside the Magic

Disney expert and theme park insider Mickey Views shared that, “In a recent meeting, Walt Disney Imagineering revealed that internal components from the Splash Mountain animatronics at Walt Disney World are being repurposed to make the updated Country Bears move better than ever!”

The summer of 2024 promises a season of exciting transformations at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. While the highly-anticipated reimagining of Splash Mountain takes center stage, another beloved attraction is undergoing a significant modernization. The Country Bear Jamboree, a Magic Kingdom staple since its debut in 1971, is set to reopen later this summer with a fresh look and feel, rechristened as the Country Bear Musical Jamboree.

This overhaul extends beyond a simple name change. The updated show will feature a revitalized musical repertoire, ensuring a toe-tapping experience for audiences of all ages. Additionally, the Country Bears themselves will receive a wardrobe makeover, sporting brand-new costumes that reflect their unique personalities.

But perhaps the most significant update lies beneath the surface. The aging hydraulic systems that have powered the Country Bears’ movements for decades will be replaced with state-of-the-art technology. This upgrade, similar to the advancements employed in the animatronics of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, will breathe new life into the Country Bears’ performances, allowing for a more dynamic and expressive show.

Big Al Country bear Jamboree
Credit: Disney Parks

According to Mickey Views, “Walt Disney Imagineering Site Portfolio Executive Michael Hundgen recently revealed the best-working components from the Splash Mountain animatronics have been repurposed and installed inside the Country Bears animatronics.”

“The team was just telling me that we’ve been able to switch out some of the motors in the bears. We took the motors from [Splash Mountain] and we put them into the bears, so now they’re moving a lot more fluidly because they have new parts. It’s like hip surgery for the bears. The whole show is going to be a lot smoother.” -Michael Hundgen, WDI

The upcoming summer of 2024 promises a season of exciting transformations at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. One beloved attraction undergoing a significant refresh is the Country Bear Jamboree, scheduled to reopen as the Country Bear Musical Jamboree.

This reimagining extends beyond a cosmetic makeover, as the show will feature a revitalized musical repertoire. Guests can look forward to enjoying new renditions of classic Disney tunes, potentially including “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book, Try Everything from Zootopia, alongside the familiar melodies associated with the Country Bears.

Country Bear Jamboree new poster
Credit: Disney

The update also brings a renewed focus on inclusivity.

The recent release of a poster for Grizzly Hall, the show’s setting, showcases the returning cast of Country Bear characters. Familiar faces like Big Al, Henry, Trixie, Wendell, Teddi Barra, Ernest, and Terrence “Shaker” will be joined by a newcomer, Romeo McGrowl.

Romeo McGrowl’s name replaces the previously used Liver Lips moniker. This change reflects Disney’s commitment to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all guests. The term “liver lips” is considered outdated and potentially offensive, and Disney has chosen to move forward with a more appropriate name for the character.

Disney World Expansion Plan

For a long time, we have been discussing how Disney CEO Bob Iger will allocate the $60 billion budget for the theme parks that will come into play over the next 10 years. The goal is to expand and increase capacity, and while a lot of the money will also go to Disney Cruise Line and theme park maintenance, $30 billion is set to go strictly to theme park advancements.

When it comes to Walt Disney World, the “Beyond Big Thunder” plan, which is the plan to expand Magic Kingdom past Big Thunder Mountain has been the main topic of discussion. Since the 2022 D23 Expo, we have known that an expansion was in the works, and lately, Disney has been referencing the upcoming changes even more, specifically in the Country Bear Jamboree press release that went out a few months back.

One of the popular options for this expansion would be to create a Dark Kingdom of sorts that would act as a villains-themed land in the Magic Kingdom.

While this is exciting on its own, recent agreements between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have proven that a whole new theme park may be on the way. 

A majestic castle with tall spires and intricate details, illuminated under dramatic dark clouds. The castle is primarily pink with blue rooftops and flags, creating a striking contrast with the stormy sky.
Credit: Inside the Magic

Months after Disney and appointees of Governor Ron DeSantis agreed to conclude a lengthy legal battle, both parties are poised to approve a deal that could see Disney investing $17 billion into its Florida resort, paving the way for a fifth major theme park at Walt Disney World.

On Wednesday, the five DeSantis-appointed supervisors overseeing the Disney World district voted to give preliminary approval to a new development agreement. This agreement, which both sides had agreed to negotiate following a March settlement that ended their state court lawsuits, requires a second vote for final approval, scheduled for next week.

“We are heading towards a brand new day, and I’m excited about where this is going,” said Charbel Barakat, vice chair of the district’s board. “I only wish we could have gotten here sooner.”

Woody Rodriguez, director of external affairs for the Disney parks, informed board members that the agreement would facilitate substantial investments in Disney World.

The agreement between Disney and the Central Florida Tourism and Oversight District is set to last 15 years. This district, which provides services such as firefighting, planning, and mosquito control, was controlled by Disney supporters for most of its five decades until taken over by DeSantis appointees last year.

According to the deal’s terms, Disney would be approved to construct a fifth major theme park and two additional minor parks, such as water parks, over the next 10-20 years. The company could also increase its hotel rooms from nearly 40,000 to more than 53,000 and expand retail and restaurant space by over 20%. Disney would retain control over building heights to maintain an immersive environment.

A crowd of people gather around the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in front of Cinderella's Castle at Disney World. The castle is adorned in blue and gold spires, while the people wear various casual outfits, enjoying the lively atmosphere of the park.
Credit: Nicholas Fuentes, Unsplash

In exchange, Disney would donate up to 100 acres of its 24,000-acre property for district-controlled infrastructure projects. The company would also need to award at least half of its construction projects to Florida-based companies and spend at least $10 million on affordable housing in central Florida.

The March settlement ended nearly two years of litigation sparked by DeSantis’ takeover of the district following Disney’s opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Act, often called “Don’t Say Gay” by critics. The 2022 law, which bans classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, was championed by the Republican governor, who criticized Disney’s opposition until he suspended his presidential campaign this year.

Previously, Disney had special status under The Reedy Creek Improvement Act, granted by Florida in 1967. However, DeSantis took over the district through legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, appointing a new board in February 2023.

Governor Ron DeSantis speaking during a televised interview, with an american flag in the background.
Credit: DeSantis

Disney sued DeSantis and his appointees, claiming a violation of the company’s free speech rights for speaking against the legislation. Although a federal judge dismissed that lawsuit in January, Disney appealed. As part of the March settlement, Disney agreed to hold off on the appeal.

Before the district changed hands from Disney allies to DeSantis appointees, the Disney-supportive board signed agreements shifting control over Disney World’s design and construction to the company. The new appointees claimed these “eleventh-hour deals” undermined their authority and sued to void the contracts. Disney counterclaimed, seeking validation and enforcement of the agreements. These state court lawsuits were dismissed as part of the March settlement.

What do you think of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure based on what has been shared online?

 

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