Goodbye, Splash Mountain (and hello, Tiana!).
Any longtime Disney fan can tell you that while there’s plenty to look forward to seeing year after year when they visit the parks, Disney is also all about offering new things.
This strategy keeps folks coming back, excited to see what’s new along with visiting beloved favorites.
One such favorite is Splash Mountain, which opened to the public first at Disneyland in 1989 and at Walt Disney World in 1992. Based on the 1946 Disney film “The Song of the South,” the log ride took parkgoers through a series of stories told by Uncle Remus, a fictional narrator of African-American folktales. It ended by dropping the log ride into a pool of water that splashed the riders, hence the name.
However, “Song of the South” has earned much criticism over the years due to what many consider a racist portrayal of Reconstruction era in the South. The NAACP made a public statement on the film at the time of its release, saying “…in an effort neither to offend audiences in the North or South, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery … [the film] unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship, which is a distortion of the facts.”
Disney has a track record of listening and making changes about offensive or dangerous themes in its media, making a point of pivoting away from its “princess saved by the prince” rhetoric and replacing it with non-romance centric features like “Frozen” and “Encanto.”
And now, it’s decided to take charge on Splash Mountain’s dubious themes and transform it into a brand-new ride themed on its 2009 film “The Princess and the Frog.”
What Will The New Ride Be Like?
While we already knew about the ride thanks to Aniki Nona Rose, the voice of Tiana from the film, Disney released much more information during a presentation at Essence Fest in New Orleans, which took place the weekend of July 1-3.
Confirmed to be coming in 2024, Disney calls the new ride Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Disney says its Imagineers have spent much time in New Orleans to make sure the experience will be authentic to the city and its history.
The ride’s story will pick up at the end of the film and feature Princess Tiana, Naveen, and Louis on an adventure through the bayou as they prepare for a Mardi Gras celebration.
Charita Carter, executive producer of relevancy activations at Walt Disney Imagineering, says “In many ways, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a love letter to New Orleans. Like the musical city that inspired this attraction, Tiana’s second act is about a community working in harmony to achieve something extraordinary. She reminds us of an immutable truth we can all relate to: ‘if you do your best each and every day, good things are sure to come your way.’ And that’s a melody we can all sing along to!”
Are Disney’s Diversity Efforts Working?
While Disney has clearly read social media discourse about parts of its movies and related properties that hit the wrong notes and made an effort to adjust, its hesitance about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” act left a stain on the company’s reputation in March 2022, leading to extensive employee walkouts.
Disney eventually announced its opposition to the bill, but many felt it was too little too late.
It did, however, spark a sharp response from the state’s politically ambitious governor, Ron DeSantis, who got the state’s Republican dominated legislature to strip the company of its special tax status for its massive Florida properties. (That move may actually backfire, by pushing interest payments on $2 billion in bonds onto local residents.)
DIsney was quicker to address Roe vs. Wade being struck down, however, sending out a statement in support of employees seeking abortion services and promising to pay travel costs for those seeking such services.
“Our company remains committed to removing barriers and providing comprehensive access to quality and affordable care for all of our employees, cast members and their families, including family planning and reproductive care, no matter where they live,” Paul Richardson, chief human resources officer, and Pascale Thomas, vice president of enterprise benefits and well-being, wrote in a memo.