An iconic section of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom may be remodeled, which would mean the end of some beloved pieces of the park’s history.
Over the years Disney World has made massive changes. In addition to Epcot, Hollywood Studios and, lastly, Animal Kingdom joining Magic Kingdom, the area around the parks has evolved.
Hotels have risen, two waters parks replaced the old River Country, and Disney’s shopping district, Disney Springs, emerged in what was once the “Pleasure Island” nightlife district.
Because Walt Disney created it, Magic Kingdom has been somewhat frozen in time. The company has added to the park and made some tweaks to rides like “Jungle Cruise,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” to make them more palatable to modern audiences, but changes are very slow to come.
That may be why Disney waited so long to retheme “Splash Mountain.” a water flume ride that was themed to “Song of the South,” a movie that the company has dropped. “Song of the South” does not stream on Disney+ or any streaming service, with Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger calling it “not appropriate in today’s world.”
Now, work to turn “Splash Mountain” into “Tiana’s Bayou Adventure” has begun. It’s the same water ride, but theming will be pulled from the movie “The Princess and the Frog,” which is set in New Orleans. That creates a bit of a disconnect at Magic Kingdom, where the former “Splash Mountain” sits in “Frontierland.”
That could lead to a major change and the loss of some well-known Magic Kingdom attractions.
Image source: Walt Disney
Disney World Might Retheme Frontierland
In Disneyland, where “Splash Mountain” sits adjacent to the park’s “New Orleans Square” area, the transition actually fits the existing theming. At Disney World. that’s not the case as the ride is in the middle of “Frontierland,” which has a Wild West theme.
“Strangely enough the hot rumor flying around the Magic Kingdom this week is that much of Frontierland, from the Diamond Horseshoe down to Pecos Bill’s restaurant, may be about to be transformed into a ‘New Orleans’ themed land to properly tie into the transformation of Splash Mountain into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure,” Screamscape reported. “This would then essentially leave Big Thunder Mountain as the only remaining piece of Frontierland.”
And that in turn would make “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” a sort of outlier leftover from “Frontierland.” But that could be ignored or perhaps that roller coaster’s theme could be tweaked.
The bigger question is what would happen to two key parts of the existing land, “The Country Bear Jamboree” and “Tom Sawyer’s Island.”
Disney has reportedly sent out surveys to guests, asking them how they felt about “The Country Bear Jamboree” and “Tom Sawyer’s Island.” This suggests that while a change may not have been decided upon, it’s at least being considered.
Magic Kingdom Could Use Some Updates
While Disney recently added the “Tron Lightcycle / Run” roller coaster to Magic Kingdom, the company has hesitated to make changes to “Walt’s” park. Rides that are sadly dated, like the “Carousel of Progress,” where the progress stops in roughly 1983, have not been replaced because older park visitors remember them nostalgically.
Because Magic Kingdom is the company’s park most aimed at kids, it simply does not need the big thrills or modern rides that have become table stakes at other parks.
Getting rid of “The Country Bear Jamboree,” characters that most kids don’t know, and replacing it with something more modern would surely improve Magic Kingdom, while “Tom Sawyer Island” has always been an underdeveloped afterthought.
Disney can continue to trade on nostalgia and probably not see attendance suffer at Magic Kingdom, but it could also embrace this opportunity to build something new.