Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY
Published 10:58 p.m. ET June 11, 2020 | Updated 12:57 p.m. ET June 12, 2020
Here’s what the parks could look like when they reopen their gates.
Imagine this: The Disney Parks log flume ride Splash Mountain redone in the theme of “The Princess and the Frog.”
That’s an idea that 14,000 signees (and counting) have endorsed in just two days as part of an online petition.
Why the change? Why now?
As the Change.org campaign puts it: “Disney parks should be a home for all to enjoy regardless of race, age, whatever your background may be. … While (Splash Mountain) is considered a beloved classic it’s (sic) history and storyline are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes from the 1946 film Song of the South.”
The petitioner, called Alex O, has a point. Disneyland and Disney World’s attraction “Splash Mountain” has an innocuous-sounding name, but the ride includes characters and plotlines (including a rabbit who outsmarts a fox and a bear after they torture him) from the Jim Crow-era film “Song of the South.”
The movie, considered by many the most controversial and notorious one in Disney’s history, was never made available on home video in the U.S. It’s also missing from Disney Plus, even while other vintage movies that depict racist stereotypes, including “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” are available to stream with a disclaimer.
“Song of the South” is a mix of live-action and animation that features an old black plantation laborer named Uncle Remus who tells stories to a young white boy. Groups including the NAACP protested the film’s initial release.
And now thousands of people have endorsed the idea of reimagining the Splash Mountain as a ride about a much different movie: The 2009 animated musical “The Princess and the Frog,” which features the studio’s first black princess, Tiana.
“Princess and the Frog is a beloved princess movie but has very little representation in the parks. Tiana could be one of the first princesses with a thrill ride, as well as giving her a much deserved place in the parks,” writes Alex O.
How, exactly, would the update work?
Disneyland employee Frederick Chambers recently “armchair imagineered” how to do it, meaning he thought up a way to make the change as a brainstorming exercise with a colleague. He found location-based art from the movie that would fit in the space, envisioned specific jazz, zydeco and blues music from the “Princess and the Frog” soundtrack that would match the pacing of the ride and posted his ideas on Twitter
Chambers emphasized in a message to USA TODAY that although his ideas are gathering steam, he thought up the ride retooling just for fun and has the utmost respect for his employer and Splash Mountain Imagineer, Tony Baxter, who “took a problematic film from Disney’s past (which was redistributed in the 70s and 80s to reasonably success)” and combined it “with reused America Sings Animatronics, and a log flume ride vehicle,” he said.
“Disney is definitely aware of the idea and I am by no means the first person to dream up the concept,” he added. “The bones of the attraction are good but I think it is time for us to take a serious look at where our stories come from and how people of color are represented on screen and in the parks.”
USA TODAY has reached out to Disney Parks for comment on this petition.
Contributing: Jay Reeves, Associated Press
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