Disney is retheming Splash Mountain, the beloved thrill ride located in both U.S. Disney resorts, as a ride featuring The Princess and the Frog characters. The original Splash Mountain opened in Disneyland in 1989, three years after Song of the South's last theatrical release. The ride featured characters from the controversial movie, and protests against racism inspired calls for Splash Mountain to redone to include The Princess and the Frog characters.
The new Splash Mountain will pick up after The Princess and the Frog ended, with Princess Tiana and Louis, the trumpet-playing alligator, going on a new adventure. The two friends are preparing for their first Mardi Gras performance. Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Tiana in the 2009 movie, will reprise her role for both the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom versions. "As passionate as I am about what we created, I know the fans are going to be over the moon," Rose said in a statement. "The Imagineers are giving us The Princess and the Frog Mardi Gras celebration we've been waiting for, and I'm here for it!"
Retheming rides and attractions for properties more familiar to younger audiences is nothing new for the Disney Parks. For example, EPCOT has seen Disney characters slowly take over attractions, with Frozen characters added to the Malestrom ride and Finding Nemo characters taking over The Living Seas. However, Splash Mountain is a much more controversial issue. The ride was designed by the legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter and features the characters from the animated portions of Song of the South, Disney's 1946 film. The Disneyland version opened in 1989, while the Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland versions both opened in 1992. Since then, it has been one of the most popular attractions in the resorts.
Disney has long-buried Song of the South and has not released it in theaters since 1986, meaning more than one generation has no familiarity with the characters outside of Splash Mountain. The ride tries to avoid the controversial aspects of the film by only focusing on the characters B'rer Rabbit, B'rer Bear and B'rer Fox. Song of the South is infamous for glamorizing the life on a Southern Plantation after the Civil War, although it makes no clear reference to when it really takes place. It shows Black characters who are willing to work for the White plantation owners and they are portrayed using racist stereotypes. Despite the controversies, Disney continued using the film's Oscar-winning song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" and the animated characters in a variety of merchandise.
As for The Princess and the Frog, the traditionally animated film was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the same team behind The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. It featured the first Black princess in Disney history and was a return to the Broadway-style musicals the studio made in the early 1990s. Although considered underrated today, it still grossed over $270 million worldwide. The film is available to stream on both Disney+ and Netflix.