This week Disney announced plans to completely redesign Splash Mountain with The Princess and the Frog theme, the first Disney animation to feature a Black princess. Splash Mountain is a ride in California, Florida, and Japan, in the Critter Country area of Disney Parks, and currently features characters and music from Disney’s 1946 film Song of the South, a movie based on the Uncle Remus character which appears to be set immediately post-slavery, a film that was locked in the Disney vault years ago for racist messages, and was never released on video.
I remember seeing Song of the South as a young child when it came to theaters and thinking something was wrong with it. I haven’t seen the movie since, but after reading commentary on it and listening to some of the music from the film, the most offensive concept is that it portrays black people as enjoying working on the plantations on which they used to work as slaves. The music from the movie is gorgeous, but unfortunately some of it is also offensive as portrayed in the film, take “Let the Rain Pour Down” for example, with the lyrics “let the rain pour down, let the cold wind blow, going to stay right here in the home I love,” set in the context of black people working on plantations, making the false statement that black people lived and worked on the plantations post-slavery because they loved it there.
It was also offensive at the time it was released, in 1946, the NAACP released a statement to this effect: “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 spokesperson Michael Ramirez said that the redesign has been planned since last year, but “The retheming of Splash Mountain is of particular importance today, the new concept is inclusive – one that all of our guests can connect with and be inspired by, and it speaks to the diversity of the millions of people who visit our parks each year.”
As a Disneyland fan, I was very happy to hear of the renovation plans for the water ride.