Disney restyles controversial ride to honour first black princess
Friday, 26 June 2020
Disney will modify its ‘Splash Mountain’ rides in its American theme parks, as they evoke the racist past of the United States, the company announced. The ride will be restyled to honour Tiana, Disney’s first black princess.
Splash Mountain is a popular attraction at both Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida, that consists of a water ride in a fake tree trunk, ending in a big splash.
The ride is currently themed around ‘Song of the South,’ a controversial Disney film from 1946 criticised for spreading racist clichés and painting the slave plantations of the old South of the United States in an idyllic light. The film has not been shown in cinemas since the 1980s, was never released on DVD and has been deliberately kept out of the Disney+ catalogue.
Splash Mountain will now be “completely reimagined” to tell the story of “The Princess and the Frog.” “Tiana is a modern, courageous, and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important. It’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou,” according to Disney.
“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,” Disney said.
“It is really exciting to know that Princess Tiana’s presence in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will finally be fully realised! As passionate as I am about what we created, I know the fans are going to be over the moon,” said Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Tiana. “The Imagineers are giving us ‘The Princess and the Frog’ Mardi Gras celebration we’ve been waiting for, and I’m here for it!”
The decision comes as many statues and monuments associated with slavery and racist oppression are being removed or defaced across the United States in the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer in late May.
“The retheming of Splash Mountain is of particular importance today,” according to Disney, though the company had already begun retiming the ride last year and has a habit of making its attractions conform to the times.