The ride is based on the racist 1946 Disney film “Song of the South” — best known for the song, “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah,” which has been criticized for stereotyping Black men and romanticizing the antebellum South. The film was denied a video release at the time, but Disney went ahead with the theme for Splash Mountain anyway, years later in 1989.
“Song of the South” starred characters like Brer Rabbit, who is featured on the ride and whose origin was as a companion for traveling slaves in African folklore, according to CNN. An author named Joel Chandler Harris took the character and gave Brer Rabbit a vernacular based on what Harris had overheard from slaves. It was an unquestionably racist character in a series of undeniably offensive stories.
Fans want to keep the ride, which involves the iconic 49-foot drop at the end, but are asking Disney to revamp the theme.
Frederick Chambers, who identifies himself as a Disneyland cast member on Twitter, shared a viable option for the new theme that he’s been advocating for, for years.
The idea to change the theme is plausible given Disney has done it in the past. In 2017, Disney California Adventure changed its Tower of Terror ride to Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” In 2018, both Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland updated a scene in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride that had showed pirates chasing and auctioning off women.
“I think it’s 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,” Chambers said, according to CBS Miami.
Fans on Twitter seemed split in response to Chambers’s proposal, with some agreeing it was time for an update and others holding onto their childhood memories of both the soundtrack and the ride.
Disney has previously had to reckon with its past movies being criticized for playing into racist stereotypes, since the launch of its streaming service Disney Plus. Films featured on the platform — like “Dumbo” — now have content warnings that say the movie “may contain outdated cultural depictions.” Unsurprisingly, “Song of the South” is not available to stream on Disney Plus.
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