On Thursday, June 25, Disney announced its Splash Mountain attractions will be getting a touch of new magic from its Imagineers. The news comes after criticism of how Splash Mountain's design was inspired by the 1946 film Song of the South, as well as the recent call to include Princess Tiana — the only Black Disney princess — in a Disney attraction. Disney's new Splash Mountain theme will include music from Princess and the Frog, along with a fun Louisiana Mardi Gras theme.
For those unfamiliar, Splash Mountain was inspired by some animated scenes in Song of the South, which is a film about a young boy visiting his grandmother on an old plantation and has received criticism for its depiction of Black people and whitewashing the post-Civil War era. According to the June 25 post on Disney Parks Blog, the concept to update the Splash Mountain theme has been in the works since some time in 2019.
Disney's reimagining of the Splash Mountain attractions at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, and the Magic Kingdom at Disney World Park in Orlando, Florida, will feature Princess and the Frog songs, as riders join Princess Tiana and her alligator friend, Louis, as they embark on a musical adventure in their first Mardi Gras performance. The film seems like a natural move for Splash Mountain since The Princess and the Frog is set in the Louisiana bayou and New Orleans, which will fit in with the existing Louisiana theme in New Orleans Square in Disneyland. On the East Coast, Disney World's Splash Mountain is located in Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square, which still retains the same feeling of Lousiana, though it's not officially set in New Orleans. As for the musical piece, the character Louis is a nod to the cultural tradition of Black voices in jazz music such as Louis Armstrong.
Disney acknowledged this re-theming of Splash Mountain is of "particular importance today." Additionally in the post, Disney explained how its hope is that the new ride will be "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."
Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Princess Tiana in the film, shared her excitement about the rebranding in the press release: "It is really exciting to know that Princess Tiana’s presence in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will finally be fully realized! As passionate as I am about what we created, I know the fans are going to be over the moon."
Controversy surrounding the original Splash Mountain theme is nothing new, and in March 2020, Disney's chairman Bob Iger affirmed Song of the South is "just not appropriate in today's world," and that it would never appear on the Disney+ streaming service. The blog post doesn't mention the decision being connected to the recent petitions for a rebranding of Splash Mountain circulated on Thursday, June 11 amid protests against systemic racism and police brutality, but the news does meet the demand from a couple of the petitions to include Princess Tiana in a new version of the ride.
The rebranding of the Splash Mountain is still in the creative development stage, and as of publication on June 25, there is no proposed completion date. Disney has yet to reveal which songs from Princess and the Frog — or new songs — it will feature in the ride, but you can expect to hear Tony Award-winner Rose as you travel down the bayou.