It’s officially happening: Disney is retheming Splash Mountain to The Princess and the Frog, it was announced today on the Disney Parks Blog. The announcement comes just over two weeks after many fans called on the company to separate the ride from the racist origins of its current theme, although the blog post makes a point of saying that this has been in the works since last year.
The popular log flume ride, which opened in Disneyland in 1989 and the Magic Kingdom in 1992, was based on characters from Song of the South, the company’s notoriously racist movie from 1946. The ride focused on characters from the movie’s animated segments—Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear—and made no explicit reference to the movie’s live action segments or characters, but it’s still a bit weird and, for many, uncomfortable that Disney has a ride connected to an offensive movie that the company is rightfully embarrassed by. No doubt some Disney traditionalists will be upset by this news—and I’m sure white supremacists and Old South idolizers won’t be too pleased—but it’s well past time for Disney to do something about this ride. And I say that as somebody who thinks the current version is the best ride at Disneyland.
The new version of Splash Mountain will be themed to 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, a great and underrated Disney animated movie set in New Orleans. It won’t take much to make The Princess and the Frog fit into Splash Mountain: the ride’s already set in a swamp, and is full of singing, dancing swampland critters. As a native Georgian it’s sad to lose the one Disney ride canonically set in Georgia, but considering that ride was based on a racist movie adapted from racist stories that were basically stolen from slaves, it’s not like Georgia ever had anything to be proud about in this whole scenario.
There’s no word on when the updated version of Splash Mountain will launch. There’s actually no word on when Disneyland itself will reopen—its proposed relaunch on July 17 was delayed yesterday because California has yet to approve it. Disney World is still on schedule to reopen on July 11. There’s no timeline for this project yet, but Bob Weis, the head of Disney Imagineering, confirmed that the current version of the ride will reopen alongside the parks. Since they’re not immediately closing them and starting on the conversion, don’t expect the next version of it to be open until well after 2020 wraps up.