Amid concerns surrounding the ride's roots, a 2020 announcement by Disney Parks Blog stated that their classic log ride, Splash Mountain, would be getting the faith, trust, and pixie dust treatment—by bringing the bayous of Louisiana to their Florida and California locations with an all-new The Princess and the Frog theme. While little has been known about what guests can expect to see at the upcoming Disney World and Disneyland attractions thus-far, Disney's official park blog has finally pulled back the curtain to give a sneak peek into some of the plans that ride Imagineers have in store for future park-goers.
In the post made to Disney's official park blog on Friday, December 2nd, the Senior VP of Creative Development for Product and Content Inclusive Strategies, Carmen Smith, unveils design and music elements, as well as some characters, that will float alongside guests on the bayou. An artist rendering accompanies the description, giving readers a taste of the anticipated ambiance.
"BREAKING NEWS: We’re one step closer to going down the bayou as Walt Disney Imagineering reveals a new scene from Tiana’s Bayou Adventure! 💚✨ In this scene, fireflies light up the bayou, leading toward the joyful sound of zydeco music, and on the other side is a band full of adorable critters," the official Facebook post states.
Riders will load into a carved out log, the surrounding night lit up by fireflies that beckon you deeper into the bayou. The infectious beats of rhythm and blues Zydeco music will fill the air, teasing your toes into tapping as you join Princess Tiana and the always jazzy, Louis the Gator, on an adventure to prepare and host a one-of-a-kind celebration for the bustling city of New Orleans.
While the scene drops you in with familiar characters from the movie, Smith also lets us know that some brand-new ones will be joining the line up, created specifically for the attraction. As you float down stream, Louis and a band of crazy critter friends Tiana made along the way will greet you—a rabbit, racoon, beaver, turtle, and others, each with their make-shift instruments made from natural materials found along the bayou, in hand. As they get into their groove, Louis will tell you all about where the tunes they're playing come from.
Zydeco, a genre birthed in the bayous of southwest Louisiana, was created from a mash-up of sounds from blues, rhythm and blues, and native Louisianan creole music genres, and has a sound distinct to the state.
Little else is shared about the new characters seen in the concept art, but Smith does drop a hint that they may play a bigger part in the story than they first seem. Guess riders will just have to wait and see.
So that begs the question, how much longer will you have to wait to hop on the new ride? While a specific date hasn't been announced, Tiana's Bayou Adventure is currently estimated for an opening sometime in late 2024.
While many have expressed excitement in the comment section of a post made to the Disney Parks Facebook page about the sneak peek, some are not as happy about the rework—so much so that it prompted a petition to save the previous theme.
The petition calling to keep the park's "iconic and nostalgic" ride has garnered more than 94,000 signatures as of publication, and was started on Change.org by Eric Thibeault.
"Not happy about this 'update.' Disney has enough money to easily build this ride at a separate location in Magic Kingdom. Our family will really miss Splash Mountain and its fun characters and songs," one comment on the Facebook post reads, ending their contribution to the conversation with a tear trickling from the eyes of a Simpsons' yellow emoji.
A handful of comments on the petition opposing the change proclaim there's nothing racist or offensive about the attraction, despite the movie the ride is based off of, 1946's "Song of the South", being considered a representation of stereotypical tropes surrounding plantation life. Its racist undertones have also resulted in the removal of the movie's songs from Disney's music catalog for looping on rides, and been the topic of many conversations surrounding its controversies online.
One commenter cites the being sick of people being offended and needing everything to be politically correct as part of their reason for signing the petition, while another says that 99% of people don't, and will never, know the story behind the attraction, simply seeing it as a cute ride with animal characters.
"The characters in Splash Mountain do not specifically generalize any race or group of people, they are nothing more than caricatures based on the turn-of-the-century America..." Thibeault wrote, in part. "Modifying Splash Mountain will not change history and will only encourage the 'easily offended' to continue making desperate attempts at finding offence in additional attractions. To change them would be to remove a bit of our art history from the world and to be ashamed of it."
In contrast to the upset over The Princess and the Frog redesign, more than 21,000 signers joined the debate regarding the ride's roots back in 2020, calling for its closure and re-theming with their own petition.
"Disney parks should be a home for all to enjoy regardless of race, age, whatever your background may be..." a separate petition, started by a user called Alex O, noted.
"While the ride is considered a beloved classic its history and storyline are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes from the 1946 film Song of the South...there's a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need. This change could kill two birds with one stone, remove the offensive stereotypical theming the ride currently has and bring a much needed diversity to the parks. As well as a much bigger merchandising opportunity for Princess and the Frog."
Though the re-themed ride isn't slated for opening until late 2024, Splash Mountain won't be staying open for much longer.
Disney announced that the "The Song of the South" ride will run for its last time on January 23, 2023. What about you, are you excited about the new theme, or are you snatching up tickets to The Magic Kingdom to ride Splash Mountain one last time this holiday season?
You can read the sneak peek's announcement in full on Disney's Park Blog, here.
Article by Rachael Volpe