Disney Splash Mountain: why is ride closing - Song of the South racist row explained

Splash Mountain opened in California’s Disneyland in 1989, and in Florida’s Disney World in 1992

Following the original announcement that was made back in 2020, Disney World has officially closed down its Splash Mountain ride. While a beloved fixture of the park for many fans, the company could no longer ignore growing complaints about the racist associations between the log flume ride and the 1946 film Song of the South.

This is everything you need to know, from why the ride has been closed down to what will replace it.

When did Splash Mountain close?

Splash Mountain in Florida’s Disney World took patrons on one final ride before it closed for good on Sunday 22 January, with renovations starting the following day.

Views of Splash Mountain are seen at Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic in Orlando on July 23, 2020 (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)

On Sunday, fans of Splash Mountain waited in queues up to three hours long to enjoy their final ride.

It has been confirmed that the Splash Mountain in California’s Disneyland will also be closing its doors as well, however a specific date has not yet been announced. There also does not appear to be any plans to shut down the version of the ride in Tokyo, however some reports have claimed that The Oriental Land Company, which operates the theme park, is in talks to follow suit with the parks in America.

What is it being turned into?

It was officially announced back in 2020 that Splash Mountain in both Florida and California would be shutting down to go through the process of turning it into Tatiana’s Bayou Adventure.

The announcement at the time said: “The theme is inspired by an all time favourite animated Disney film, The Princess and the Frog. We pick up this story after the final kiss, and join Princess Tiana and Louis on a musical adventure - featuring some of the powerful music from the film - as they prepare for their first ever Mardi Gras performance.”

A model of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, which will reimagine Disneyland’s Splash Mountain, is displayed during the Walt Disney D23 Expo in Anaheim, California on September 9, 2022. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

The post goes on to explain that there has been a longstanding history of updating attractions, and that the “retheming of Splash Mountain is of particular importance today”.

It stated: “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.”

In a separate post, Disney said: “Guests will join Princess Tiana, Naveen and jazz-loving alligator Louis on an adventure through the bayou as they prepare to host a one-of-a-kind Mardi Gras celebration where everyone is welcome. Along the way, guests will encounter familiar faces, make new friends and travel through the bayou to original music inspired by songs from the film as they are brought into the next chapter of Tiana’s story.”

When will Tiana’s Bayou Adventure open?

According to the Disney blog, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open in the Magic Kingdom in Florida and Disneyland park in California in “late 2024”. No specific date has been confirmed as of yet.

Was Splash Mountain racist?

Splash Mountain was based on a 1946 Disney film called Song of the South, which has long been criticised for its stereotypical and offensive portrayals of Black characters, as well as romanticising the antebellum South.

The film, best known for the song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, is not available on Disney’s streaming service Disney+ due to its racist content, nor has it ever been fully released on DVD or Blu Ray.

When the film was released, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) described it as an “idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts”.

Song of the South (Photo: Disney)

Prior to the announcement that Splash Mountain would be closing down, an online petition to have the ride’s theme changed to Princess and the Frog garnered a lot of attention.

The petition, now marked as a “victory” on the website, states that “Disney parks should be a home for all to enjoy regardless of race, age, whatever your background may be” and that while the log flume ride is a beloved fixture, “its history and storyline are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist ropes from the 1946 film Song of the South”.

It continued: “There is a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need. Princess and the Frog is a beloved princess movie but it has very little representation in the parks.”