Opinion: Disney’s Splash Mountain needed to be changed

By Farah Bassyouni Jan 27, 2023

I wouldn’t say I’m a “Disney adult,” but I am very interested in the Walt Disney parks. Growing up, my family would go on trips to Walt Disney World in Florida every couple of years and I never got bored of going. This is largely because there is always something new since the last time you attended. 

As of Sunday, January 22, Splash Mountain, an iconic water ride with an enormous drop, finally closed in order to start construction on its newest project, “Tiana’s Bayou Adventure,” based on the Disney film, “The Princess and The Frog.” While many were sad to see the beloved ride go, in my opinion, it could’ve gone sooner. 

As beloved as Splash Mountain is, there are many reasons why it had to go, the biggest being its racist origins. The storyline of the ride is inspired heavily by the 1946 Disney film, “Song of The South.” The film takes place after the Civil War and there are strong depictions of racial stereotypes that carried over into the characters and songs in Splash Mountain.

 Even with the characters of the ride all being just singing animatronics, there are still clear recognizable stereotypes that aren’t appropriate to have in a children’s theme park. 

Despite this unavoidable fact, there are many Disney fans who are saddened by Splash Mountain being discontinued. The original ride had been around since 1989 and was a Disney trip staple. 

On the classic drop where your picture gets taken, many riders have used it as an opportunity to capture all kinds of silly moments. Pretending to play chess, dressing up as characters, or even proposing to a significant other, Splash Mountain was an iconic part of Walt Disney World for the experience, not for the storyline. Even as Disney pivots the ride to a new theme, the overall function of the ride will remain the same, including the large drop that so many park goers love. 

Known as “the happiest place on earth,” Walt Disney World understands how to appeal to a changing audience. In recent years, the company has been discontinuing older attractions and revamping them to fit their modern audience. 

With the introduction of Pandora, based on the blockbuster movie, “Avatar,” Disney World’s Animal Kingdom saw foot traffic that they haven’t seen in years. Along with turning Disneyland’s Tower of Terror into a Guardians of The Galaxy themed thrill ride, younger audiences with closer connections to the actual movies are more excited to go to the parks. 

The closure of Splash Mountain only allows more room for the park to stay relevant to its future audience and explore new ideas. 

To those who are upset at Splash Mountain kicking the bucket, I implore you to remember that what is coming is an exciting, pivotal moment for the park. After “The Princess and The Frog” premiered in 2009, the main character, Tiana, was a defining moment for Disney’s future. 

Being the first Black princess in the Disney princess lineup, having her own ride in the Disney parks is a huge deal, and in my opinion, long deserved. As “classic” as Splash Mountain might have been, if Disney hadn’t made a change to an obviously harmful attraction, they would be harming a huge part of their audience. 

While I still don’t want to call myself a “Disney adult,” I will be attending the grand opening of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and until then, I will be hoping Disney keeps true to its progressive promises. 

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