Splash Mountain and its closure have been one of the most debated topics in Disney’s history. The popular Magic Kingdom and Disneyland rides delighted fans of Br’er Rabbit and The Laughing Place for decades before closing due to Disney’s felt need to address outdated themes.
Closing at both locations earlier this year, Splash Mountain fans have been boisterous about their displeasure with Disney’s decision to change the ride to a new theming featuring Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
Although Splash Mountain, as a physical ride, isn’t going anywhere, the ideas and stories held within the confines of one of the most popular Disney attractions of all time will undergo a change due to sensitivity revolving around the origin of fabled characters such as Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox.
Splash Mountain: A Troubled History
Most of us who’ve visited either Disneyland or Walt Disney World and ridden Splash Mountain may be unaware of the ride’s origins. Based on characters from Disney’s 1946 full-length film, Song of the South, many are still in the dark about where these characters came from.
Long before Disney introduced the film, which featured James Baskett as Uncle Remus, Br’er Rabbit was actually part of folklore told by enslaved people in the form of verbal stories that many scholars believe reflect their strife in overpowering and out-smarting their white enslavers.
Br’er Rabbit, a trickster figure, is part of oral tradition passed down by African Americans of the Southern United States and African descendants in the Caribbean, notably Afro-Bahamians and Turks and Caicos. Joel Chandler Harris popularized him in “The Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit.”
The problem with this is that Harris, from Georiga, heard these stories while growing up on the Turnwold Plantation found deep in the heart of the American South. Harris, who spent a lot of time in the slave quarters on the grounds, took these oral traditions and published them in 1881. Therefore, ultimately, Disney was capitalizing financially from old slave stories in the form of a comedic, gag-filled, log flume ride at their parks.
Splash Mountain Fans Are Furious
Despite the clear ethical issue of Splash Mountain and its previous theming, many fans have yet to move on, citing Disney’s “woke” culture as the culprit in changing their favorite attraction to Tiana from Princess and the Frog (2009).
A quick search online will reveal hundreds of support groups and petitions that are still in existence with one goal in mind: to return Splash Mountain to its original state, which many suggest was actually the most popular ride contained within any Disney Park.
Despite their pleas, Disney has decided to move forward with the retheming of Splash Mountain, with expected opening dates of the new Tiana’s Bayou Adventure in 2024. Of course, this is a target for some Splash Mountain loyalists who feel that using Tiana (Disney’s only African-American princess) could be considered pandering.
What Made the Log Flume Ride Great Will Still Exist
Although the fun adventures of Br’er Rabbit and the Briar Patch were fun and enjoyable for guests to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, the true essence of the ride will not change.
Splash Mountain will continue to be a wet and wild time, boating guests through an elaborately decorated show scene while climbing and dropping along the way, ultimately leading to one massive drop that culminates the riding experience.
The only thing changing regarding the physicality of the attraction is the story and theming elements. The actual ride mechanics will continue as is. Instead of the Briar Patch, guests will float away to New Orleans. Instead of Br’er Rabbit, guests will get to see Tiana, Mama Odie, Prince Naveen, Ray, and Louis.
As New Orleans is a major city located in Louisiana, deep within the south, I wouldn’t expect the overall theme to feel very similar to the southern draws, riverboats, and other aspects of what Splash Mountain used to be. Instead of Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Bear, you get Ray and Louis; what’s not to love?
Splash Mountain at Home
There are a lot of ways to enjoy Splash Mountain. You could watch Song of the South or check out old videos and hilarious promotional commercials on YouTube. You could even go on a shopping spree for what is now “vintage” Br’er Rabbit merchandise.
As the essence of the original ride is now gone, fans of Splash Mountain are starting to get creative in their attempts to keep the classic Disney attraction alive. As Tokyo Disneyland is the only Disney theme park that has an operating original Splash Mountain attraction, US-based fans are now taking matters into their own hands.
One fan, citing another common complaint regarding prices at Disney, took matters into their own hands when their darling little girls decided they wanted to ride Splash Mountain.
Originally shared by Jess Colopy at Inside the Magic, TikTok user @thefoxsaystwins recently posted a fun, Splash Mountain-inspired video of two girls sharing a wholesome and hilarious moment with their dad in the backyard.
Captioned, “When your twins want to go to Disney, but it’s too expensive so Dad makes ‘Splash Mountain’ in the backyard,” the TikToker wrote. “Kids are expensive…and Disneyland is even more expensive x2 money… Dad hack for the win,” these Disney fans are making the most of their Disney memories, by bringing Splash Mountain and “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” home to their yard.
The adorable video has garnered a few thousand likes and really drives home the thought most of us feel after we’re preparing to leave Disney, “can we just live here forever!”
We understand the nostalgia and memories that many of us share for Splash Mountain as well. So, despite what outsiders may think, we completely understand this fun and interactive way to make memories at home while spraying your kids in the face with water as they go down a hill on their toys. If they made adult-sized bigwheels, we’d probably do this too.
What to Expect From Splash Mountain in the Future
First announced in 2020, Splash Mountain’s goodbye paves the way for an all-new experience featuring Tiana from Princess and the Frog (2009). As construction on the new theme continues at Disney World and Disneyland, some continue to be unhappy with the installation, even comparing the contemporary facade art to graffiti.
Despite the moans and groans from Splash Mountain die-hards, the retheme is happening, and it’s time to embrace the jazz-loving Louis, singing Prince Naveen and, of course, Princess Tiana. However, that doesn’t mean that our memories of what Splash Mountain once was have to go away. Much like the family above, keeping the original memory alive for those who cherish the ride is a fun way to celebrate our love for Disney and its history while looking forward to its future.
As Imagineers continues to develop the new ride, excitement is growing as Disney has provided us with exciting details via their website regarding the amazing work they are putting into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
“Picking up where the film left off, 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.”
Charita Carter, executive producer of relevancy activations at Walt Disney Imagineering, had this say about expectations regarding the new attractions, “in many ways, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a love letter to New Orleans. Like the musical city that inspired this attraction, Tiana’s second act is about a community working in harmony to achieve something extraordinary. She reminds us of an immutable truth we can all relate to: ‘If you do your best each and every day, good things are sure to come your way.’ And that’s a melody we can all sing along to!”
Whether it’s authentic French-inspired cuisine, the jazzy sounds of New Orleans, or bayou culture, Disney has been hard at work on researching and creating a unique and authentic experience for fans, which will open in 2024.
Are you excited about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure?