WARNING: The following article mentions and/or discusses topics that may be distressing for certain audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.
ever remains on the cutting edge when it comes to the creation of entertainment offerings across the globe, and that cutting-edge standard comes in various forms like attractions, rides, park experiences, and the reimagining of current offerings.
While fans can appreciate Disney’s dedication to continually upgrading the guest experience at The Company picked the wrong attraction with which to start., many feel that
The first version of ‘ opened to at on July 17, 1989.
Exactly three years later, gthe in Florida were offered a soft opening of the , followed by the grand opening of the ride on October 2, 1992, just a day after the attraction opened at . at
Disneyland’s version was hailed on the resort’s official website as a “hare-raising experience,” one that invites g to “hop inside a hollow log and float through a colorful bayou as you follow happy-go-lucky Br’er Rabbit to his “laughing place.” But be warned: Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox are in hot pursuit of this wayward hare.
Glide past over 100 talking, singing, storytelling Audio-Animatronics critters who inhabitand offer up their own slice of down-home culture. Sing along to classic Disney ditties, including “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”
A similar description was found on the website.
Both the Disneyland and attractions boasted 950,000 gallons of water, three dips, and a finale that consisted of a massive five-story splashdown.
Make Way for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure
But in June 2020, Disney announced a massive reimagining of the attraction via :
in Florida will soon be completely reimagined. The theme is inspired by an all-time favorite animated Disney film, “The Princess and the Frog.” at both in California and
Disney further announced that the ride would “pick up this story after the final kiss and join 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.”
But little else was known then about plans for the take-two of the famous log flume water ride at and .
Controversy and Debate
What was known was that was based on an old Disney film that has been at the center of controversy and debate in recent years. Because of this, the film isn’t available on DVD or Blu-Ray, and it has never debuted on the Disney+ streaming platform. In fact, it’s just about impossible to find the film–even on sites like eBay and Amazon.
, like every other attraction, was based on a Disney story–and it tells a story. No harm, no foul, right?
Wrong, according to a growing number of fans who voiced concerns over Disney’s 1946 The Song of the South, upon which the attraction was based. The film has long been problematic, as many feel the film helps to perseverate racist stereotypes against the community.
The featured zero references to the film’s main character, Uncle Remus. Rather, it featured only the animal characters from the film, such as , Br’er Bear, and Br’er Fox.
And because the Song of the South film is unavailable, the chances are that many guests who experienced the Splash Mountain attraction had never seen the film and knew very little–if anything–about any potentially offensive elements of the film.
announced that the newly reimagined , which will be named “ ,” will debut sometime in 2024. The change was as good as done.
And while there’s viable merit to Disney’s efforts in combatting potentially harmful and hurtful elements like racial stereotypes in its productions and attractions based upon those productions, there’s at least one potentially harmful and hurtful element in another attraction that never should have been included in an attraction–especially in a vacation resort geared toward families.
What About Haunted Mansion?
Among the original team of , it was common knowledge that Walt had the long-standing goal of building a “haunted house”-esque attraction at Disneyland.
In fact, the blueprints for the structure that would house such an experience were drawn up, and the structure was built. But because the New York World’s Fair was on the horizon, and Walt had been commissioned by General Electric to produce elements for the company’s pavilion, it was all hands on deck for the World’s Fair efforts.
Thus, the stately mansion at Disneyland lay vacant, dormant, empty, and eerily quiet for years before the new Haunted Mansion attraction experience inhabited the house in 1969. When the opened in October 1971, the Haunted Mansion was among its Opening Day attractions.
Finally, several years after his death, Walt’s dream had been realized.
Haunted Mansion Suicide Visual
But that dream is often the stuff of nightmares, as the opening scene of the attraction features a visual image of a suicide in the form of a human figure hanging by his neck from the ceiling of the Portrait Chamber (also called the Stretching Room).
It’s distasteful, disheartening, and, quite frankly, disgusting and incredibly disrespectful to anyone whose life has ever been touched by the ripple effects of such a terrible tragedy.
Because the Haunted Mansion attractions were fashioned after Walt Disney died, the Disney fan inside of this writer unequivocally believes such a scene was no part of Walt’s plan for the new attraction.
Disney had been clear in his directives and instruction to Imagineers that the new attraction would NOT be such an experience, as fans can gather from this 1965 episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.
Naysayers have pointed out that the suicide visual is located in the topmost part of the high-pitched ceiling of the Portrait Chamber, so guests can simply look away. But the design of the attraction points Guests’ eyes directly to the suicide element, as all the lights go out, save for those illuminating the hanging figure.
No part of the suicide scene should have ever been included in a Disney Parks attraction, but since there is no such thing as truly re-writing history–despite the efforts taken and edicts passed in recent years in an attempt to do so–this writer will not waste time on the subject of poor judgment on the part of Walt Disney Imagineering in the Haunted Mansion attraction.
Reimagining the Wrong Attraction
Rather, I’ll propose an immediate pause on the Splash Mountain-Princess Tiana project in the name of the far more pressing need for a reimagining that would potentially affect an untold number of guests whose lives have been either grazed or turned upside-down by the tragedy of suicide.
If ever there were an attraction (or element of an attraction) that is harmful or hurtful (not to mention outright heinous) toward guests and Cast Members alike, it’s this visual image inside the Haunted Mansion attraction.
For the record, it’s also incredibly cold, heartless, and nearly unforgivably insensitive and malicious toward anyone who has ever been affected by suicide. (It’s worth noting that the scene appears in a moment of cliffhanging suspense, offering first-time Guests no knowledge that they are about to see something that could be extremely unsettling for them, making the scene all the more disgusting and disrespectful.)
Who would celebrate such a tragedy? It needs to be removed. Immediately.
Disney would incur extremely minimal costs in this proposed reimagining; after all, it wouldn’t require a complete overhaul. It requires only the removal of the figure and a different lighting sequence (perhaps).
The scene adds nothing to the experience except for a visage of gruesomeness, terror, and personal trauma, each of which would be gone once the image is removed.
And during the time it takes for Disney to launch an Imagineer or skilled Cast Member up to the topmost part of the chamber, the situation can be completely rectified by simply keeping all lighting off of the figure above the chamber until it’s removed.
The entire project will prove to be perhaps the most inexpensive and most positive change ever to grace a Disney Parks attraction.
And it needs to be done far sooner than any change to Splash Mountain. This writer is most definitely a Tiana fan, but I’m also a fan of entertainment that doesn’t ostracize any guest on the basis of familiarity with an awful tragedy, and all of my research tells me I’m certainly not alone in this.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please do not hesitate to contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 on your phone, or by visiting 988lifeline.org. There will always be someone to answer your call and listen.
Do you think Disney is reimagining the wrong attraction? Let us know in the comments.