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The Dark Side of Disney: Seven Problematic Attractions Disney Wants Us to Forget

wdw night cinderella castle
Credit: Jayme McColgan on Unsplash

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect the views of Disney Dining as a whole.

Despite Disney’s efforts to create inclusive and universally enjoyable attractions, there are instances where certain rides have failed to meet the public’s approval. These contentious attractions often generate significant discussions and debates among Disney enthusiasts and theme park visitors alike. The reasons behind their controversial nature can vary, encompassing a range of factors that include cultural sensitivity, thematic elements, historical context, or even personal preferences.

By delving further into the subject matter, we can better grasp why these rides have become a focal point of controversy and examine the impact they have had on the overall Disney experience.

wdw Disney Cinderella Castle

Credit: Igor Menezes on Unsplash

Making a Splash… For the Wrong Reasons

Perhaps the most infamously controversial Disney ride is Splash Mountain. The ride, originally inspired by the 1946 film Song of the South, has faced criticism over its connection to the racially insensitive portrayal of African Americans in the movie. The film itself has long been a topic of controversy, leading to Disney’s decision to refrain from promoting the film altogether. However, the ride continues to exist, raising questions about the company’s stance on racial representation.

While the ride itself is not particularly problematic, people found the film, which was set in the post-Civil War era, to be extremely out of touch. The ride features characters such as Brer Rabbi and Brer Fox, which are derived from the controversial film. By doing so, Splash Mountain perpetuates a connection to a movie that is widely seen as racially insensitive.

Disney has received consistent pressure from both guests and advocacy groups to retheme Splash Mountain. These critics argue that by keeping the ride as it is, Disney is promoting and normalizing harmful stereotypes. They argue that the attraction’s continued existence contradicts the values of inclusion and diversity that the company claims to uphold. To address these concerns, Disney recently announced plans to reimagine Splash Mountain with a new theme based on the 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog, which features the beloved African American Princess Tiana. This transformation is near completion, and should put all of this controversy to rest once and for all.

br're fox br'er bear br'er rabbit splash mountain

Credit: Disney

Country Bears Said What?!

The Country Bear Jamboree, a beloved attraction at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, has sparked controversy over the years due to certain elements of its lyrics. This musical show brings the world of country music to life with an ensemble of animatronic bears, each showcasing their unique personalities and musical talents. However, it is the lyrics of some of the songs performed during the Jamboree that have drawn criticism and debate among audiences.

One particular song that has stirred controversy is “Blood on the Saddle,” performed by a bear named Big Al. The lyrics contain references to violence and death, which some argue may not be suitable for younger park guests. Critics argue that such content goes against the wholesome and family-friendly image that Disney strives to maintain. The lyrics, although presented in a comedic and lighthearted manner, have raised concerns about their appropriateness in a children’s attraction.

Another source of controversy is the lyrics “All the guys who turn me on, turn me down.” These lyrics do seem out of place in Disney’s otherwise PG atmosphere. Just last week, the Country Bear Jamboree closed for a major refurbishment. When the show returns, it will feature all new songs. We’re guessing that the lyrics might see some switches as well.

new Country Bear Jamboree Show

Credit: Disney

Disney’s Problematic Pirates

The Pirates of the Caribbean ride has long been a beloved attraction at both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. However, it is not without its controversies. One of the main reasons why this ride has been deemed controversial is because of some of the depictions shown in the ride.

One of the primary concerns surrounding the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is its depiction of women and violence. The ride showcases a bustling pirate village, complete with scenes of pirates chasing women and engaging in acts of pillaging and looting. Another scene in particular, known as the “Auction scene,” features pirates auctioning off women as brides. This scene has faced criticism for its objectification of women and the perceived insensitivity towards human trafficking.

In recent years, Disney has taken steps to address some of these controversies. They have made efforts to update and modify certain scenes to reflect a more inclusive and respectful narrative. For example, the change to the aforementioned “Auction scene” portrays the characters engaging in an auction for possessions rather than people.

pirates of the caribbean disney world

Credit: Disney Parks

The Jungle Cruise Debacle

Jungle Cruise, one of the classic attractions at Disney parks, has faced its fair share of controversy over the years. In its earlier iterations, the ride was deemed offensive due to its portrayal of Native Americans as unruly and savage people. However, The Walt Disney Company has since taken steps to address these concerns by removing these elements from the ride.

The controversy surrounding Jungle Cruise stemmed from the portrayal of Native Americans in a stereotypical and outdated manner. This depiction perpetuated harmful stereotypes and was seen as culturally insensitive. It is essential to recognize that the ride was conceived and created during a different era when such portrayals were, unfortunately, more commonplace.

In recent years, Disney has taken significant strides to ensure that its theme parks and attractions reflect a more inclusive and diverse experience for all guests. As part of these efforts, Jungle Cruise underwent a refurbishment to fix these depictions.

Jungle Cruise ride at disneyland resort in california

Credit: Disneyland Resort

Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade

Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, located in the Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland, has a controversial history that dates back to its early days. The attraction was met with criticism and concern due to its use of lead pellets in the shooting guns. Many fans were reasonably concerned that these pellets could cause significant harm if used incorrectly. However, to address the safety concerns surrounding the use of actual projectiles, the guns were replaced with infrared light rifles in the summer of 1982.

The introduction of the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade provided visitors with an interactive experience, allowing them to feel like they were partaking in a Wild West adventure. Despite its intention to entertain and engage guests, the use of lead pellets in the guns posed potential risks, especially to younger guests.

Recognizing the importance of guest safety, Walt Disney World Resort took proactive measures to resolve this controversial issue. The decision was made to transition from lead pellets to infrared light rifles, which not only eliminated the risk of physical harm but also maintained the immersive experience of target shooting.

Magic Kingdom's Frontierland Shootin' Arcade

Credit: Disney

Haunted Mansion’s Hanging Man

The Haunted Mansion, a classic Disney ride, has faced its fair share of criticism over the years. One particular aspect that has drawn controversy is the depiction of a hanging man scene within the attraction. This scene, although intended to add a spooky ambiance to the ride, has been accused of glamorizing suicide.

The Haunted Mansion is a renowned dark ride that takes guests on a ghostly journey through a haunted mansion. As visitors venture through the spooky corridors and eerie rooms, they encounter a variety of supernatural scenes and characters. One of these scenes features the image of a man, seemingly suspended by a noose, swinging back and forth in a chilling display.

Critics argue that this scene, although intended to be macabre and spooky, can be triggering for those who have been affected by suicide or who struggle with mental health issues. They believe that the hanging man scene trivializes the seriousness of suicide and may desensitize individuals to its gravity. Furthermore, some claim that the inclusion of such a scene in a family-friendly attraction like the Haunted Mansion is inappropriate and potentially harmful to young audiences.

In response to the criticism, Disney has maintained that the hanging man scene is purely fictional and not meant to promote or make light of suicide. They emphasize that the Haunted Mansion is a work of imagination and fantasy, where eerie and supernatural elements are employed to create an immersive experience. While Disney has mentioned considering changing the scene in the past, it seems it will stay the same for now.

haunted mansion disneyland

Credit: Disney

Mr Toad’s WILD Ride

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride has become a source of controversy within the Disney community due to its unique and daring storyline. One of the key factors that make Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride controversial is its dark and unconventional storyline. Unlike many other Disney attractions, this ride takes guests on a thrilling journey through the chaotic world of Mr. Toad, a whimsical character based on Kenneth Grahame’s beloved children’s book, “The Wind in the Willows.”

However, it quickly becomes apparent that this charming tale takes a sharp turn into the unexpected. As visitors step into their motorcars and embark on this whimsical adventure, they are soon plunged into a series of misadventures and perilous situations. Mr. Toad takes riders on a perilous and reckless ride through the countryside that eventually leads to him dying and being transported to hell. This certainly is one of Disney’s darkest rides ever!

Mr toad

Credit: Disney

Which Disney ride do you find to be the most controversial?

About Eva Miller

Eva was born and raised in the beautiful state of Oregon but has since relocated and lives in New York City. Since she was young, Eva has loved to perform in musicals, especially Disney ones! Through performing, Disney’s music became the soundtrack of her childhood. Today, Eva loves to write about all the exciting happenings for the Walt Disney Company. In her free time, Eva loves to travel, spend time in nature, and go to Broadway shows. Her favorite Disney movie is 'Lilo and Stitch,' and her favorite Park is Disney's Animal Kingdom.

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