Two years after announcing that it would be fully revamping 30-year-old theme park ride Splash Mountain—removing its connections to the company’s controversial, permanently vaulted feature film Song Of The South—Disney has unveiled its plans for the ride’s updated version, the Princess And The Frog-themed Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The company released concept art today emphasizing the ride’s new New Orleans setting, including the fact that, per a senior vice president at the company, “beautiful zydeco music will fill the air.” (Take that, animatronic banjo plunking.) (There will actually still probably be some animatronic banjo plunking.)
Splash Mountain, which opened in 1992, has long been the subject of controversy owing to its connections to Song, which Disney released in 1946, drawing criticisms both then, and now, for its depiction of a Reconstruction-era Georgia plantation. (CEO Bob Iger, who recently took back control of the company, noted in 2010 that the film was “antiquated” and “fairly offensive,” and later stated that he had no intentions of putting it on the company’s streaming service, Disney+.) Splash Mountain got some cover over the decades, presumably, from the fact that it features no references to the live-action portions of the hybrid-animation film, in which James Baskett’s Uncle Remus tells stories to Bobby Driscoll’s Johnny. It instead prominently features the Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear characters from those cartoon stories, who have also occasionally popped up in more modern projects from the company.
But no more: Disney announced, back in 2020—amidst the protests that broke out nation-wide in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by police—that it was transforming Splash Mountain outright, replacing it with the Princess And The Frog version. Which will still, at its heart, be a log flume ride, obviously—except now you’ll be hanging out with Tiana and Louis the alligator as they prepare for a big carnival season party.
The version of Splash Mountain at Florida’s Walt Disney World will be the first to close for the revamping; the ride is expected to shut down on January 23, 2023. Both that version of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and the one in California’s Disneyland, are now expected to debut some time by the end of 2023.