Should Splash Mountain be Re-Themed

Edited: June 14, 2020, 9:47 AM

Was reading a story about an on-line petition to get Splash Mountain re-themed to Princess and The Frog. I have never thought about it even though I know the ride is based upon the movie Song of the South. As Disney has made changes to other attractions to remove scenes that may be considered offensive do you feel that now is the time for Splash Mountain to get a make over.

Replies (25)

Edited: June 13, 2020, 10:38 AM

That its linked to a movie out of circulation is a problem, that it is unlikely to return to circulation is a bigger one. The options realistically long term are:

1. Reclaim the animated characters of Song of the South, in a modern way.
2. Retheme to an IP that is in circulation
3. Decouple the the ride from IP completely.

I don't think there is a major issue with the briar rabbit stories such that they can't be retold, so my preference would be 1. However, I'd suggest not ruling out 3 - Its a zero cost option, and its not as if every headline Disney attraction has been linked to (or needs to be linked to) some IP.

I'm not really a fan of new overlays or rethemes in general.

June 13, 2020, 6:17 PM

I'm going to say no for the following reasons:

1. The ride, in its current form, is among the most popular attractions at any park in which it operates. At Disneyland, the ride generally has 30-40 minute waits even on lighter days, and during peak periods a 90 minute wait is not uncommon.

2. While the story of Splash Mountain is connected to Song of the South, the connection is so minimal that most visitors are not aware of it. I'd estimate at most a quarter of those who ride are aware of the connection, and very few of those have actually seen the film.

3. Splash Mountain has been around long enough to establish itself as a classic, and the risk of backlash due to completely retheming the attraction is likely too much to justify the benefit that would come from doing so.

4. Princess and the Frog is not a sufficiently popular IP among general audiences and is a poor choice for a Disney E-ticket. There are few other IPs strong enough for an E-ticket that haven't been utilized and could be adapted to a flume ride, so it would be difficult for Disney to recoup the investment of such an overhaul.

5. The songs featured on the ride are among those most associated with Disney and Disney Parks, so there's a good chance Splash Mountain fans who are on the fence about Disney's current offerings will leave the company behind forever.

6. The online petition currently has about 20,000 signatures. That is about one day's worth of riders. Even if everyone who signed the petition refused to visit Disney again unless the change happened, the loss of attendance to the park would be negligible.

Right now, there is very little reason to significantly alter Splash Mountain. If Disney wants to adjust it, the most I could see would be changes similar to Pirates of the Caribbean, with minor tweaks to some of the scenes in the ride. Anything beyond that is likely to lose far more fans than it would bring in.

June 14, 2020, 8:24 AM

Tough’s never crossed my mind that the characters are associated with a controversial movie. Probably because if I ever did see the movie, it was when I was a very young child.

The ride itself doesn’t have anything controversial, and chances are that many park guests probably have never seen the movie, or are even familiar with the characters in the ride. But with that said, I don’t think the theme of the ride has such a strong following, that too many would miss it if it were re-themed.

June 14, 2020, 9:50 AM

I agree with Mr. Hummel, I don't feel that enough people can make the connection between the movie and the ride and as such it would end up bringing more attention by changing it. I disagree with A.J. in that based upon my limited number of trips to WDW I think he low balled Splash Mountain at 20,000 rides per day.

June 14, 2020, 11:05 AM

My niece and nephews have barely even heard of Song of the South, certainly not when they were kids. They just loved the song and the ride itself so hard to see it dropped.

Edited: June 14, 2020, 2:11 PM

I love Princess and the Frog, and I think that there are not enough innovative technological advancements in water rides. I mean, we got BfST, but for those of us who don't have Shanghai in our backyard, we're stuck. Therefore, I believe it deserves to be a high-tech D-ticket water dark ride, somewhere between Pirates and Runaway Railway but with a fresh ride system, but I do not think Splash Mountain should be rethemed. Princess and the Frog is a fantastic film and a politically important one as well, but no one is acknowledging that Naveen, a black prince, is voiced by a white Brazilian-American actor. You could say this is like cartoon blackface, and yet the film still receives (well-deserved) praise. If we look at everything and explain how it is politically incorrect, we're not left with much. So, if Splash Mountain was rethemed, it would probably need to be rethemed AGAIN once people petitioned against Princess in the Frog for that being racist, and it'd become a loop of rethemes that ruins the ride, like Figment. However, because Song of the South is quite racist (so is Dumbo, by the way, but no one is asking for a retheme there), I think that the attraction should disconnect from the film but stay the same. How to do this is not my specialty, but that is what I believe Disney must do to make this just.

June 14, 2020, 2:52 PM

Yes it should. Extend out the tropical themes of Adventureland and Carribean Plaza and theme it out for 'Moana.'

Edited: June 14, 2020, 4:08 PM

Mr. Miller, while it's a bit off-topic from the point of this thread, here's the methodology behind my number...

Splash Mountain's maximum capacity at Magic Kingdom is about 2,100 riders per hour, assuming every single seat on every single boat is filled (Disneyland's is significantly lower due to a different ride system...approximately 1,300). Actual capacity is usually 10-20% lower due to empty seats and delays, so let's say that on average 1,800 people per hour experience Splash Mountain. Therefore, in a 12 hour operating day (typical for Magic Kingdom pre-COVID), you're likely looking at 21,000-22,000 guests on Splash Mountain. So yes, the number is likely a little low, and is even lower when all three installations are considered, but that just supports my point of how small the fraction of riders are that are petitioning for change.

Edited: June 22, 2020, 12:46 PM

By the way, anyone want to guess how long the headhunters and Trader Sam will remain at the Jungle Cruise? Or how long the Trader Sam bars will keep their names?

June 15, 2020, 4:20 AM

TH, absolutely. I find it so bizarre that Jungle Cruise has somehow continually swerved the discussion on this. Particularly with renewed interest from the new film, I don't see how they get away with anything other than a complete re-work. (I'd argue it needs that treatment simply for creative reasons as well, but I don't want to risk your ire...)

As for Splash Mountain - I saw an interesting comment a couple days ago suggesting that the popularity of "here's how you turn it into Princess and the Frog" posts have pretty much killed any chance of that actually happening, if it ever would have. Disney don't want to go anywhere near a "you stole my idea" lawsuit.

If a retheme happens, it strikes me that going hell for leather with an original S.E.A. story might be the one thing that could get fans excited enough to move on from Splash. And, given that we're likely in "limited capacity" mode for some time to come, maybe now's the moment to look beyond blockbuster IPs anyway.

June 16, 2020, 9:34 AM

I had always thought the characters on Splash Mountain were caricatures of southern rednecks with maybe the only black chararcter being the frog who is not depicted as stupid or ignorant in any way.

June 16, 2020, 2:50 PM

Not sure if they should or not. I do not find anything racist there but I also do not know a cartoon from 1949 either.

Remember this Disney is a company, is a publicly traded company where many of the Public has shares... There is no one owner and it is about money.

SO will it be cost effective to re-theme a ride that may or may not have a hint of a 1949 cartoon?

Will this new themed ride make Disney and its shareholders more monies?

I know we all want and need change but is this the hill you want to die on? Will it help America move forward? Will this drive attendance higher?

Therefore, I am a No on a re-theme that will not help. Disney could do a lot more with there monies to help the black communities...

June 17, 2020, 5:17 PM

What about the Disney movie 'Splash'? Tom Hanks sings his own rendition of "Zippa-Dee-Doo-Dah" ... "Mr. Mango on my shoulder ..."

June 17, 2020, 7:32 PM

Funny enough the name did come from the movie Splash. The rides story was from Song of the South but according to Michael Eisner in his biography the movie Splash was just coming out and it made him think of "Splash Mountain" which sounded better than whatever imagineering had planned for it (it was Zipadee Doo Da Run or something like that).

June 18, 2020, 6:28 AM

Zip a dee do dah falls I believe.

Honestly, I think it was the better name.

June 25, 2020, 12:28 PM

And now it sounds like it's actually going to happen which is amazing.

And Robert not putting up a comment thread for it on that very article is no doubt a smart move...

June 25, 2020, 12:43 PM

I have never seen Princess and the Frog, so now for us to fully enjoy the ride we will have to watch the movie..

Do not send me spoilers...Thx...

June 25, 2020, 12:44 PM

@ MIkew- it’s a very smart move. I won’t share my opinion on this change but I have no doubt that soon people will revolt against this. It’s happened with tower of terror and incredicoaster.

June 25, 2020, 1:22 PM

@Brian Emery: No spoilers but seriously one of Disney's best movies in last decade plus and does make sense for a ride.

June 25, 2020, 1:23 PM

@postcott: Oh, I fully expect a massive outcry. It happened with Norway, a ride few seemed to even care about before the changes, it's happening here.

But do see many agreeing on the theme and the blunt fact that 30 years is a long time for a ride to stay exactly the same.

Edited: June 25, 2020, 1:38 PM

Disneyland's version always seemed a notch below. I would not mind if they flipped Disneyland and keep Florida. The ride mechanism is the same. I like attractions that are distinct between FL & CA.

I am in the court of opinion that Disney should changes some things and not be a museum. If they changed both, I really think the picked an excellent IP to re-skin. I do think they have to change some of the exterior skins.

Disney World IMO has dragged their feet in regard to change in Magic Kingdom. Pirates in WDW is both quick and boring. I would like to see WDW bring the Shanghai version of Pirates. They get to keep all the queue, and expand the ride. People forget the history that Pirates was a 1973 add and a cheap knock off...

June 25, 2020, 1:53 PM

@leastinteresting: Really? I thought Disneyland a bit better with different scenes. But WDW improved things like more seating in logs (side by side rather than single file) yet never got as wet there as in California.

And I totally agree on change being good. Another blog had a great line: "Disney fanatics want the parks to be like the Beast's rose, kept under glass and forever safe. Which ignores that eventually the rose wilts and dies when not cared for."

The problem with the Shanghai Pirates is that they'd basically have to tear the entire current ride out and refurbish the building to make the high-tech stuff work. The key reason Pirates is different is Florida has a different water table level so they couldn't build as much in. Really, it would cost far more to redo WDW Pirates like that than to just build the whole thing from scratch.

June 25, 2020, 4:39 PM

I think Princess and the Frog is one of the best and most under appreciated films in the last couple of years. Hopefully they won’t just slap an overlay and call it done, as it could really fit in well with the film setting in the swamp and New Orleans. It is even next to New Orleans Square in DL. Makes perfect sense. They can even make a New Orleans style restaurant in WDW to fit the setting (they kinda have something in DL).

June 25, 2020, 6:01 PM

@MikeW Great response! (I'm not being sarcastic) I favor Disneyland heavily but IMO Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain, blow away DLRs versions.

DLRs version of Splash Mountain always seemed dark and dingy. WDW has lighting schemes that brighten the sets. WDW moves at a slower pace which gives you more time to soak in everything around you. The audio always seems hard to hear and scene transitions bleed over to much audio from one scene to the next in the DLR version. As per matching it's respective area in the park Disney did a great job with both however the detailed exterior on DLR is better and more tuned in to Critter Country. But it also encroaches on New Orleans Square. Don't forget DLR has a smaller budget because they recycled some tomorrowland attractions.

As for Pirates, I understand the water table, keep in mind because of the "utilidoor" and tunnel structure under Magic Kingdom, the land is already elevated significantly and structurally sound. Also keep in mind they already had test balloons at the back of that building to see what sight lines would be and they were non-intrusive. They could build a new ride building that is 2 stories that would solve most of those issues. They would be able to re-purpose much of the set. They could retain much of the queue and exit buildings and don't face the same challenges DLR faced with Galaxies Edge in re-routing DLRs railroad.

Also, at one point, it was speculated that test balloons were behind the Pirates building as Disney was scoping "South Pacific" or Moana based attraction. That undoubtedly would be visible.

Edited: July 3, 2020, 8:34 AM

The only reason with Disney to turn everything into some "Princess-and-the-whatever" , is that it drives up princess-hype merchandising.
In other words, the business is built on the expensive relationship "girls want to reenact in princess clothes" and parents spending more on merchandising for their girls, then for their boys.
The attractions are gradually becoming always less important in their own right, and always more as a driver in the merchandising chain.

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