When Will Princess Tiana Take Over Splash Mountain?

August 23, 2021, 11:28 AM · So where is that The Princess and The Frog makeover of Splash Mountain, anyway?

Walt Disney Imagineering announced the retheme of the popular Disneyland and Walt Disney World flume rides in June 2020, as the company looked to distance itself of the minstrelsy of its theme song, not to mention the "Song of the South" source material that Disney has long pretended no longer exists.

Both the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom installations of Splash Mountain have reopened with no sign of any changes, leading fans to wonder what's up. Disney's announcement came in the midst of a national debate over race relations. While the announcement allowed Disney to make a positive statement during that debate, it did not end up signaling the imminent debut of a new attraction.

We still do not have an opening date for the new ride, but Disney has released some new concept art.

The Princess and The Frog

"As seen in this latest rendering of the attraction, the story will take place after the final kiss as Naveen and Louis join Tiana on her latest adventure, hosting a one-of-a-kind Mardi Gras celebration where everyone is welcome – during which some original music inspired by songs from the film will bring guests into the story," Disney said in its press release.

The lead Imagineer overseeing the project, Charita Carter, joined WDI's Carmen Smith, Walt Disney Studios' Marlon West, and ABC News' Kenneth Moton at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans, where they talked about the project and Princess Tiana's story with restaurant owner Stella Chase Reese, whose mother Leah was one of the inspirations for Princess Tiana.

Carter talks through some details about the new ride starting at the 14:30 mark.

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Replies (18)

August 23, 2021 at 11:47 AM

To me, the Princess and the Frog is not that great a movie, and the songs are not that great either. I saw concept art that a giant tree with Mama Odie's boat is going to replace the dead tree on the top of the mountain, the tree looks almost as big as the mountain itself, I hope they accurately figured out the stress of the increased weight put on top of that structure...or the boats may not be the only thing to come crashing down...

August 23, 2021 at 6:45 PM

Oh, this isn’t a forced concept.
Too bad, Splash Mountain and Song of the South, you’ve been CANCELLED! May you be forgotten for all time. Here’s to shoving it right up your Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah!

August 23, 2021 at 1:14 PM

It is intriguing to think on how long some rides go with almost no changes to them. When they added "Coco" to Philarmagic, I remember the surprise it was the first change they'd made since it premiered. 30 years can be an eternity for a Disney ride to be pretty much exactly the same.

Space and Big Thunder pretty much the same overall and WDW's Small World not changed as much as Disneyland's.

I know now and then they bring up a change for MuppetVision but they feel it's not right to get rid of the last thing Jim Henson personally worked on (so yes you still see the folks at the end wearing late '80s style clothing).

Even in 1989, Song of the South was a tricky thing (and some say the change likely faster if it'd gone for Zip-a-Dee River Run name) and it's the song more than anything folks remember. It's still likely not for a while yet but I have faith Imagineers can pull it off.

I mean, it took me a long time to get over Mr. Toad taken out of WDW even as good as the Winne the Pooh ride is. Disney fans just dislike change even when it's overdue.

August 23, 2021 at 1:32 PM

I think the question really is that if the content has been deemed borderline offensive and necessitates change, why in the world are these rides running right now. This announcement was made last summer when Disneyland was closed and MK's version went through its annual rehab downtime shortly after. However, both attractions are running in their original "offensive" form right now.

While I understand you can't necessarily convert an attraction overnight, if the portrayals and symbolism in Splash Mountain were significant enough to warrant removal and retheming, why are they exposing guests (and young children) to these images right now? If Splash Mountain needs to be changed for ethical and societal reasons as they state, how can they at the same time justify running the attractions for months (nearly a year for MK's version) after admitting they were offensive? Is there some magical date for ethical "compliance" from Disney that they haven't revealed? Is Splash Mountain only really offensive when Imagineers are ready to start the conversion?

Disney wants to have its cake and eat it too, but that just doesn't fly with me. This announcement and PR video just confirms that Disney is as spineless as every other corporation beholden to Wall Street, and will bend to whichever way the wind is blowing so long as it results in black ink on the ledger - Virtue signaling in its purest form.

August 23, 2021 at 2:15 PM

To me, this is Disney realizing how stupid they are and trying different methods. Mr. Toad had a wrecking ball attitude to it. This is more like we will put it out there, let people get use to the idea, say their goodbyes, and let us do every money grab in between time we do a light re-skin. All while touting sensitivity.

Sensitivity like... the Disney Diaper Genie?

August 23, 2021 at 2:55 PM

To be honest, I never found the ride to be offensive. I know people find the movie to be, but why should that affect the ride? It’s still a very popular attraction. I don’t see the need to change it. I just think it happened during a tense summer last year, and Disney felt the need to do something.

I’m not overly excited about Princess and the Frog. I’m sure it will be good, but I wasn’t even a huge fan of the movie. I know it fits well in the land (especially Disneyland), but…I don’t see the need for this change.

August 23, 2021 at 5:56 PM

There's some weird chatter in that podcast about having live cast-members on the ride to interact with guests as they pass through? I guess paying a princess 10 hours a day is cheaper than new animatronics?

(I assume they'll change their minds about that cost and the ride will be as empty as SWL.)

As for the ride being offensive, the ride itself may not be facially offensive*, but it features characters from a wildly racist movie, so Disney is making the right decision to get rid of it. (Of course, Disney should have made the right decision to never build it in the first place, but again, they didn't want to spend money on new animatronics, haha so racism be darned!)

*Except in the way it's so run down, when we were there two weeks ago at least three of the scenes were dark, gags not working, you couldn't hear the dialogue, the lighting was all jacked up. Everybody there is paying $1000 day and Disney can't afford to get the handcar going down the train tracks???

August 23, 2021 at 5:58 PM

Still wondering how this will fit in Frontierland at Magic Kingdom.

August 23, 2021 at 6:01 PM

@James Trexen

What they should of done for Magic Kingdom is to convert it to Pocahontas, since it fits the Frontierland theming.

August 23, 2021 at 10:20 PM

Good observation Russell. It seems to me that most of these decisions are done by people obsessed with making themselves feel better, not about actually helping anybody or because people are really offended. I mean if people were offended would SM have the regular 1 or 2 hour line that it has? If these people really cared they should donate their time and money to charities instead of censoring Disneyland rides. Pathetic really.

Now if it was being changed to bring in a more relevant IP and it made sense with the ride experience I would be completely on board. I actually love PatF and actually it holds a special distinction as the last Animated Disney movie. But a ride about a bunny being chased by a bear and fox being offensive?! How Silly.

August 23, 2021 at 11:43 PM

"But a ride about a bunny being chased by a bear and fox [from a 40's movie that was considered racist when it was released and is now so toxic Disney won't allow it to be purchased] being offensive?!"

Yeah dude. For the last decade Aunt Jemima pancake mix has had a picture of an everyday Black woman on it, nothing facially offensive about it, but then we all know Aunt Jemima started as a mammy figure, so they did the right thing and changed the name of the mix and, gosh, it's still the same mix but now every time you see it you aren't forced to consider its racist origins. Which from most folks' perspective is a positive thing.

Why insist upon preserving something connected to such a hateful source when changing it isn't that big a deal? I mean, the Song of the South might not be offensive to you, but it is to lots of other people, and changing the skin of the ride isn't going to substantially change the experience.

Bro, it's a log flume ride with anthropomorphized animal robots. You're so enamored with current configuration of this log flume that you'd cause other people to feel bad about themselves when they ride it? Me, I'm willing to let it go, haha.

August 24, 2021 at 1:06 AM

To me, this still reads as an unnecessary change that may win Disney some PC points but could harm them in the long run, and I don't know if even they understand how much of a gamble this project likely is. While there have been attraction changes before, they were mostly to components within the ride and not a complete overhaul of one of the park's most popular E-tickets. Unless I'm forgetting something, the closure of Splash Mountain is likely the highest profile theme park ride closure ever, with Disney willingly shutting down something that a double-digit percentage of their visitors consider their favorite ride of all time. If the replacement doesn't live up to the quality of what it's replacing, we could very well see enough visitors shift away from Disney to lose them the top spot in theme park attendance, which would be a major upset to the industry. The smarter thing to do IMO would be to abandon Princess and the Frog (or repurpose it into an all new attraction) and instead rework Splash Mountain to the extent necessary to remove any lingering connections to Song of the South while preserving the story and character of the ride as much as possible.

August 24, 2021 at 8:09 AM

I've had to suffer through most of the Disney Princess movies with my kids over the years, and Princess and the Frog was one of the few I thought was actually good. Unlike most of them, it more than just a collection of hit songs, make-it-up-as-you-go plot, and tired, recycled characters.
But at the end of the day Splash Mountain is still just a log ride where you get pushed over a waterfall. That's it. How many of you are walking around with Brer Rabbit Loungefly backpacks and Brer Fox t-shirts? None? OK then. This change will not affect Disney's bottom line in any way, your youth and innocence will not be taken from you, and society as we know it will not collapse.

August 24, 2021 at 9:39 PM

Ultimately, I agree with NCPete that in the long run…this won’t make a difference. Guest aren’t paying a separate admission for Splash Mountain…and during warmer months, the lines will be just as long.
It could be rethemed to Bambi, Fox & The Hound, or “Generic Flume Ride” and folks would still line up to ride it & take goofy photos during the drop.

I think sometimes it’s possible to overestimate the “outrage” (or how much people truly care) that the average person has….according to what may be reported. You can easily find people on both sides of the argument, but the average person probably doesn’t care beyond “Oh, that’s cool” or “Oth, they should’ve kept it the way it was”. Honestly, the source material didn’t stop people from riding it before & it won’t stop people from riding it after.

The lines for Space Mountain (whether it’s Ghost Galaxy or that period where is seemed to be Star Wars themed for months) didn’t stop people from riding it. When ToT became Mission Breakout…people didn’t stop riding it. When Pirates made those PC changes, people didn’t stop riding it.

On blogs & comment sections you’ll always have those stating strong opinions…whether for or against it. But the average visitor /group of friends/family who visits the park, will generally try to ride any and everything in there to get their moneys worth.

It is what it is…ride it or don’t. I just don’t think 5 years down the line form the revamp (whenever that may be) of this being a huge win or loss for Disney parks. It will still be Splash Mountain.

August 25, 2021 at 1:05 AM

Personally, I’m fine with this. Splash Mountain needs a serious refurb(Especially Disneyland’s) and having it re-theme to Princess and the Frog is a good way of doing it(Plus, I’m all for making New Orleans Square a bigger land).

My only gripe is that Magic Kingdom is getting it as well but it should have been theme to Pocahontas to fit with Frontierland.

August 25, 2021 at 9:03 AM

I have no issue with this change - and Splash Mountain is one of my favorite Disney Rides. I actually saw Song of the South in the theatre as a kid, during its (1979?) re-release, but I don't actually have any nostalgic connection to the IP.

But, beyond anything else, lets not forget the greatest Disney motivation for any decision: $$$$.

The ride isn't inherently socially insensitive on its own terms, but you can't cross promote it, because the movie that inspired it, very much, is. And that limits any proper (profitable) expansion of the content within. No matter what merchandise or media you put out to sell along with the ride, you have to tap-dance around the origins of the IP, limiting full capitalistic potential. Princess and Frog doesn't have that problem, and leaves room to promote, saturate, and drive the images of the ride AND movie into public park-going consciousness...along with an increased revenue potential.

And, honestly, as long as the ride is still as fun, with excellent effects and that great drop, I don't really care too much if its a giant animatronic bear in a hat or a giant animatronic alligator with a trumpet, I get to watch along the way.

(And, yet again, a shout out to James Baskett, whose legacy is the real loser in all of these social problems. A wonderful and warm portrayal from a great performer, so significant it won an [albeit racist-ly segregated] Academy Award, that will become lost to time, due to the surrounding content of the movie).

August 26, 2021 at 12:05 AM

I'm amused at complaints of "it'll be a cheap overlay" when one of the reasons why Disney created the ride in the first place was to reuse the old "America Sings" AA.

August 26, 2021 at 6:24 PM

pretty much. it's a dope log flume, the song is catchy but ... y'know. the racism. disney cares more about money than about doing the right thing, so the sucker is open until the company is ready to get in there and make the necessary changes — that doesn't mean the changes aren't necessary.

it's going to be an unbearable few months, perhaps even few years, while people whinge about ruining their favorite attraction (the one with a five-minute wait from october until march at disneyland) and then we'll all be able to move on. it's the same deal with tower of terror, jungle cruise and pirates. life moves on.

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