June 26 (UPI) — Disney announced Thursday that the Splash Mountain ride will be “completely reimagined,” following an online petition highlighting the ride’s original connection to a film featuring offensive portrayals of African Americans.
The company said the rides at both its East and West Coast parks — which currently feature characters from the 1946 film Song of the South — will be transitioned to a new theme inspired by the 2009 animated film, The Princess and the Frog.
“Splash Mountain — both at Disneyland park in California and Magic Kingdom park in Florida — will soon be completely reimagined,” Disney said. “The theme is inspired by an all-time favorite animated Disney film, The Princess and the Frog.”
The decision follows an online petition that received more than 21,000 signatures calling on Disney to change the theme of the ride.
“While the ride is considered a beloved classic, its history and storyline are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes,” the petition stated. “There is a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need.”
Song of the South has long been criticized for its racist portrayals of black people in the American South. The company has ceased screening and production of the film for decades, most recently choosing not to include it in its Disney+ streaming library.
The 2009 film The Princess and the Frog features Tiana, a black woman in New Orleans, who dreams of opening her own restaurant, before meeting Prince Naveen, a black man who has been transformed into a frog.
“It is really exciting to know that Princess Tiana’s presence in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will finally be fully realized!” Tiana’s voice actress, Anika Noni Rose, said. “As passionate as I am about what we created, I know the fans are going to be over the moon. The Imagineers are giving us The Princess and the Frog Mardis Gras celebration we’ve been waiting for, and I’m here for it.”
Disney said the ride’s theme will take Tiana and the trumpet-playing alligator Louis “on a musical adventure” as they prepare for Mardis Gras.
“The new concept is inclusive — one that all of our guests can connect with and be inspired by and it speaks to the diversity of the millions of people who visit our parks each year,” the company said.