The Splash Mountain ride at Disneyland may be a longtime fan-favorite, but is also one of the few things Disney still actively promotes which has direct ties to Song of the South, and some fans are now asking that it be re-themed around something else, since the 1946 film has been all but disowned by Disney due to racist depictions of Black people. Based on the collection of Uncle Remus stories (as adapted by Joel Chandler Harris), the film stars James Baskett as Uncle Remus in a remarkable performance, which was denied awards recognition because Baskett was Black (although he later got a special award). The film takes place in the Reconstruction-era South and centers on seven-year-old Johnny (Bobby Driscoll), who shares stories about the adventures of Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox, and Br'er Bear.
Fans have intermittently complained about the ties to Song of the South, and the current move to remove or rename celebrations of racially insensitive figures has given protesters more attention than they might be able to get otherwise. A new petition asks Disney to rebrand the popular ride around The Princess and the Frog, a movie that has been little-represented in the parks and which, by happy accident,
The Uncle Remus stories were folk tales passed down through generations of plantation workers, and Walt Disney himself was a big fan of the folk tales that dated back to Africa (as adapted by Harris). Remus was a composite character, created by Harris but based on a number of people who had recounted the stories to him during his visits to the slaves' quarters as a child.
It wasn't long before controversy dogged the film (Baskett was even barred from the film's premiere because Atlanta, Georgia (where it took place) was still segregated. For about thirty years after the fact, the movie would be periodically reissued in theaters -- something that happened quite a bit in the days before home video. Still, it was never a huge hit and aside from periodic theatrical re-releases and the Academy Award-winning song "Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah," it was fairly easy for Disney to ignore.
When Splash Mountain launched in the '80s, it was originally planned as the "Zip-a-Dee River Run," but then-CEO Michael Eisner, the first head of Disney to formally distance himself from the film, asked for it to be renamed as "Splash Mountain," to tie into Splash, the then-recent movie that recently made headlines when Disney+ edited it for content. The name stuck, but the branding remained tied to Song of the South. While Uncle Remus and other overtly offensive elements from the film are not present, the tales of Br'er Rabbit are woven through the experience.
Disney has not as yet commented on the petition.1comments