While voice actor and singer Jess Harnell is best known for roles on Animaniacs, Crash Bandicoot, and Transformers, the performances that may have been heard by the most people over the years are the voices he provides for attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. But the first voice-acting role he ever landed is leaving the parks soon, as Brer Rabbit and the rest of the characters from the Splash Mountain log flume ride are preparing for their last ride. A new, similar attraction themed around The Princess and the Frog will take its place in the park, with Disney telling stockholders today that the new attraction is being fast-tracked.
With Animaniacs coming back on November 20, Harnell hs reason to be looking to his past a little bit. He will reprise the role of Wakko Warner, and so for the first time since the '90s, that series will be a big part of his day-to-day life. Still, he has a soft spot for his work at the parks.
"[Splash Mountain] is really, really dear to my heart, because it was the first character voice job I ever did, and I did most of the voices on that ride," Harnell told ComicBook.com. "And it gave me a great sense of joy knowing that wherever I was, sleeping, awake, whatever condition I was in at that time, somebody somewhere in the world was on Splash Mountain, and hopefully it was making them happy. I loved that idea. Since, then I've gone on to do a lot of other stuff at the Disney parks. Those are still going to be there."
Harnell is, himself, of two minds regarding the attraction closing down. Like many people who grew up with Splash Mountain, his impression of the ride is not colored by the racism inherent in Song of the South, the movie from which the characters in the ride are drawn. At the same time, as someone who's creating entertainment for kids at Disney parks, the last thing he wants is to leave a sour taste in those kids' mouths.
"I've had the experience of looking down from above on the Main Street Electrical Parade, watching kids' faces light up when voices I did come out," Harnell continued. "And there's no greater feeling. To know that you gave people that happiness. Now, personally, I don't believe that Splash Mountain was offensive, and I don't believe that it alluded to anything offensive, but if it's going to upset people or make people feel bad about something terrible, then I get it. I'm sorry to see it go, because I loved it. It was an honor to be involved, and I'm happy I had that chance. But I don't want to be a part of anything that makes anybody hurt."
You can see more from out conversation with Jess Harnell in the coming days. Animaniacs will premiere on Hulu this Friday.