R.I.P. Splash Mountain
State of the Union: Remembering a great coaster.
It is unbecoming of an adult to speak publicly about Disney theme parks, but I lament the demise of Splash Mountain.
The log flume coaster, which featured characters from the controversial 1946 film Song of the South, was one of the most popular features of Disney's American parks, and revitalized a previously quiet corner of Disneyland. Yesterday, on its final day, a massive crowd stood shoulder to shoulder outside the attraction, waiting one last time to descend into its famous briar pit.
Splash Mountain opened in 1989 and was inspired by the animal characters in Song of the South, such as "Br'er Rabbit" and "Br'er Fox," and the film's award-winning musical number, "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah." Five years earlier, Disney executives had decided not to release Song of the South on home video given complaints about the film's romantic portrayal of black life in the postbellum South. Splash Mountain designers had omitted one of the film's lead characters, the black storyteller Uncle Remus, from the attraction to avoid controversy.
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There were no references to race or slavery in the coaster, but some of the characters from the "forbidden" film were prominently featured in Splash Mountain. That prompted a small but committed group of activists to pressure Disney to rebrand the attraction. In June 2020, Disney announced it would finally scrap Splash Mountain amid the national "reckoning" that followed George Floyd's death.
Disney executives claim the company had had discussions about a potential rebrand for several years, but their announcement came just weeks after Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody and amid what the New York Times called "a national reckoning on racial justice." Their announcement was part of a wave of iconoclasm that took place in the immediate aftermath of Floyd's death and had no logical connection to the incident in Minneapolis. It is unclear what Floyd's death had to do with, for example, the Washington Redskins team name, or Hank Azaria's voicing Apu on The Simpsons.
Progressives mock right-wingers for complaining about team names and flume rides. But they care, too. Otherwise, they wouldn't push so hard to change them.