Goodbye to the Laughing Place
Did you catch your last chance? Last night, Splash Mountain in Disneyland closed its doors to the Briar Patch for the last time, as the ride goes down for an extended refurbishment and retheme that will transform it into Tiana's Bayou Adventure. For many Disney fans, Splash mountain has long been a beloved attraction full of joy and glee that's formed the basis of their core Disney memories. And the ride itself--focused only on adventures of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and Brer Bear--is innocent enough. It's a story about not running away from your problems, and about the value and support of home and family. But it's also an attraction based upon a movie that has had its share of racially problematic criticism, even from day one. Even while those realities were present when this E-Ticket opened back in 1989, today's society has moved to where associations such as this aren't really as acceptable or easily swept under the rug as they used to be.
This notion will undoubtedly upset people who've grown up with a developed emotional resonance to this ride and who also don't really understand or see the contextual issue of The Song of the South linkage. And truthfully, the issue is more complex than simply labeling this IP as racist or not racist. But society has always evolved in fits and controversy, and there are practices and beliefs that were so ingrained and normalized a century that most people would have considered an outrage to change that are also completely and universally deemed unacceptable today. It's all a matter of perspective.
The new attraction has some promise, and The Princess and the Frog is a monumental film in its own right for the precedence it sets. Hopefully, the Imagineers will craft a cohesive sequel story for the attraction and create new memorable moments for a whole new generation of Disney fans. As Walt Disney himself said, "Disneyland will never be completed." The only constant at the Magic Kingdom is change, and this is part of it.
And to mark this passing, here are a dozen assorted photo of Splash Mountain that I've taken over the years--some better than others--of the exterior and interior of the ride, during the daytime and nightime.