Plenty of Sunshine Headin' My Way

There's been some talk recently about replacing Splash Mountain--Disneyland's zip-a-dee-doo-dah cheerful sanitization of a problematic and very outdated movie that hasn't been released to the public in nearly three and a half decades and has never been released in home viewing format.  Although Splash Mountain presents a family-friendly fabled telling of the stories of Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, and Brer Fox, its source material--the 1946 film Song of the South--has repeatedly been criticized for its romanticization of Reconstruction South, use of exaggerated black stereotypes and mannerisms, and glossing over of the realities of black life in the early post-slavery era. 

The ride itself doesn't have any sort of racist or racial connotations, focusing only on the animal characters and Brer adventures.  But the association has always been a tenuous reality for the ride--which is one of the most popular in the Disney parks.  Of course, Disney has constantly shown that it is willing to change with the times, even at the cost of beloved history, and it has outraged fans as much as it's satisfied others by tweaking ride elements to be more politically correct (see Pirates of the Caribbean... many examples).  Does that mean Splash Mountain should also under a major change?

To be honest, I'm not completely sure.  It's a tricky navigation, because while the movie is very clearly inappropriate for today's audiences, nothing about the ride itself is inherently offensive or harmful.  Furthermore, its popular candidate for replacement--The Princess and the Frog--has its own share of detractors, because even though it yielded the first black Disney princess in Tiana, it also ha her as not a black woman for the vast majority of the film (painting over the representation by having her as a frog throughout the movie. 

So ultimately, if it was up to me, I'd sit down and listen to the people it might pose the most offense too--black America--and see what they'd think.  I'm sure I'd get a variety of responses, but I imagine that in actually listening, I might be able to concern some sort of majority opinion, and adopt mine after that.

Tokyo Disneyland's Splash Mountain.


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