I had just logged on to check my Twitter feed when Disney Parks issued their now widely-panned announcement on social media that they would be changing one of their classic attractions in no small part due to the recent racial unrest.
Splash Mountain, one of the most popular rides in both Orlando’s Magic Kingdom and Anaheim’s Disneyland will be “reimagined” into an attraction based around the 2009 film “The Princess and the Frog.” Gone from the parks will be the storyline of Brer Rabbit outsmarting Brer Fox and Brer Bear as he’s hurled into the briar patch; the trio replaced with scenes of Tiana, Prince Naveen, and Dr. Facilier.
Disney’s announcement qualified this move as a “plussing” of the attraction that had been in the works for over a year. Most fans saw it as just the latest blatant attempt by the same company that has ruined ESPN by turning it into a political network to pander to woke warriors.
Almost immediately, my phone and inbox started filling up with people asking my take on the whole ordeal. Half of them were asking because they know how annoying I find victimization, political correctness, and perpetually-offended culture. The other half were asking because they know how much my family and I adore Disney World.
I suppose I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that my response disappointed them a bit.
Admittedly, I’m always a much bigger fan of Disney building new rides with fresh ideas to complement their classics rather than what has become their far-too-common approach of lazily slapping a new façade onto the same old ride. Want to sell Nemo stuffed animals? Just throw him and his aquatic friends into the EPCOT classic “Living Seas.” Want to draw elementary aged girls who love Frozen? Just hijack a ride dedicated to Norwegian culture with a singing snowman. It’s annoying.
But I’ve got to be honest about the Splash Mountain announcement. I don’t hate the decision.
No, I haven’t gone soft on the idea of yielding to the outrage mob, or anything like that. And yes, I think there’s going to be a level of awkwardness trying to drop an old New Orleans-themed ride in the middle of Florida’s wild-west themed Frontierland and California’s Critter Country. But there are three primary reasons that as a Disney fan, I’m oddly fine with this. In ascending order of importance:
3. Financially this is a no-brainer. If you’re a fan of capitalism, this is about as obvious a move as you can imagine. No, “The Princess and the Frog” wasn’t Disney’s biggest hit. But it was a much bigger hit than the company’s 1946 “Song of the South” – the movie around which Splash Mountain is based. That’s a movie that Disney has never permitted be released on video, DVD, or any of their streaming platforms because of its fairly well-known racial insensitivity.
If you’ve ever been to a Disney park, you know they are (in)famous for having their ride exits pour straight into a gift shop that features all sorts of paraphernalia related to what the guest just experienced.
Do you know what Splash Mountain’s gift shop sells? Ponchos and ride pictures. There’s simply no market for characters from a movie that kids have never seen. In all my trips down the mountain, I’ve never heard a kid begging their mom or dad for a Brer Rabbit stuffed animal. With the retheme, all that is about to change.
2. Though the ride is popular, its sets and design are almost 3 decades old. An upgrade with newer lighting and projection technology will make this a phenomenal experience. I’m good with that.
1. I know this is a name we don’t mention anymore, but I’m afraid that because of that, we’ve forgotten something important. Think back to the 1980s and how often you heard people talk about how important “The Cosby Show” was for the psyche of black families in America.
Before the Huxtables became sitcom phenomenons, virtually every functional, happy, well-adjusted, and successful family on the American television screen was white. Success and prosperity, being stable, secure, and typical looked white. “The Cosby Show” changed all of that. And only a fool would regard that as insignificant or unimportant.
Call me crazy, but the power of having a Disney princess who looks like you, specifically one that is celebrated, featured, and distinguished by boasting one of the most sought-after rides in the park, will do wonders for little black girls. And I think that’s pretty cool.
Sure, it’s easy to say, “Oh they can dress like any princess they want, the skin color doesn’t matter.” It doesn’t matter to you or me, but it does to them. I know that now after watching my own daughter express disappointment that she doesn’t look believable as Rapunzel because she has dark hair. I’m good with Disney recognizing that.
It’s true, I abhor the culture of perpetual offense. But it’s also true that I love inoffensive decisions that hurt no one, but mean the world to many.