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Disney Introduces New Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Ride as Splash Mountain Replacement

A new attraction featuring Disney’s first Black princess, Tiana, is set to debut at the company’s U.S. theme park resorts, drawing attention as a fitting replacement for a former ride based on a movie containing racist themes.

The upcoming theme park experience, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, updates the storyline from the 2009 animated film “The Princess and the Frog” and occupies the space previously held by Splash Mountain. The former water ride was themed around “Song of the South,” a 1946 Disney movie filled with racist stereotypes about African Americans and plantation life.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure retains Splash Mountain’s log-flume ride structure but incorporates music, scenery, and animatronic characters inspired by “The Princess and the Frog,” set in 1920s New Orleans. It is scheduled to open to the public later this month at Walt Disney World in Florida and at Disneyland in California later this year.

“For little Black girls, Tiana has meant a lot. When a little child can see somebody who looks like them, that matters,” commented Neal Lester, an English professor at Arizona State University, who has written about Tiana.

Disney announced the transformation of Splash Mountain into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure in June 2020 amid social justice protests following the murder of George Floyd. The move came amidst a broader reconsideration of outdated brands and imagery across the U.S.

“Song of the South” is a controversial film featuring live action, cartoons, and music, known for its racist stereotypes. It has not been released in theaters for decades and is not available on Disney’s streaming service.

Imagineers responsible for Disney’s ride designs continually seek fresh perspectives to tell new stories “so that everybody feels included,” explained Carmen Smith, a senior vice president for creative development at Walt Disney Imagineering.

“We never want to perpetuate stereotypes or misconceptions,” Smith emphasized. “Our intention is to tell great stories.”

Charita Carter, an executive creative producer at Walt Disney Imagineering, added that it’s crucial for Imagineers to tell a variety of stories tailored to their global audience, adapting to evolving societal needs.

The transformation of Splash Mountain into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is part of Disney’s efforts to recalibrate rides considered outdated or offensive. In recent years, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean have also undergone revisions to address concerns about racial insensitivity.

According to Lester, having a ride based on a character like Tiana, representing a background not previously seen among Disney princesses, replacing an attraction steeped in racist themes is a positive step forward.

“Representation matters,” Lester concluded. “You can make money, still have representation, and be aware of social justice history to make everyone feel like they belong there.”

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