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Attraction starring Disney’s first Black princess replaces ride based on film many view as racist

Simon Calder’s Travel

A new attraction starring the first Black Disney princess is opening at the company’s US resorts, and some Disney followers see it as a fitting replacement to a former ride based on a movie that contained racist tropes.

The new theme park attraction updates Tiana’s storyline from the 2009 animated film, “The Princess and the Frog” and is opening this year in the space previously occupied by Splash Mountain.

The water ride had been themed to “Song of the South,” a 1946 Disney movie filled with racist cliches about African Americans and plantation life.

The “Song of the South” film is a mix of live action, cartoons and music featuring an older Black man who works at a plantation and tells fables about talking animals to a white city boy.

The film has been criticized for its racist stereotypes, and hasn’t been released in theaters in decades and isn’t available on the company’s streaming service Disney+.

A still from Song of the South
A still from Song of the South (Walt Disney)

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure keeps Splash Mountain’s DNA as a log-flume ride, but it’s infused with music, scenery and animatronic characters inspired by the film set in 1920s New Orleans. It opens 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,” said Neal Lester, an English professor at Arizona State University, who has written about Tiana.

Disney’s announcement that it would transform its longstanding Splash Mountain ride into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure was made in June 2020 following the social justice protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. At the time, Disney said the change had already been in the works. But it came as companies across the US were reconsidering or renaming decades-old brands amid worldwide protests.

Disney has been criticized for racist tropes in films made in earlier decades. The crow characters from the 1941 film, “Dumbo” and the King Louie character from 1967’s “The Jungle Book” were viewed as African American caricatures. The depiction of Native Americans in the 1953 movie, “Peter Pan,” and the Siamese cats — often deemed as Asian stereotypes — from the 1955 film, “Lady and the Tramp,” also have been derided.


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