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Disney’s Splash Mountain Set to Reopen With Princess Tiana Theme

Disney’s Splash Mountain Set to Reopen With Princess Tiana Theme

In the summer of 2020, as a reckoning on racial justice swept the country, Disney said it would rip out Splash Mountain, a wildly popular flume ride with a racist back story.

Some people cheered, saying the move was long overdue: After 31 years at Disneyland in California and 28 at Walt Disney World in Florida, the attraction — with its animal minstrels from “Song of the South,” the radioactive 1946 movie — had to go.

But Disney also faced blowback. Last year, when Splash Mountain finally closed, someone started a makeshift memorial near its entrance — the kind that pops up at scenes of horrific crimes. Distraught fans spirited away jars of the water. More than 100,000 fans signed a petition calling on Disney to reverse its “absurd” decision.

Now, Disney is rolling out Splash Mountain’s replacement, which is based on “The Princess and the Frog,” the 2009 animated musical that introduced Disney’s first Black princess. The lighthearted new ride, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, will open to the public on June 28 at Disney World, with a similar version expected to arrive at Disneyland by the end of the year.

It’s a historic moment for Disney: After 69 years in the theme park business, the company will have a marquee attraction based on a Black character. Disney has spent at least $150 million on the bicoastal project, analysts estimate. (A Disney spokesman declined to comment on the cost.)

“For young Black children, it is, of course, a wonderful and amazing way to show representation,” Anika Noni Rose, who voices Tiana in the film and recorded new lines for the ride, said when the project was announced. “For children who don’t look like Tiana, it is a way to open their eyes.

Disney has remade rides before, often to howls from devotees, but this particular overhaul is especially delicate. In recent years, Disney has found itself enmeshed in nationwide debates over diversity and inclusion initiatives, with prominent Republican politicians and conservative media pundits pointing to Disney as an example of corporate political correctness run amok.

The pressure has started to die down, in part because Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is no longer running for president and attacking “Woke Disney” at campaign stops. Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, has also repeatedly said he has moved Disney away from “agenda-driven” content.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure could drag Disney back onto the cultural battlefield. Or it could provide more…

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