Disney overhauls ‘offensive’ themed rides
Disney has announced its iconic Splash Mountain theme park rides in the US will be "completely reimagined" to sever links with their racist past.
The popular log flume rides at Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida are based on the 1946 film Song of the South (1946), featuring the Oscar-winning song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah but out of circulation for decades.
The movie follows a young boy visiting his grandmother's plantation in Georgia after the Civil War and received wide criticism for its depiction of African-Americans and slavery.
Old black labourer Uncle Remus enchants the white child with fables of talking animals.
Then Disney chief executive Robert Iger called the live action/animation musical film "antiquated" and "fairly offensive" when asked in 2010 if it would ever be released on DVD.
More recently, he said it will never be made available on Disney+.
"I've felt as long as I've been CEO that Song of the South - even with a disclaimer - was just not appropriate in today's world," he said.
"It's just hard, given the depictions in some of those films, to bring them out today without in some form or another offending people, so we've decided not to do that."
Iger stepped down as the Disney boss earlier this year.
Disney announced the change to the Splash Mountain rides on Thursday, sharing a "first glimpse" of the project that has been in the works since last year.
The new theme is inspired by The Princess and the Frog, a 2009 Disney film with an African-American female lead.
"We pick up this story after the final kiss, and join Princess Tiana and Louis (the alligator) on a musical adventure - featuring some of the powerful music from the film - as they prepare for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance," Disney's public relations director Michael Ramirez said in a statement.
"The new concept is inclusive - one that all of our guests can connect with and be inspired by, and it speaks to the diversity of the millions of people who visit our parks each year."
He said the retheming of the rides, which Walt Disney himself referred to as "plussing", was "of particular importance today".
"(It) begins with Imagineers asking the question, 'How can we build upon or elevate the experience and tell a fresh, relevant story?'" he said.
Walt Disney Imagineering creative development and inclusive strategies executive Carmen Smith said they "continually evaluate opportunities" to improve the theme parks for visitors.
"It's important that our guests be able to see themselves in the experiences we create," she said.
A timeline for the new development is yet to be released.
Disney had hoped to reopen its theme parks in southern California on July 17 after a four-month closure due to coronavirus but the state has indicated it won't issue guidelines until after July 4.
"Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials," Disney said in a statement.
Originally published as Disney overhauls 'offensive' themed rides