Fans had one final run down Splash Mountain in Florida's Disney World on Sunday, before it closed for good. It had been in operation since 1992.
Renovations on Splash Mountain, which many fans consider a Disney staple, began on Monday. Disney announced in June 2020 that it was planning to reimagine the ride after growing complaints due to its associations with the 1946 film Song of the South, namely a Change.org petition with over 21,000 signatures stating that the ride is "steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes."
The Splash Mountain at California's Disneyland, which opened in 1989, is also slated to close soon, though the specific date has not yet been announced. Both of the rides will reopen as Tiana's Bayou Adventure – featuring Disney's first Black princess – in late 2024.
Statements around the redesign have not mentioned the version of the ride in Japan, which also launched in 1992.
On Sunday, fans of Splash Mountain waited upwards of three hours to take their final run, and wait times had been higher than average for the past month, according to Thrill Data. Some fans expressed disapproval of the ride's closure and started a petition to save the ride, to no avail. Splash Mountain has already been removed from Disney World's website.
The controversy over Splash Mountain stemmed from the movie it was based on. Song of the South is set on a Georgia plantation after the Civil War and depicts what the NAACP in 1946 called an "idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts." Its characters appeared as animatronics in Splash Mountain, which also featured songs from the film.
The new ride will be based on The Princess and the Frog, the 2009 animated film that debuted Tiana, the first Black Disney princess. In 2020, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that Song of the South would not be available for streaming on Disney Plus and that the movie is "not appropriate in today's world."
The redesign is a continuation of Disney's "longstanding history of updating attractions and adding new magic," according to the original announcement, and the new ride will be "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." [Copyright 2023 NPR]