I had a little record player when I was a kid along with a collection of records that ranged from hand-me-downs to the little 45s that often came with children’s books at the time.
In the collection was a scratched-up version of “Sgt. Pepper” and the “White Album” by the Beatles. I also had a Santana album I was afraid to listen to because the cover was too scary.
And I had a 45 that was “Yellow Submarine” on one side and “Puff the Magic Dragon” on the other.
I had a handful of Disney classics on 45 as well. We even played “Heigh Ho” for our frightened puppy on her first night in a new home. She seemed to like the whistling.
I also had Mary Poppins and some others.
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The 1946 movie ‘Song of the South’
Among my favorites was “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” from 1946’s “Song of the South.” I think it was one of those that had been included in a book because I definitely had a Disney book that featured Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear.
I don’t remember seeing the movie, which was nearly 30 years old before I was born. But I did see the “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” part with James Baskett starring as Uncle Remus.
I was too young, I suppose, to understand anything other than it was a catchy tune. Certainly, I liked the book and I liked the song. And then I grew up and never really thought about it again, until it was time to take my own children to Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom.
Since Disney relies so heavily on nostalgia, it’s easy to forget that Splash Mountain is a relatively new addition to the park. The ride opened in 1992 and centered around the adventures of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear.
I imagine that its nature as a log flume ride makes sense for it to be an older member of the park. However, guests were coming to Disney World for 20 years before they ever got a chance to ride the attraction.
Is Disney World shutting down Splash Mountain?
Yes. The days to see Splash Mountain as it is, are numbered. The ride will close in January 2023 and not reopen until sometime in 2024.
Why is Splash Mountain closed?
It didn’t close in 2022 but as we said above, it won’t see much of 2023. Disney is sweeping away any connection to the old “Song of the South” related characters. They are retheming the ride as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
Well, first of all, there’s the practical matter that nobody much younger than me has seen “Song of the South.” Certainly, outside of a few relics and theme parks, most folks have no connection to Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear.
They do, however, know Princess Tiana from the criminally underrated “Princess and the Frog.”
That film follows the musical adventure of Tiana and Prince Naveen as they are turned into frogs by a Louisiana voodoo man known as Dr. Facilier. They meet new friends including the jazz-loving alligator Louis and a Cajun firefly named Ray.
The movie’s soundtrack is fantastic with zydeco music, gospel and jazz.
Is Tiana’s Bayou replacing Splash Mountain?
Yeah. The bayou setting makes for a relatively easy re-theme. And it’s a perfect fit for Frontierland to hold down the fort next to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Also, “Song of the South” has been buried in the Disney vaults because of its well-documented racist past. Disney originally announced it had permanently retired “Song of the South” in 1970. But it re-released the film in 1972, 1981 and 1986.
Disney officially retired the film worldwide in 2001. Back in 2020, when asked about “Song of the South” being released on Disney+, CEO Bob Iger said the film is “not appropriate in today’s world.”
Is Splash Mountain racist?
Splash Mountain is based on “Song of the South”, which has depictions of plantation life amongst former slaves in the years following the Civil War.
When Disney announced Splash Mountain’s plans, officials specifically said they didn’t think there would be much criticism. The ride focuses on the animated characters which was not the chief complaint faced by “Song of the South” when it was released or in the subsequent years.
The ride focuses on several stories featuring Br’er Rabbit, a clever precursor in some ways to Bugs Bunny as he outsmarts Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear.
The rides’ vignettes are based on several of the Uncle Remus stories. Uncle Remus is the fictional narrator used to tell the story of Br’er Rabbit.
The writing was compiled and adapted from traditional African-American folk tales by Joel Chandler Harris, a journalist and editor of Irish descent.
Harris, writing as Remus, tries to mimic a southern African-American dialect which is how the characters came to be named Br’er Rabbit and so on. Br’er, in Harris’ creation, was another term for brother.
What is it like to ride Splash Mountain?
We start with Br’er Frog narrating while riders sit two-by-two in hollowed-out log-like ride vehicles.
Like any log flume ride, you’re pulled up and dropped down into a pond through scenery that evokes riding through a Southern river. As you’re acclimated to the world, you meet the three main characters, Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox.
Audio-animatronics include geese and frogs singing along to “How do you Do?” which is a song from “Song of the South” and not the Gerry and the Pacemakers classic.
The vignettes tell the story of Br’er Rabbit leaving home. Along the way, he is pursued by his two enemies despite the warning of Br’er Porcupine. He tricks them into going to his “laughing place” and generally stays one step ahead of them for most of the ride.
Eventually, Br’er Rabbit’s hubris catches up to him and he’s caught by Br’er Fox. But Br’er Rabbit outsmarts his opponent one last time, convincing him that he doesn’t want to be thrown into the briar patch. Br’er Fox, thinking he’s delving out the worst punishment he can, tosses Br’er Rabbit into the briar patch where he escapes.
The final five-story drop down the flume mimics the throw. When we land at the bottom, we are taken back into Doo Dah Landing. That is where everyone is celebrating Br’er Rabbit’s escape. Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear have to fend off Br’er Gator.
We close with the singing of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” and all is well again.
Is the ride fun?
Yeah. It’s a great log flume ride. It builds an appropriate level of anticipation before the big drop and keeps you entertained along the way.
Do you think that will change with the new version?
Nope. I expect the new version to be entertaining as well. Probably even more so because the characters and music are better.
What do you think about Splash Moutain’s retheming? Let us know in the comments!