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Disneyland Article
What To Expect When Disneyland Rethemes Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain
Orange County Register
Brady Macdonald
June 26, 2020
July 02, 2020
The Splash Mountain makeover coming to Disneyland will transform the classic log flume ride with a new Princess Tiana backstory that will take riders down on the bayou and tie the venerable Critter Country attraction to the New Orleans Square themed land next door.

Disney plans to update the Splash Mountain log flume rides at Disneyland in Anaheim and Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida with a new theme based on the “Princess and the Frog” animated movie. The Princess Tiana makeover will strip the ride of its current backstory based on the controversial 1940s Disney movie “Song of the South.”

Disneyland has been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney had proposed reopening the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks on July 17, but the reopening of the parks have been delayed pending government approval. Disney World will begin a phased reopening of its theme parks on July 11.

Walt Disney Imagineering president Bob Weis said the creative arm of the company has explored many new themes for Splash Mountain in the past, but settled on the Princess Tiana story in the past year or so.

“Splash Mountain has been the subject of many conversations through the years,” Weis said during an interview with Disney’s D23 fan club. “Its brilliant ride platform and landscape create the potential for great storytelling.”

Walt Disney famously said that Disneyland would never be completed as long as there was imagination left in the world. The Princess Tiana makeover of Splash Mountain follows in that tradition, according to Weis.

Imagineering has made changes to the auction scene in Pirates of the Caribbean and added Disney characters to It’s a Small World. The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror has been transformed into Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout at Disney California Adventure while the Maelstrom log flume ride at Florida’s Epcot became the Frozen Ever After attraction.

“We have a longstanding history of enhancing attractions with new magic,” Weis told D23. “We completely understand that these decisions aren’t always popular, but I think our biggest fans know that we care as much as they do.”

Most Disneyland attractions have been enhanced and improved — known as “plussing” in Imagineering parlance — and some have been updated more than once.

“I think about this concept quite a bit,” Weis told D23. “It really represents the great responsibility we feel as Imagineers to uphold Walt’s vision of constant improvement.”

Adding a “Princess and the Frog” backstory to Splash Mountain seemed like a natural fit next to Disneyland’s New Orleans Square.

“Tiana is a modern, courageous and empowered woman who pursues her dreams while never losing sight of what’s really important,” Weis told D23. “So it’s a great story with a strong lead character set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou.”

Imagineering is working with Walt Disney Animation Studios on the reimagined Splash Mountain rides to tell an extension of the “Princess and the Frog” story that picks up after the final kiss between Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen.

Riders on the reimagined Splash Mountain will see Tiana throughout the attraction.

“She and Louis are bringing friends together for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance alongside many of our other favorite characters from this instant classic,” Weis told D23.

Concept art of the new Princess Tiana version of the attraction shows fireflies twinkling in the sky around the 87-foot-tall Splash Mountain. The twisted tree trunk at the peak of Splash Mountain has been transformed into Mama Odie’s house — complete with a boat wedged into the branches of a Spanish Moss-covered tree. In the film, the tree-bound boat in the deepest part of the Louisiana bayou serves as the home of the voodoo priestess/fairy godmother Mama Odie.

In the concept art, the familiar Splash Mountain logs filled with riders float past Princess Tiana and Louis the trumpet-playing alligator as they sit in a boat near the bottom of the ride’s five-story plunge. Tiana’s boat brims with Mardi Gras beads and fireworks along with a feather masquerade mask and a purple, green and gold jester’s hat.

The 2009 “Princess and the Frog” was celebrated as Disney’s first animated depiction of an African-American princess. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best animated feature and received two Oscar nods in the best original song category for “Almost There” and “Down in New Orleans.”

“Music is a big part of the story and our attractions,” Weis told D23. “The incredible songs and score from the Princess and the Frog are often among fan favorites.”

A date has not been set for the debut of the Splash Mountain ride makeovers. The Splash Mountain rides on both coasts will return with their existing “Song of the South” back stories when Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom eventually reopen following extended coronavirus closures.

“We are still evaluating project timelines based on the extended closures we’ve experienced due to COVID-19,” Weis told D23. “We are working with our operations partners now to determine timing for this project to get under way.”
Attractions Referenced

It's A Small World

New Adventures With Princess Tiana

Pirates Of The Caribbean

Splash Mountain

Lands Referenced

New Orleans Square

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