“I’m back in my home now, and I’m gonna stay. My, oh my! Born and bred in the briar patch, and I’m here to stay!”Brer Rabbit
On July 1, 2022, Disney announced more details on Splash Mountain’s retheme to The Princess and the Frog, and the retheme is perhaps one of the most tangible examples of cancel culture from Disney. The adorable Brer Rabbit is now cancelled due to the alleged racism of the movie he stars in, 1946’s Song of the South.
In a sense, we should have seen this coming. Song of the South was withdrawn in 2001. In the film, Uncle Remus, the elderly black protagonist, teaches two white children important life lessons through fables, such as that portrayed in Splash Mountain about Brer Rabbit and the necessity of contentment. However, Disney branded the film “racist” because Uncle Remus, living in the South during Reconstruction, apparently enjoyed the days of slavery (I say “apparently” because Disney tries to make sure no one knows of it). Because of the subsequent withdrawal, it is quite difficult to find a copy.
However, it wasn’t until 2020 that Disney announced an upcoming retheme of Splash Mountain, which came curiously soon after Black Lives Matter’s woke rhetoric began to dominate America. Josh D’Amaro, Chairperson of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said it was part of Disney’s diversity and inclusion initiative. Why the cancellation? Is it warranted?
I’ve included a video of the entire ride above so you can see it for yourself, but if you would rather keep reading, I’ve got you covered. Splash Mountain is a log flume ride that dives into the journey of Brer Rabbit as he longs for adventure, but in his discontentment, he runs into Brer Fox, who threatens to kill him. Eventually, Brer Rabbit realizes he should have remained content with his own home in the Briar Patch, so he escapes and then reflects on his mistake. The ride is infused with colorful, immersive scenery and animatronics, as well as happy-go-lucky songs.
One thing to notice here is that there are no humans involved in the story if you assess Splash Mountain on its own. The ride deals exclusively with animals. How exactly are animals racist? If you rode Splash Mountain without any knowledge of Song of the South—just like the vast majority of the ride’s audience—racism would be the farthest thing on your mind. In fact, the ride preaches quite the opposite. Brer Rabbit is best friends with Brer Bear, who could eat Brer Rabbit anytime in the real world. But no, they accept and live with each other in peace.
Secondly, the black actors who were part of the film did not know of any racist intent in the film. Consider this excerpt from IndieWire’s article “‘Song of the South’: 12 Facts About Disney’s Most Controversial Movie”:
“Song of the South” counts among its ensemble Hattie McDaniel, the “Gone With the Wind” star and first Black entertainer to win an Academy Award. In a 1947 interview, she told the American publication The Criterion, “If I had for one moment considered any part of the picture degrading or harmful to my people, I would not have appeared therein.” Her co-star James Baskett echoed her support of the film, saying, “I believe that certain groups are doing my race more harm in seeking to create dissension than can ever possibly come out of the ‘Song of the South.’”IndieWire
If I were black, I would not support anything that hurt my people. However, these actors were not on the fence about the “racist” intent of the film—indeed, they were outspoken about the film’s lack of racism.
Lastly, even if we consider Splash Mountain in conjuction with the movie, the ride’s popularity and the film’s context only further disprove the “racism” of the ride. The popularity of the ride only points back to the idea that black men can teach white children things that are true, good, and beautiful. It only demonstrates that black men are equally capable of understanding human nature and teaching others how to refine it.
Although I already signed a popular petition to keep Splash Mountain the way it is, Disney’s progress (regress?) is now inevitable. It saddens me to see such an emblem of old Disney’s innocence and of my childhood nostalgia stripped away in the name of wokeness. However, I will always support Song of the South and Splash Mountain and cherish the happy memories the ride gave to my family and I.
P.S. One of my favorite things to do is read the ride scripts for Disney attractions. Click here for the Splash Mountain script!