On closing day for Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World, wait instances exceeded three hours. Fans of the Magic Kingdom’s 1989 water log attraction gathered to say goodbye; amongst them had been people genuinely trying ahead to the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure re-theme. Then there have been the disgruntled extremists who had been nonetheless clinging to the experience as if it had been certainly one of their very own Confederate monuments.
With these heightened feelings related to the latter—one thing that isn’t a lot of a shock, contemplating all the petitions filed in opposition to the experience’s Princess and the Frog redesign—comes an opportunity to money in. And so water allegedly taken from the flume experience has made its manner onto eBay, the place jars are going wherever from 20 to 50 bucks a pop. Truly, we’ve reached the bottom type of South of the South commodification in its lengthy historical past of doing simply that, from the Uncle Remus tales “written” by Joel Chandler Harris in 1880, to the 1946 Disney characteristic, to the late-Nineteen Eighties creation of Splash Mountain.
I’m not going to mince phrases right here: sure followers’ normalization of Splash Mountain as its personal entity has downplayed the position Song of the South has throughout the attraction, claiming it will get an exemption from the story’s overt racism as a result of none of its human characters—i.e., the slave storyteller Uncle Remus and his grasp’s kids—are featured on the experience, which as an alternative included simply the happy-go-lucky animal critters.
Harris may need created the “kindly-type” characters of Uncle Remus and his grasp’s household, however he appropriated the animal folklore from slaves, with critter characters like Br’er Rabbit initially serving as allegories for the plight of African Americans throughout slavery on the trail to freedom. Disney Imagineers within the late 1980s had been apparently unaware of this and assumed the animated rabbit and pals had been truthful sport to make use of on Splash Mountain; Disney followers in flip presumed they had been unrelated to the racist parts of the unique story. In reality, Harris’ “of its era” misaligned re-telling of this folklore by a white man impressed one other white man, Walt Disney, to commodify Black cultural resistance tales although an idyllic lens of the post-Civil War South.
In 2012, African American literary nice Alice Walker wrote in the Georgia Review that “Uncle Remus in the movie saw fit to ignore, basically, his own children and grandchildren in order to pass on our heritage—indeed, our birthright—to patronizing white children who seemed to regard him as a kind of talking teddy bear. I don’t know how old I was when I saw this film—probably eight or nine—but I experienced it as a vast alienation, not only from the likes of Uncle Remus—in whom I saw aspects of my father, my mother, in fact all Black people I knew who told these stories—but also from the stories themselves, which, passed into the context of white people’s creation, I perceived as meaningless. So there I was, at an early age, separated from my own folk culture by an invention.”
Now, Disney did get into it with the Harris property as Song of the South was set to be launched, as noted in the film’s notes on Turner Classic Movies—it wasn’t completely satisfied along with his eradicating a reference to Uncle Remus from the movie’s title, not disclosing his standing on the plantation he labored on, and shifting the period of the movie ever so barely. Which positive, is one thing for a movie launched within the mid-‘40s, yet Disney kept the African American vernacular as a major plot point to the film; it’s embraced by a white little one character in opposition to his father’s needs. This brings loads of new context to the story, and to the lyrics of Song of the South tunes like “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”—which was closely featured as a staple of Splash Mountain—making lots of Disney World guests over time unwitting contributors within the simply digestible commodification of Black tradition that the film introduced.
Disney carries blame right here for pretending the movie can simply be tucked away, except for the components that made it cash for so long as they did, and hoping audiences wouldn’t discover. Select movies on Disney+ have begun to characteristic warning labels, holding sure releases accountable after they include problematic, outdated materials—however Song of the South’s destiny is a bit more sophisticated. Back when the streamer grew to become accessible, Deadline shared Disney CEO Bob Iger’s response to an viewers query concerning the movie’s absence from Disney+ , and he firmly asserted that the movie is “not appropriate in today’s world,” which it’s not. Distressing, nonetheless, is the conjecture of assuring audiences it was a product of its time—regardless of TCM’s chronicle making be aware of protests upon the movie’s launch, together with picket traces that had been racially built-in efforts from the National Negro Congress, the American Youth for Democracy, the United Negro & Allied Veterans, and the American Jewish Council at cinemas in main U.S. cities. At the time the NAACP objected to the film, saying that “in an effort neither to offend audiences in the North or South, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery… [the film] unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.”
Disney’s stance of “let’s just throw it all away” was not a super technique for addressing the problems that also encompass Song of the South—evidenced by the giant variety of Disney followers who have professed nostalgic loyalty to Splash Mountain. That some showed up in droves to make a fast buck off cups of log flume water affirmed the existence of bigoted followers who felt like part of their historical past was being stolen, inspiring them to flow into petitions in opposition to numerous staff at Disney Imagineering and its makes an attempt to create inclusive tales. It’s all encapsulated by the hate they maintain as represented by the water in jars; they’ll simply take a look at as an alternative of letting themselves be hit with the chilly splash of actuality.
Disneyland’s Splash Mountain has but to announce a closure date. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is about to open in 2024.
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