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Disney Legend Defends Splash Mountain: “Nothing in the Ride Was Detrimental”

song of south splash mountain disney
All Images Credit: Disney

Disney Legend and Walt Disney Imagineering’s former senior vice president of creative development, Tony Baxter, thinks Song of the South was worth saving.

Song of the South and its Disney Parks ride, Splash Mountain, have been very controversial and have been the subject of many a debate among the Disney community. When the Walt Disney Company decided to remove Splash Mountain from the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort, many fans were incredibly upset to hear the news and felt like Disney was “pandering to woke audiences.”

Splash Mountain Closing Date

Splash Mountain, Walt Disney World Resort / Credit: Disney

Disney Legend Speaks Out About ‘Song of the South’ and Splash Mountain

Over the years, many celebrities and fans have spoken out in support of Song of the South and Splash Mountain. Even Whoopi Goldberg shared her views on how it was an important movie. Now, another voice has been added to the mix.

During an interview with Zeitgeist Design and Production’s “Zeitgeist’s Spirit of the Time: Episode 26,” Disney Imagineer and Disney Legend, Tony Baxter explained how despite its controversy-riddled existence, Song of the South was actually a “very, very successful” movie.

In the video, Baxter explains that Michael Eisner chose to re-release Song of the South in the 80s to gauge how successful the IP would be as Disney was considering working with the IP to create rides in Disneyland Resort. Baxter shares that the movie was more successful during the 80s re-release than it was when it first came out in the 40s.

“None of that controversy really existed,” he shared. He also explained that Disney worked with the NAACP on the movie, and the NAACP loved the dialects of the characters. The organization was also reportedly “very happy with it.”

Is Splash Mountain based on Song of the South?

Tony Baxter also spoke on Splash Mountain, the ride that was inspired by the IP of Song of the South. The ride first opened in Disneyland Resort, Southern California, in 1989 and closed for good to be rethemed into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure earlier this year.

When talking about Splash Mountain, Baxter shared, “There was nothing in the ride—I will stand by this today—there was not one thing in the ride that was detrimental to anybody. Whatever the controversy has come up has to do with the film.”

Baxter also remarked, “I think we’re way overboard on that kind of sensitivity.”

Where to watch Song of the South

From left to right: Jack Favers, Br’er Fox, Uncle Remus, Br’er Bear, Br’er Rabbit, Ginny Favers / Credit: Disney

Why is Disney Removing Splash Mountain?

Baxter, in referencing the controversy that preceded the closure and removal of Song of the South from Disney+, and the closure of Splash Mountain, inadvertently draws attention to the problems that critics identified with the movie and ride in the contemporary context of race and culture.

Many critics characterize the portrayal of African Americans and plantation life in the movie as racist, and due to this feedback, Disney removed all traces of the production from its history, meaning it’s unlikely we’ll ever see the movie, any merchandise, or any related IP’s from it, again.

About Priyanka Kumar

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago. In her free time, she is probably walking by the lake, catching up on the latest releases on TV, or spending inordinate amounts of time rewatching Moana, Encanto, and her Disney Channel life-long favorites Zack and Cody wreak havoc on the Tipton.

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