Hmm. Retheming Splash Mountain to The Princess and the Frog. Any thoughts?

Discussion in 'Disneyland News, Rumors and General Discussion' started by hbquikcomjamesl, Jun 26, 2020.

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  1. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Active Member

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    Anybody have any thoughts about the recent announcement? (I will note that Werner Weiss now has a page, just updated yesterday, about the retheming on Yesterland.)

    I have a few of my own:
    1. I haven't seen The Princess and the Frog, but then again, neither have I seen Frozen, or Tangled. Nor Song of the South (at least in its entirety), for that matter.

    2. The Monsters, Inc. overlay definitely turned SSL from a lemon into something worthy of Disney, but the movie overlays of PotC, HM, and Space Mountain did not, IMHO, do anything good.

    3. I've always felt that Song of the South should be taken in the context of its era. And I must point out that most of the "Br'er Rabbit" stories existed in African folklore long before Joel Chandler Harris was born.

    (and always keep your doo-dah zippah'd.)
     
  2. iamsally

    iamsally Well-Known Member

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    This is a real hmmmmmm.......
    I do enjoy The Princess and the Frog and its characters. I think it could be a very enjoyable change. But I also resist the idea of change for the wrong reasons. I have seen Song of the South and I think many people who are complaining have not. I had one person tell me it showed happy and contented slaves when it is actually set after the Civil War. I think maybe I will dust it off and give it a critical look.

    Like I posted in another thread.
    [​IMG]
    Is someone going to complain that this is offensive to anorexic alcoholics?!?
     
  3. PNWTigger

    PNWTigger Well-Known Member

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    Here's the thing. I don't mind them retheming the ride...I just don't like the reason they are using for the retheme. I am one of the few that actually own a copy of "Song of the South"...okay, okay...it's a bootleg DVD that was copied from a laserdisc, and the singalong part is written in Chinese (or Korean...I'm not 100% sure). I did watch it the other day, and I think it needs to be watched with the knowledge of WHEN the movie was made. Yeah...a lot of stuff wouldn't quite fly in today's society, but what they did in the film in a technical sense is AMAZING. My mom read "Uncle Remus" to me when I was little, and Harris did attempt to write in a Southern dialect which made reading the story out loud more challenging...think reading the "BFG" out loud, but about 20x more difficult. I didn't think anything of the stories as a kid...don't look too much into the stories now as an adult either. Kids are out of touch with "Song of the South" (other than Zip-a-dee-do-dah and Laughing Place), and I highly doubt any of them would think that there is racial bias in regards to Splash Mountain unless an adult is saying something. If Disney had said they were planning on the retheme due to kids not being familiar with the characters/story I would feel better about their decision.
     
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  4. ni_teach

    ni_teach Active Member

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    I don't have an issue the the change over if done well and not on the cheap. Splash Mountain has been needing a good overhaul for the past few years anyhow. Time to show it some love.
     
  5. ecdc

    ecdc Active Member

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    Here's the tl; dr version of what I have below: I am delighted and excited for this retheme. I love Princess and the Frog and Song of the South is a horrible film to memorialize in a ride. If you want to know why, listen to this: Karina Longworth's You Must Remember This podcast on the history of Hollywood. She did six episodes on Song of the South, and they are brilliant. Even if you just listen to the first one (which introduces everything), and the last one (which is specifically about Splash Mountain), you'll learn A TON about Disney. Okay, onto the long part.

    Here's some background to understand the context of Song of the South:

    After the Civil War, White Americans undertook a profound re-imagining of what the war was about and why it was fought. In 1861, any American—Northerner or Southerner—would've told you that the conflict was about race and slavery. It was not a mystery, and it was not some vague notion of "states' rights." But following the war, as the U.S. underwent reunion and tried to forget this divisive past, the Black experience was erased in favor of a unified respect for the sacrifice of soldiers on both sides. Can you imagine any other country on earth erecting statues to soldiers who voluntarily left the country, founded another country, then launched a war against their old country? The United States did, all because by the time those statues went up, the Civil War was not remembered in a way that would disgrace those who fought on the losing side.

    As part of how the country chose to remember the war and its aftermath, the Dunning School emerged. The Dunning School was championed by William Dunning and his students at Columbia as a way of portraying the Reconstruction Era. It's how we ended up with films like Birth of a Nation or Gone with the Wind. The South was just a poor, misunderstood place, full of gallantry and beauty, until the North destroyed it. Then, as the story goes, when the South wanted to return to the Union, the North unnecessarily punished it with carpet baggers and inarticulate, uneducated Blacks who were given positions of power they neither earned nor could manage.

    For the record, that is all absolute hogwash. Modern historians have explained how wrong (and how offensive) the Dunning School was. Hundreds of Black Americans, now freed from slavery, ran for political office during Reconstruction and won. As a result, the Ku Klux Klan arose and terrorized Blacks in the South. They were exploited, abused, and often murdered. When the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments passed, and it looked like we might have something close to real equality, the South quashed it with ruthless violence, and instituted Jim Crow to keep Blacks oppressed. Why is it so many Americans learn about the Civil War, then learn that 90 years later, a woman named Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat? We are given no context in between, and it's because of how we have chosen to remember the Civil War and its aftermath. It is because we do not want to admit that we have been, for the vast majority of our existence as a nation (and before), a country founded on white supremacy. We had the chance at equality, and we snuffed it out. And that matters because films and popular media have glossed over it by portraying slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction in entirely inaccurate, ahistorical ways to placate White Americans into thinking all is well.

    So what does all this have to do with Song of the South? A few things. First, it takes place after the Civil War and its portrayal of Blacks who have chosen to remain on a plantation is both inaccurate and offensive. Slaves, then later freedmen and women, were fierce in their desire for freedom. They were not the passive, submissive characters we so often see in films. Second, Walt Disney wanted a hit like Gone with the Wind. He explicitly invoked GWTW when he decided to make Song of the South, and he wanted it to come out much sooner than it did. But delays caused it to be pushed until 1946. Finally, the film was protested when it was made and when it came out, by both Black and White Americans. When people say "everyone" back then was racist, by everyone, they mean White people. I mean, presumably the Black Americans protesting films like Gone with the Wind and Song of the South were not racist? But some White Americans also had problems with the racism in Song of the South. Some film critics at the time went out of their way to point out how offensive the film was. And it was offensive to Black Americans. It remains so to this day. And while Splash Mountain as a ride has clumsily erased Uncle Remus and the racist overtones of the film it's based on, everyone knows it's based on Song of the South, and so there's this perpetual debate over it.

    No one, least of all historians, want Song of the South erased, anymore than I want Gone with the Wind erased. These things will always exist, and fears of them being "suppressed" or "canceled" are naive, IMO. Part of me wishes Disney would release Song of the South and get it over with. It's not a particularly good movie even without the racism, and keeping it under wraps gives it a mystique it really doesn't deserve. Perhaps it can be released someday on Disney+ with an unskippable intro by a historian who explains why the film is inaccurate and why it might be offensive to African Americans. But, IMO, it is long past time for White Americans like myself to shut up and listen. And people are telling us that the existence of things like Splash Mountain only serve to reinforce certain stereotypes and are offensive. Splash Mountain isn't a one-off cultural icon in a vacuum; it is part of a widespread cultural movement to portray the American past in a way that is completely at odds with reality, and in a way that has echoed down through the ages to continue to impact race relations to this day.
     
  6. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Active Member

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    To begin with, I agree with most of what "ecdc" says.

    Actually, the Civil War was about putting down an illegal rebellion, a unilateral secession that threatened to eventually dissolve the United States into little bite-size pieces, ripe for conquest. In all likelihood, if there was no threat of dissolution, the North would have likely said "Good Riddance."

    The aforementioned rebellion was about slavery. More specifically, about expansion of slavery into new territory.

    Long before the Civil War, the country was already divided: the Northern economy was based on manufacturing, trade, and forms of agriculture that were amenable to labor-saving devices, and much of the North had been settled by religious dissenters who believed strongly in the dignity of labor, and found the very idea of slavery offensive. Slave labor had become irrelevant in the North, and once the overseas slave trade had been abolished, slavery itself ceased to have any economic value.

    But in the South, the whole political, economic, and social order had grown up around plantation-scale cash-crop monoculture. The crops -- tobacco and cotton -- were extremely depleting on the soil, and very labor-intensive. According to what little I can recall of the writings of Frederick Douglass (it's been a lot of years since I took U.S. History at CSU Long Beach), those few labor-saving devices that were even applicable were either scorned, or in the case of Eli Whitney's cotton gin (which mechanized the insanity-inducing process of separating the seeds from the fiber) used to increase both the plantation owners' profits and the slaves' misery.

    In the North, "containment" of slavery was seen as a reasonable compromise. But in the South, at the rate cotton and tobacco monoculture was ruining the soil, it was seen as leading as inevitably to destruction of the Southern way of life (corrupt though it was) as outright abolition.

    To the white slave-owning landowners who ran the South, secession was seen as the only way to preserve their privileged lifestyle. To the rest of the country, putting down that secession was seen as the only way to preserve the union.

    Bottom line: the Civil War was indirectly about slavery. A war to put down a rebellion that was about slavery, and not just about preserving it, but expanding it. It didn't actually become a "war to free the slaves" until the Emancipation Proclamation (which actually left slavery intact in those States not in rebellion). "Juneteenth" celebrates the end of slavery in Texas (with U.S. troops enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation), but slavery didn't actually end nationwide until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, almost six months later.

    I'm old enough to remember some of the theatrical re-releases of Song of the South, although I've never actually seen it. I also remember a tie-in Little Golden Book that included a few of the folk tales (the clearest of my murky recollections was about the Tar Baby story).

    I don't think the movie should be suppressed. I don't think Gone with the Wind or Birth of a Nation should be suppressed, either. (Actually, the only movie I'd like to see suppressed is the 1939 Wizard of Oz, and only because it took so many liberties with the source material it should have "had its poetic license revoked.") But films like these should definitely be presented in a way that preserves their historic context, and mitigates their offensiveness.

    As to Splash Mountain, it's been quite a few years since I've even been on it (I flat-out refuse to ride it unless it's a cold, rainy day, and I'm already wearing a raincoat and a sou'wester), but the story always seemed to concentrate on -- and celebrate -- the underlying folk tales, not the movie, nor the "Uncle Remus" character that Harris created out of whole cloth to frame the folk tales.
     

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