There was a funeral at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on Sunday night. It wasn’t for a person, mostly because the park’s strict rules would never allow that, even if the person was buried in a trademarked Disney coffin. No, hundreds of Disney enthusiasts flocked to the Florida theme park to say goodbye to the controversial but dearly beloved ride Splash Mountain.
First opened in 1989, the ride is a 10-minute log flume that takes viewers through woods populated with singing animatronics and a final, splash-heavy drop at the end. The so-called “retheming” of Splash Mountain is an effort on Disney’s part to make its attractions more “inclusive” — which is a very fancy way of saying Disney is removing the ride because it’s based on a notoriously racist movie.
Construction began Monday morning on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, a new version of the ride based on Disney’s first Black princess Tiana, from the 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog — making Sunday the last day to ride the original Splash Mountain. And boy, oh boy, do Disney Adults know how to say goodbye. On TikTok, the hashtag #goodbyesplashmountain has 1 million views, with hundreds of viral videos capturing the four-plus hour wait fans had to endure. Set to mournful Disney trailercore edits, Disney fans on TikTok captured the influx of people who flooded the park to watch the ride open and stayed sobbing until the last log, full of Disney cast members, gave one final splash to a standing ovation.
Even though Splash Mountain was an institution in the Magic Kingdom park, the ride could never escape its racist origins. Its’ storyline and animatronics are all based on the 1946 Disney movie Song of the South, a film heavily criticized for its romanticized view of the Reconstruction-era South. It portrays slaves as thankful for their masters, has animal characters with Black features, and generally has such bad vibes that Disney daddy and CEO Bob Iger even said the film was “not appropriate in today’s world.”
But some Disney fans weren’t particularly happy about news of the re-theme. Even after Splash Mountain’s final day had been set, thousands of Disney fans online protested that the move was an example of cancel culture and shifted from celebration to all-out mourning. A 2020 change.org petition to stop the retheme received over 98,000 signatures, and even as late as Sunday night, some TikTok commenters were still desperate to find a way to save their beloved log ride.
Since Friday, TikTok has been inundated with funeral-like tributes to the ride, fans created a makeshift memorial by its gates, and hundreds of Disney goers waited outside of line in an attempt to be the last group of guests onboard. There were montages of a crowd sobbing as the Splash Mountain doors closed and there are even dozens of profiles on eBay that list mason jars, bottles, and plastic bags of Splash Mountain water for sale. “Rip Splash Mountain,” dozens of comments said. “This is so sad,” another comment read on a video of a crowd chanting “One Last Splash!” before the ride closed.
To be honest, the outrage isn’t that deep. While the new ride is scheduled to open in 2024, released concept art shows little besides the characters will change on the ride. From all of the responses, you would think they’re razing the mountain to the ground in front of thousands of wailing kids.
Sisters and Disney content creators @themouselets made it to the park on Friday for one last ride. While the two say Splash Mountain held a lot of memories for them and other parkgoers, they (and a lot others) are ecstatic to see a harmful ride go.
“We are definitely sad to see a ride that was nostalgic for us go, but are super excited for the change because we feel it was very much needed,” they tell Rolling Stone. “Especially for a ride that had racist ties.” According to @themouselets, most fellow Disney Adults agree that some of the reactions are over the top. But the pair say it’s high time for Tiana to have her own attraction — and they’re already planning their next visit.
“We can’t wait for the retheme. Getting a new ride, especially in Magic Kingdom is pretty rare,” they say. “Switching over to Tiana’s makes us really really happy. We’ll try and go down for like, literally, the day it opens.”