While Disneyland has been closed, there has been no lack of discussion of the park, specifically, fans who felt that it was past time for Splash Mountain to get a serious update. A discussion started on Twitter which led to a Change.org petition asking Disney to replace the attraction's Song of the South theme with that of The Princess and the Frog. Now, Disney has responded, and that response is "yeah, sounds good."
Today Disney has announced that Walt Disney Imagineering is already at work on a redesign of Splash Mountain that will do exactly what fans were asking for. The ride will undergo a transformation at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. A piece of concept art has given us an idea of what the new ride might look like.
According to Disney, the story of the ride will essentially act as a sequel to the film, following "the kiss" that transforms Tiana and Naveen back into humans. Music from the movie will be featured and Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Tiana in The Princess and the Frog will reprise her role for the attraction.
According to Disney, the plan to re-theme Splash Mountain began last year, so this isn't all a direct a response to the recent petition asking Disney to make this change. Having said that, it seems very likely that the revealing of the change now is due to the need for the parks to make some sort of public response to the issue.
This will certainly make a lot of fans happy. Over 20,000 people signed the petition asking for the change. Anecdotally, it seemed like a lot of people were excited by this idea, or were at least accepting of it.
There's no timetable given for when this change will start or when it will be completed. Splash Mountain is a pretty large attraction and so the redesign will be extensive and take a lot of time. There are a number of ongoing construction projects on both coasts that will likely need to be finished before a major undertaking like Splash Mountain could begin. Nevermind that Disney needs to pay for it, and the company isn't exactly as flush with cash as its used to being. One also wonders if the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland rides will be undergoing a simultaneous transformation, or if one park will get the new theme first.
There is one other Splash Mountain attraction left that was not mentioned. Tokyo Disneyland also has a Song of the South themed Splash Mountain. Disney doesn't actually own that park, so it will be up to the Oriental Land Company to decide what happens there. Because Japan doesn't have the same cultural history, we could see that one attraction remain the same, or that park might decide to make the change as well, if only as a way to refresh the attraction.
Seeing major changes to classic attractions is always a double edged sword. On the one hand, the attraction that many have grown up with is about to undergo a massive change and it won't ever be the same again. It's understandable people will have a reaction to that. At the same time, a new attraction is always exciting. What fresh new ideas from Walt Disney Imagineering will we see? And ultimately, if what you loved most about Splash Mountain was the ride itself, that's not really changing. Splash Mountain will still be the perfect ride for a hot day at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.