Why Splash Mountain And Jungle Cruise Needed To Be Redesigned, According to One Walt Disney Imagineer

New Jungle Cruise concept art

Whenever a theme park attraction gets renovated or replaced, it's going to bring upset the people who have a particular fondness for the current version. At a place like Walt Disney World or Disneyland this doesn't actually happen all that often, but right now fans on both coasts are getting ready to say their final goodbyes to two popular rides: Splash Mountain, and the day one attraction Jungle Cruise. Both of these rides are some of the more popular the parks currently have, but Carmen Smith of Walt Disney Imagineering explains in a recent video that these updates needed to happen because the parks needed to better represent all the communities that visit them.

Splash Mountain has its story telling based in the 1946 Disney film Song of the South, and it's been that way since the first version of the attraction opened at Disneyland in 1989. But that will begin to change sometime in the near future, as it has been announced by Disney that the ride will undergo a redesign which. While it's expected to keep the core ride largely intact, will change the story to focus on Disney's The Princess and the Frog. Carmen Smith, Executive Creative Development and Inclusion Strategies for Walt Disney Imagineering, explained in a recent video that this change was necessary because the Disney Parks simply have not represented the Black community well in the past, and that's something that needed to change. According to Smith...

When we looked at Splash Mountain, it gives our company an opportunity to showcase our first African American princess. And we need to be able to tell stories that are inspiring and enlightening, but also that speak to a community that has not been well represented in our parks and resorts.

Because The Princess and the Frog's Tiana is the first African American princess, there simply hasn't been a lot of other opportunities to represent that community in the parks. Tiana has appeared in parades and stage shows and other places, but she certainly hasn't seen the same attention as other Disney princesses.

Carmen Smith gave a similar explanation for the planned update to Jungle Cruise, which will turn the collection of unrelated animatronic sequences into a new cohesive story, and will also remove elements based in old stereotypes. Disney Parks are supposed to make people happy and be welcoming to everybody; this change will hopefully better reflect the guests on the ride, while also tipping to the hat to the decades of Jungle Cruise skippers that have helped make the attraction what it is today. Smith continued,

Plussing and reimagining the experience in Jungle Cruise was, to us, a unique opportunity to basically tell a story that does not perpetuate any stereotypes and to make sure that it’s reflective of our guests in a very positive way. But it also gave us an opportunity to salute the skippers that are critical to the experience that our guests have.

Exactly when these updates will begin, or when they're expected to be completed, is anybody's guess at this point. But the indication has been they could happen sooner rather than later. This initiative is clearly important to Disney, which means we could see other attraction updates in the future along these same lines.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.