ORLANDO, Fla. -- Walt Disney World's theme parks haven't reopened from the coronavirus shutdown yet, but there's a fresh development at Magic Kingdom. Imagineers will revamp the Splash Mountain ride, changing its theme from "Song of the South" to "The Princess and the Frog," it was announced last week.
In the win-win-win category for Disney, it introduces a new attraction without starting from scratch, gives Tiana -- the first Black American Disney princess -- an increased presence in its flagship park, and it distances itself more from the 1946 film, which has a tainted reputation for stereotypical representations.
Some Splash Mountain fans say they will miss the animatronic animals in comical poses, the honeybee subplot and the big finale featuring "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah." Some "Frog" backers wish Tiana and company were getting a brand-new attraction instead.
We expect key beloved elements to translate well, including the dramatic drop and, possibly, a musical extravaganza at the end. The 2009 film, set in New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou, has jazzy music, a production number and riverboat references with which to work.
Ride overhauls aren't uncommon. Here are select major transformations from Magic Kingdom alone.
--Before there was Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, there was If You Had Wings (and similar flight-related attractions). The laser-shooter game based on the "Toy Story" spaceman debuted in Tomorrowland in 1998. Its DayGlo look contrasts vividly with its predecessors, which were quiet glides through nature, climaxing with a enormous tubular screen featuring action-driven projections (The thought of the slalom scene still provides a virtual rush.)
In the early days of Magic Kingdom, If You Had Wings had two amazing things going for it: It was air-conditioned, and it didn't require a separate ride ticket like most attractions, including Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, "it's a small world" and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. (Bonus points for the 1970s earworm "had wings, had wings, had wings, had wings".)
--Before there was the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, there was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Splash Mountain and Mr. Toad have something in common: Kids of the era probably had not seen the accompanying film. "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad" was released in 1949, nearly five decades before the Toad ride shut down in Fantasyland. The attraction felt forbidden because it was shadowy and the storyline included actual Hell references.
Its replacement is light-hearted, so it lacks the danger element, unless you're allergic to hunny.
--Before there was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, there was Pooh's Playful Spot and before that there was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The roller coaster came to be a focal point of the park's Fantasyland expansion when it, opened in 2014. Part of its footprint is on the former Playful Spot, an active area for tots and rest stop for their grown-ups. It was right across the way from Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.