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Disneyland Will Redesign Splash Mountain to Overhaul “Song of the South” Ties

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  • On Thursday, Disney Parks announced it would be re-theming its Splash Mountain rides at Disneyland and Disney World to center around the 2009 film “The Princess and the Frog.”
  • The ride is currently based upon the 1946 film “Song of the South,” which has been criticized for its oversimplified and idyllic depiction of the Antebellum South, as well as for its racial stereotypes of Black people.
  • Disney Parks did not directly reference Splash Mountain’s ties to “Song of the South” in its announcement but did call the plan to refocus on “Princess and the Frog” a concept rooted in inclusivity. 
  • Disney Imagineer President Bob Weis said the concept to retrofit the ride has been in the works for more than a year.

Disney To Re-invent Splash Mountain

After years of complaints to scrap racist connections to a long condemned movie, Disneyland and Disney World have finally announced that they will re-theme Splash Mountain.

In a statement on Thursday, Disney Parks said the longstanding ride will “soon” be retrofitted into a ride based on “The Princess and the Frog.” That film, released in 2009, tells the story of Disney’s first Black princess, Tiana. 

“Tiana is a modern, courageous, and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important,” Disney Parks said on its official blog. “It’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou. 

“In 1966, Walt himself opened New Orleans Square when it became the first new “land” added to Disneyland park, so it feels natural to link the story and the incredible music of “The Princess and the Frog” to our parks.”

Disney stopped short of directly referencing Splash Mountain’s current inspiration—“Song of the South.” Despite that, Disney Parks did vaguely allude to the ongoing and increased calls for racial justice that have rocked the country since the death of George Floyd in late May.

“With this longstanding history of updating attractions and adding new magic, the retheming of Splash Mountain is of particular importance today,” Disney Parks said. “The new concept is inclusive—one that all of our guests can connect with and be inspired by, and it speaks to the diversity of the millions of people who visit our parks each year.”

In recent weeks, many have made calls for the removal of objects and forms of entertainment that have—up to this point in history—evaded widespread condemnation.

Now, Confederate statues are being removed and in some cases, toppled. Streaming services have removed full episodes and even some whole TV shows for depictions of blackface. Even Rhode Island is moving forward to change its official (if surprising) name of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Splash Mountain will remain a log flume ride, though Disney did not indicate how long it would take to implement the change. Disney has also not announced any plans to re-imagine a third version of the ride at Disneyland Japan.

Disney’s Controversial History with “Song of the South”

If “Song of the South’s” intention when it was released in 1946 was to capture the “song” of the Antebellum South immediately following the Civil War, it was pretty tone-deaf in its delivery.

Set on a plantation home in Georgia, the film follows a young white boy who befriends a Black plantation worker, Uncle Remus. The film makes no mention of slavery, and within the context of the film, it’s unclear in what time period the events are taking place. It was only after the film’s release that Disney revealed the story takes place after the Civil War. 

Throughout the film, Uncle Remus tells the boy a number of stories that are depicted in animated format—including one story featuring the infamous character Tar Baby. While in the movie, Tar Baby is nothing more than a doll literally constructed from a lump of tar, its imagery evokes stereotypical depictions of Black people. The phrase “tar baby” has also been considered a slur for African Americans.

Source: The Disney Company

Upon the film’s release, the NAACP strongly denounced the film, saying that “in an effort neither to offend audiences in the North or South, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery….[the film] unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.”

Disney’s approach has proven to be the catalyst for intense criticism that has persisted for nearly 70 years, with many saying the film overly simplifies struggles Black people faced in the Reconstruction Era. In addition to that, many have condemned the depiction of the film’s Black characters as stereotypical and racist. 

Because of that controversy, Disney has never fully released “Song of the South” to home video in the United States; however, it has been released in European and Asian countries, and some clips from animated portions of the film have found themselves released as part of the Disney Sing-Along Series.

In March, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed that the film would not appear within the Disney+ catalog, saying that such a film “is not appropriate in today’s world.” Prior to that, some had wondered whether the film would make its way onto Disney+ and if the streaming platform would include an “outdated cultural warning” before the film.

Still, in 1989, Splash Mountain was first opened to the public at Disneyland. Three years later, another version of the ride was opened at Disney World. While both rides replace Uncle Remus as the narrator, quotes from Uncle Remus are carved along the wall of the ride. 

This is not the first controversy for a Disney ride. In 2017, Disney Parks removed a misogynist skit of a bridal auction from its Pirates of the Caribbean ride. 

Disneyland Delays Reopening

According to Disney Imagineer President Bob Weis, designers have been working on the Splash Mountain redesign for more than a year. 

Weis said conceptual design work is still in progress and will be followed by preliminary reviews that will help develop a timeline for the transformation. 

That process will likely be affected by the coronavirus pandemic—especially after Disneyland delayed its reopening this week. The park had been set to reopen on July 17. Notably, that date marks its 65th anniversary.

Now, the park said it will wait for state guidelines before determining a new target date to reopen. Part of the decision to extend its closure was due, in part, to California not planning to issue theme park reopening guidelines until after July 4. 

The company has said that timeline would not give it enough time to bring back its crew and prepare for a mind-July reopening.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) later expressed his support for the delay.

“The governor appreciates Disney’s responsiveness to his concerns about reopening amid the recent increases in COVID-19 infections across many Southern California counties,” spokesperson Nathan Click said in a statement. “The state and our public health experts continue to be in contact with the company and their workers—as well as other theme parks in the state—as we track and combat the spread of the virus.”

See what others are saying: (LAist) (CNN) (The Los Angeles Times)

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The Try Guys Address Removal of Ned Fulmer: “We Had No Idea This Was Going On”

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The group said that by severing ties with Fulmer, it felt like they were losing a friend. 


“That Is Not What We Stand For”

Digital comedy and sketch group The Try Guys posted a video on Monday night explaining the recent removal of member Ned Fulmer. 

Last week, the Internet was filled with speculation that Fulmer, who is married with children, was having an affair with a staffer for The Try Guys. Fulmer confirmed the reports, claiming he had a “consensual workplace relationship.” The Try Guys quickly announced that Fulmer would no longer be working with the group as the result of an internal review. 

In Monday’s video, the remaining three members, Eugene Lee Yang, Zach Kornfeld, and Keith Habersberger, explained what led to their decision to remove Fulmer. While the trio noted there were legal issues that prevented them from sharing certain details, they wanted to be as transparent as possible. 

“On Labor Day weekend, multiple fans alerted us that they had seen Ned and an employee engaging in public romantic behavior,” Habersberger explained. “We reached out to check on that employee and Ned confirmed the reports, and since confirmed that this had been going on for some time, which was obviously very shocking to us.”

He emphasized that the rest of the group “had no idea this was going on.” 

After this, The Try Guys reached out to a variety of lawyers and HR professionals to make sure they handled the situation correctly. 

“This is something we took very seriously,” Yang said. “We refused to sweep things under the rug. That is not who we are, and that is not what we stand for.” 

Removing Fulmer From Content

They decided to immediately remove Fulmer from work activities and hired an HR rep to conduct a review. Fulmer was also withdrawn from releases pending the results of that review. 

As part of this, his video section was erased, he was digitally taken out of some content, and he was not included in merch drops. The Try Guys said this was a long and tedious process. 

“Honestly, I want to give major props to our editing staff for how deftly they handled that,” Kornfeld said. “There are several videos that we have deemed as fully unreleasable, you will never see them, and that is due to his involvement. And that is a decision that has cost us lots of money.” 

“We will not be able to recoup that money,” he continued. “But it’s a decision we stand by proudly.” 

The group declined to share details of the review but claimed it found that Fulmer engaged in “conduct unbecoming” of the team. Because of this, Yang, Kornfeld, and Habersberger gave written consent on Sept. 16 to ax Fulmer as a manager and employee of The Try Guys company. 

The three said they were always planning to make a public statement about their decision, but were initially waiting out of respect to the families and employees involved. As online speculation arose, they chose to deal with it sooner. 

“We’re losing a friend, we’re losing someone we built a company with, we have countless memories with, we just made a TV show together,” Kornfeld said. “I’m sure many of you feel the same way.” 

According to the group, some upcoming videos featuring Fulmer will be edited to remove him. They said they are currently taking time to reimagine their channel. 

See what others are saying: (USA Today) (People) (Deadline)

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Bruce Willis Denies Rumors He Sold His Likeness For Deepfake Use

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Deepfakes face criticism from Hollywood to social media.


Willis Debunks Rumors

Actor Bruce Willis denied rumors over the weekend that he sold his likeness to the deepfake company DeepCake. 

Willis agreed last year for his face to be used in a commercial for a Russian telecoms company. For this commercial, DeepCake digitally edited Willis’ face onto a Russian actor. This sparked rumors that Willis had sold the rights to his likeness for the company to use in future projects. 

However, both management for Willis and DeepCake itself denied any partnership or agreement for these rights.

“Bruce couldn’t sell anyone any rights, they are his by default,” DeepCake said.

Agreements for the AI generation of actors have been heard of before, however. Recently, actor James Earl Jones agreed for his voice to be technologically generated for the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise. 

Deepfakes Online

This comes as deepfakes are facing mounting criticism online, including from prominent YouTube personality and author, Hank Green. He recently tweeted about a channel that uses similar deepfake technology and AI-voice generation to parody popular YouTube creators. He stressed his concern that while the channel in question may not be nefarious, this technology could end up being harmful. 

“There are ways to do this that would be much worse, more mean spirited, and more exploitative than this,” Green said. “And I’m very worried about what that will look like, because if this is working (and allowed), people will do it.”

Among other issues, Green mentioned these videos could abuse monetization and sponsorship opportunities while exploiting someone else’s face and brand. Green even implored YouTube to evaluate its terms of service as the popularity of deepfakes rise. 

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Mashable) (The Telegraph)

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Twitch Faces Backlash After Booking Megan Thee Stallion At TwitchCon Amid Creator Pay Cuts

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The cut in revenue share has ignited severe backlash on Twitch, where users argue pay for creators should be increased, not slashed. 


Revenue Share Shake Up

Twitch users are criticizing the company for hiring artist Megan Thee Stallion to perform at TwitchCon just one week after announcing cutbacks to top creator pay.

Last week, the video and streaming platform said that starting in June of next year, some creators will receive less revenue from their subscriptions. While the standard split for subscription revenue is 50/50, some major streamers previously received a more favorable 70/30 share in premium agreement terms. 

Many creators have long argued that everyone should get that 70/30 share, but Twitch took a step in the opposite direction. In the future, streamers with premium terms will only get the 70/30 slice for their first $100,000 from subscription revenue. After that, they will get bumped down to the regular 50/50 cut. 

The company argued the move was necessary as the premium terms previously lacked transparency and consistency, insisting it tried to modify the policy in a way that impacted the least amount of creators. According to Twitch’s statement, 90% of streamers on standard agreements will not even be impacted by the change.

Still, this move outraged Twitch users who were furious the company was not investing more in the creators that bring so many viewers to its platform. Those frustrations were exacerbated on Wednesday when the company announced Megan Thee Stallion would make an appearance at TwitchCon, a weekend-long event set to take place in San Diego in early October. 

Backlash Continues to Mount

While no details of Megan Thee Stallion’s agreement to perform have been disclosed, one can assume she charges a pretty penny to book at an event of this nature. Critics argued that if Twitch is willing to spend money on her, it should be willing to spend it on its own streamers. 

“So Twitch can’t afford to pay their creators 70/30, can’t fix their media player that crashes after each ad, can’t enforce their policies so people aren’t doing inappropriate things on stream, but they can afford paying celebrities to promote their streaming site?” one person wrote. 

“It’s weird that a company that just announced a bunch of budget cuts due to infrastructure costs goes out and grabs an A-list musician instead of promoting their own musicians that run on their platform,” another person claimed.

“Instead of giving your creators a cut they deserve when they do so much work, this is what you do…?” one user asked. “Maybe give your creators a better deal instead of wasting their hard earned money on things we don’t even want.”

Twitch has not responded to the outrage, but Megan Thee Stallion was not the only music act the Amazon-owned service booked for the event. Kim Petras and Meet Me at the Altar will also take the stage at TwitchCon. 

The backlash comes as concerns have been mounting against Twitch for a plethora of reasons including creator pay, gambling streams, and more. 

In recent months, some of the platform’s biggest names have left Twitch in favor of rival services like YouTube Gaming. 

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (The Verge) (Metro)

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