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Here's What's Really Behind Disney's Iconic Splash Mountain Ride

Sometimes a crisis really does result in opportunity. That was true for one group of Disney World guests who happened to be on the theme park's Splash Mountain ride when an unspecified mechanical issue interrupted their trip. Disney fansite Inside the Magic reported the incident, which included an impromptu behind-the-scenes tour of the ride.

In a video posted on Twitter, self-proclaimed "Disney dad" Trevor Grigsby documented what it looked like to walk off the log flume and onto the banks of Splash Mountain. In the video, we see the camera person following behind two other park guests and an employee (or "cast member," as Disney calls them) who leads them down the sides of the ride, where the various pieces of set decoration can be seen up close. They quickly slip through an exit door and end up outside at the back of the attraction. Unlike the lush, eye-popping front of the ride, the back looks like a normal street with several large warehouse buildings, some scaffolding, and even a retired log flume sitting on the ground. "Not so glamorous back here, is it?" the videographer cracks to the cast member.

The video is a fun (or horrifying, depending on how much you love Disney) glitch in the Matrix that shows just how effective the magic of theme park rides can be. However, as a different group of Splash Mountain riders found out recently, sometimes all you get out of a ride malfunction are soggy sneakers.

The time a Splash Mountain log flume sank

Back in August, Splash Mountain riders were subject to a different kind of ride malfunction. According to Inside the Magic, a log flume full of guests began to take on water mid-trip. A guest named Skyelar Ingersoll described the incident: "We were almost at the end of the ride. We started to notice [the boat] taking on water after the final drop... As soon as we stepped out the whole log was pretty much submerged underwater."

Ingersoll also shared the details of their experience on Twitter. They posted a video of a partially submerged flume, and stated that they got out of the log shortly after it began to take on water, but that "the Disney World employee decided to tell us that we should've stayed in the boat."

Another presumed passenger replied to that tweet with a video of their own, captioned, "Minutes before our boat actually went under, it got cut off but you can hear them say 'powering off.'" On the short clip, you can see the inside of the ride, and hear a cast member begin to make the announcement that the ride is shutting down. Yet another guest shared an image of their feet submerged in water at the bottom of the log.

It may not have been the Splash Mountain experience the guests were hoping for, but it certainly was a unique one. As if backstage exits and sunken log flumes weren't enough, Splash Mountain was in the news for another reason over the summer. But that story is about an issue with the ride that has nothing to do with mechanics.

The other reason everyone has been talking about Splash Mountain

In June 2020, Disney announced plans to revamp Splash Mountain. According to a report by Deadline, the remodel will see the ride updated and rethemed to tie in with the 2009 film The Princess and the Frog. This Disney animated feature takes place in New Orleans in the 1920s and stars Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a young Black woman with aspirations of opening up her own restaurant in the fabled food city. At the time of writing, there was no exact date for when these changes would be implemented.

The current version of Splash Mountain, first opened at Disneyland in 1989 and Walt Disney World in 1992, is based on segments of the 1946 Disney film Song of the South, which is notorious for spending most of its life locked in the Disney Vault. The movie takes place in the post-Civil War south, and has been heavily criticized for its portrayal of its Black characters and its uncritical look at the Reconstruction era. At the time of its release, Walter White, the Executive Secretary of the NAACP, said of the film that it "helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery" (via Forbidden Animation by Karl F. Cohen). It has never been released on home video in the U.S., and wasn't added to Disney+ when the streaming service launched (via Indiewire).

As America continues to struggle to come to terms with its history of racial injustice, calls for Disney to detach the beloved attraction from its tainted source material have long come from fans and critics alike. A statement by Disney officially announcing the retheming of the ride alleges that they had been planning on making the change since 2019 (via Inside the Magic). Given the lush concept art that accompanied the announcement (and how long it can take to make progress in a theme park), that's probably true — even if the summer of 2020 made the news particularly relevant.

We'll be waiting with bated breath to see how the upcoming retheming affects Splash Mountain — behind-the-scenes or otherwise.