In the last few years, the Walt Disney Company has made obvious efforts to remedy their past failures when it comes to political correctness, especially within some of their older movies and even current attractions.
On Disney Plus, for example, movies like Peter Pan, Dumbo, Aladdin and Aristocats now include disclaimers of racist imagery. These warnings, which aren’t able to be skipped, emphasize that the stereotypes and imagery have always been wrong, and the company would rather acknowledge the harmful impact and create conversation, rather than just ignoring their past actions. The disclaimers also offer information to a website that goes further into depth about why the scenes are problematic and harmful.
The scenes and characters in these movies are not the only racist depictions Disney has been accused of recently. This past June, Disney announced they would be redesigning “Splash Mountain” to become a ride focused on Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, their first Black Princess, rather than revolving around a movie set in the Reconstruction Era, that has had innumerable complaints of racist and stereotypical themes and imagery. Disney faced some backlash from this announcement, as some argued that the ride’s current inspiration, “Song of the South” is not offensive, and others believed that this announcement was conveniently timed due to the civil movement that was ongoing, following the death of George Floyd in May. Disney denies these claims as they have stated the redesign has been in the works since 2019 and the company had already voiced their support for the Black Lives Matter movement; in addition, they have explained that the reimagining of the ride will not only make it more relevant to new generations but more inclusive as well.
Disney announced on Monday that the “Jungle Cruise” attraction at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World will be joining “Splash Mountain” with some reimagining of outdated imagery seen on the ride. The concept of the “Jungle Cruise” attraction is that you are being taken on a pun-filled tour of a wild research expedition. Throughout the experience, riders are “attacked” by natives of the land, all dressed in tribal gear and wielding spears, something many see as stereotypical and harmful to indigenous cultures. In addition, riders meet a character known as “Trader Sam”, a dark-skinned man holding shrunken heads, who is made to seem greedy or conniving as he offers to trade you “two of his heads for one of yours.” Many park visitors and Disney fans have complained to the company that this racist imagery is perpetuating the stereotypes that historically surround people of color. After considering these complaints, the Walt Disney Company admitted that the changes were “long overdue”, and their goal through the upcoming redesign is to make the ride “more inclusive and less racially insensitive” for all their guests.
Disney had also already been in production of a movie that followed the story of the attraction, yet its release had been postponed by the coronavirus in anticipation of it being a theater release. A company spokesperson explained that the changes in the ride will be independent of the anticipated movie, and any “unsavory depictions of indigenous characters” will be updated in the film as well.
Through Disney’s recent actions and public statements, it is clear that they are making an active effort to acknowledge, correct and inform others of their past indiscretions, as well as willing to listen to the complaints in order to make changes that will be more inclusive for all of their guests.