After three decades of delighting fans and drawing controversy, the iconic Splash Mountain ride has officially closed for good. Splash Mountain has been a staple of Disney Parks since the first one opened in California in 1989. The popular log flume opened in Disney World in 1992. January 23rd, 2023 marks the official closing date for the Disney World version, which shuttered its doors for good and is slated to undergo an extensive remodel.
Splash Mountain featured a slow and peaceful climb up the mountain through animatronic scenes. The ride built tension by slowly approaching the summit. At the time, the ride featured cutting edge technology and state-of-the-art robotics. The original ride didn't feature lap bars until 2011, with riders sitting in simple open top flumes. At the top, riders were plunged down a 52' drop, reaching speeds of 45 mph before creating a large visible splash at the bottom.
In the lead up to the ride's closure, fans were divided about the state and status of the attraction. Proponents of the ride hailed it as a classic part of the Disney landscape that should be tweaked and modernized but not completely redone. Opponents said the ride was rickety and aging at best and racist at its worst. Splash Mountain also suffered bad press from public mechanical failures, such as boats sinking before reaching the top of the ride.
Disney executives have allegedly been discussing a theme change and rewrite of the ride for years. It seems like those plans are finally coming to fruition.
The new ride will be based on Disney's 2009 The Princess and the Frog film and will feature Princess Tiana, Disney's first African American princess character, as the focus. The new theme will be in contrast to the original theme, which featured characters from the controversial 1946 film Song of The South, which was lambasted for featuring the antebellum south in a positive light and featuring stereotypical images of African Americans. The new attraction will be called Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The new ride is slated to reopen in late 2024.
Disney has included Disneyland California in its marketing for Tiana's Bayou Adventure, saying that the original Splash Mountain in California is also slated to be transformed and is also due to reopen in late 2024. However, no closing date has been given for Disneyland's Splash Mountain. California's Splash Mountain ride was the original. It opened years before the one in Disney World came online.
The original Splash Mountain featured a heavy advertising campaign, including a television special to help drive interest in the new attraction. Based on the visibility and love for the ride, it is safe to say the advertising push worked.
Fans of Splash Mountain looking to ride the iconic classic one more time will likely have to book a ticket to Disneyland in California. An iteration of Splash Mountain is also still in operation at Tokyo Disney in Japan. It is unclear whether Tokyo's Splash Mountain will also be facing closure in the near future.