United States

Disney’s Splash Mountain

Have you ever wondered how the famous Disneyland ride got its name? Did you ever read any history about it? The story of the ride is based on a Disney movie,Song of the South which was filmed in 1946. The movie used parts of a collection of stories from Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit which came from a group of tales from Joel Chandler Harris .The collection of slave stories served as life lessons in general, but the setting and attitude of the characters became controversial  over time. The stories were written from African American folktales that Joel Chandler Harris had heard during and after the Civil War. from the 1860s and 1870s. He was from the southern state of Georgia where cotton fields were the backdrop of many African American people who worked so hard for so many years. Harris learned to write  by setting type as a printer’s assistant  near the Turnwold plantation, owned by Joseph Addison Turner who published the only plantation newspaper  in America. These trickster folktales were told by turner slaves. The stories came from the plantation slave culture,before and after the slaves were free. Splash Mountain was in the midst of a thorny, bramble like environment which leaves brer rabbit to get caught in a Tar baby which is a term that later offended many people.Unlike the story, the Disney movie, Song of the South, changed it to having Br’er Rabbit getting stuck in a beehive to avoid insulting people who did not like the image of a “tar baby.”

    Uncle Remus was a plantation handyman who tells the stories to a boy named Johnny from Atlanta, Georgia.  He had to move away from his father to stay with his mother at his grandmother’s plantation in the south.  He really wanted to run away and go back to live with his father.  Uncle Remus is a great story teller who describes the trickster Br’er Rabbit as a very clever as he outsmarts Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear.  Johnny learns many lessons from these stories that seem to be set before the Civil War because Uncle Remus and the character Aunt Tempy were slaves at the time.  Johnny relates to the stories of Br’er Rabbit wanting to run away from his problems because he wants to run away from the plantation and go back to Atlanta to live with his father.  Two main concepts of the slave stories are: you cannot escape your problems and there is no place like home.  Although the words “ slave” or “slavery” do ;;not surface in the movie, there is a strange acceptance that surrounds the characters as though they are okay with being oppressed by the plantation masters.  The complacency was the attitude of humble submission to slave owners during that era which is later protested when people were free to voice their opinion about these concepts in the movie.  The flip side to these stories, as  they were presented in the movie, is that the stories were somewhat healing.  Even though Johnny’s mother tells Uncle Remus not to tell any more stories to her son, the tales he has already told ended up saving Johnny’s life.  The protest against the movie is due to the broader concept of the larger story: “it is wrong to be free.”  The African American culture could feel these messages through the tales and through the attitude of the characters.

    The evidence of a southern African American who kept a quiet, accepting resistance to the institution of slavery was a glaring example of how people were kept in their place, long after the slaves were freed.  Uncle Remus stories have a main theme of innocent animals, the stronger types, showing their stupidity by their actions of trying to trap Br’er Rabbit is really representing the black slaves acting as tricksters and hereos.  The stronger animals representing the white slave owners.  The animals served as a symbol of the struggles of the African American community.  Splash Mountain was just a place that was part of the southern backdrop.  The reason the movie Song of the South was protested as racist is mainly due to the concepts taught through the characters.  Uncle Remus was a docile subservient man, accepting his place as a servant on the plantation.  The message was being sent: slavery was a benefit to the African American race, raising people up from being a savage to being a citizen.  This was very discriminating against their whole culture.  The tales of the polite,  respectful slave slave, using their clever trickery to survive their masters lead to them eventually overcoming their limitations and finding their own freedom.

    So, whenever you visit Disneyland, ride Splash Mountain and think about the history of America that was documented through the slavery culture  and all the tales of bravery.  This ride really means more than just a joy ride, it has its roots in the era of history that should never be forgotten so that it will never be repeated.  If you ever have the chance, watch the movie, Song of the South, so you can form your won opinions about the way people were treated in the past.

Story by Nathan Aranda

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