Over the last few years, the Walt Disney Company has had to reckon with its past, and try its best to update the choices made for present sensibilities. This has led to Disney making updates to some of their more dated products, like plans to change the Song of the South-inspired Splash Mountain into a Princess and the Frog ride, removing stereotypes from their Jungle Cruise ride, and placing warnings before some films on Disney+. One blogger, however, has said for Disney to move away from their racist leanings, they need to move away from the man that started it all: Walt Disney.
WDW Pro has posted a blog where he states that Disney will eventually have to distance itself from Walt Disney. WDW Pro has a history of making grandiose statements, such as asserting that his site receives more readers than The A.V. Club, or saying that recent construction on a new Tron roller coaster means that Disney as a company has run out of money. But WDW Pro’s recent blog might be the most over-the-top statement from the blogger yet.
In the post, WDW Pro makes a lot of statements that don’t exactly hold water. First, WDW Pro points out that Disney admitting Song of the South is inherently racist by changing Splash Mountain hurts the company. If anything, changing Splash Mountain is the Disney company trying to right the wrongs of the past. At the time of its release, many thought of Song of the South as racist, and the fact that a ride was built in the 1980s that celebrates that film is truly bewildering. WDW Pro makes it sound like Disney should continue to embrace their racist choices, rather than atone for their mistakes.
But WDW Pro also says that if Song of the South is racist, that means Walt Disney was also inherently racist. While Disney continuing with the project knowing the controversy behind it doesn’t bode well for him, it was also a completely different time where racist stereotypes in films were far more prevalent. Even in the ‘80s, with films like Trading Places, blackface was still being used for comedic effect. Song of the South’s racist stereotypes doesn’t make Disney racist necessarily, but it does show that times have changed and that Disney doesn’t want to offend their audience by having a ride based around a film that helped pushed these stereotypes.
WDW Pro also mentions that since Walt Disney was anti-communist, the Disney company needs to distance itself from Walt Disney in order to do well in China. WDW Pro also states that there’s a “concerted effort brewing” to try to “besmirch the man who founded the company.” If anything, it seems like Disney is trying to update their company to modern standards, and not try to dissuade people from spending their money with Disney because they refuse to make up for the past choices of the company.
But the assumption that Disney absolutely needs to distance itself from Walt Disney to succeed in China is also a ridiculous statement. While the Chinese box-office is mostly comprised of domestic releases, seven of the top 20 highest-grossing films in the country from outside China were from Disney. In fact, the fourth highest-grossing film in China is Avengers: Endgame, which made about $700 million in U.S. dollars. China is also one of the only countries to have its own Disney park, with Hong Kong Disneyland. If Disney needs to get away from Walt Disney to succeed in China, there’s no sign that the Walt Disney name is slowing any success in China.
It should also be pointed out that Disney is a company obviously motivated by profits, and these changes that are being made are a way for Disney to update themselves in a way that shows the company as forward-thinking. But also, if Disney were to distance themselves from Walt Disney, that would cost more money for the company than what they’d get back in return. If anything, distancing themselves from Walt Disney and his known legacy would hurt the brand, rather than help it. Just the money it would take to change the names of literally everything Disney makes and rebrand would cost the company a ridiculous amount that they wouldn’t be willing to spend.
Honestly, WDW Pro’s post is more alarmist than anything, an idea that because Disney wants to make changes to some rides and post warnings before some movies that the company must make some insane gesture to atone for past choices. Instead, Disney is trying to stay modern and not allow weird choices made in the past to ruin anyone’s fun with their content and rides. It’s as simple as that. The Walt Disney name is here to stay, and there’s nothing that is going to change that in the near future.