We were not surprised to hear that Brer Rabbit will no longer be part of Disney theme parks as the company redesigns Splash Mountain, a log flume ride based on characters from the 1946 film Song of the South.
The movie has always been a double-edged sword for Brer Rabbit lovers. The cartoon portions made the tales come to life for generations, but the live action parts featuring Uncle Remus included a depiction of the aftermath of slavery that was recognized as problematic and hurtful even in the 1940s. Disney had been considering changing the rides for several years and had come under increasing pressure to do so in recent weeks. The company has announced that it will re-theme the attraction around The Princess and the Frog, a 2009 animated film that featured the studio’s first African American princess.
It seems like a wise decision to us.
Fortunately, Disney’s version of Brer Rabbit is not the only one available to fans of the iconic trickster. The Wren’s Nest encourages those who loved the ride and its characters to seek out the stories themselves. Our storytellers perform every Saturday, sharing the stories in a way the emphasizes their origins in the African American oral tradition. You can also read the stories in Joel Chandler Harris’s books or in more easily accessible modern versions like Van Dyke Parks and Malcolm Jones’s JUMP! and Julius Lester’s The Adventures of Brer Rabbit. If you want to preserve Brer Rabbit, we encourage you to read, listen to, and share to stories. Or you can donate to The Wren’s Nest to help continue to preserve them (wrensnest.org/donate).
Even if Brer Rabbit will no longer be the star of a theme park ride, it doesn’t mean that he and other critters need to disappear from our culture and memories.
You can read more about the decision here.