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Why some fans are calling on Disney to re-theme Splash Mountain

The ride at Disney World and Disneyland is themed after "Song of the South," considered the studios' most racist film.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It's no secret that the popular Splash Mountain ride at Disney World and Disneyland contains characters and themes from one of the company's most controversial films.

"Song of the South," released in 1946, is widely considered the studios' most racist movie. When the movie was released, the NAACP said the film gave the "impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship," according to the New York Times.

In it, the character Uncle Remus, a former slave, recounts African tales to young white children. The film won an Oscar for its song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," which can be heard on the Splash Mountain ride.

Because of its racist imagery, "Song of the South" is not available on Disney+ or any other streaming platform. It's also difficult to find on any viewing format.

When Disney+ launched, the company also sent out notes that some of its older films on the platform may contain racist stereotypes.

In 2011, Disney's then-CEO Bob Iger said don't expect to see "Song of the South" again for a while -- "if ever," the New York Times reported.

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Credit: AP
The character Brer Rabbit, from the movie, "Song of the South," is depicted near the entrance to the Splash Mountain ride in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Wednesday, March 21, 2007. Walt Disney Co.'s 1940s film "Song of the South" produced one of the brand's most famous songs _ the Oscar-winning "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" _ and inspired two theme park rides. Each lives on, but the movie remains hidden in the Disney archives, never released on video in the United States and criticized as racist for its depictions of Southern plantation blacks. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

But, "Song of the South" characters like Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear are still greeting and guiding riders to the Laughing Place on Splash Mountain at both Disney parks in the United States. 

The ride opened in 1992 at Magic Kingdom in Florida and in 1989 at Disneyland in California.

Some Disney fans are now calling on the company to retheme the ride. 

The calls for change at the theme parks come in the wake of global protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody. Floyd's death on Memorial Day sparked a reckoning over police brutality and institutional racism in the U.S. 

And, just this week, HBO Max removed "Gone With the Wind" from its platform. The 1939 film is set on a plantation during and after the Civil War in Atlanta.

RELATED: HBO Max temporarily pulls 'Gone with the Wind' amid racial tensions

Disney fans have launched a change.org petition to re-theme Splash Mountain after "Princess and the Frog." The petition has nearly 1,500 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.

Other fans agreed to retheme the ride, but suggested other films like "Emperor's New Groove," "Moana" and "Zootopia." There are several petitions on change.org asking for a re-theming to "Princess and the Frog" and at least one asking to keep the ride the way it is.

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Disney World and Disneyland have been closed for months because of the coronavirus pandemic. Disney World is set to reopen Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11 with EPCOT and Hollywood Studios reopening on July 15.

Disneyland has not announced a specific date for reopening.

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