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Jess Harnell, Voice of Brer Rabbit on Splash Mountain, Speaks About the Attraction’s Future Retheme at Disney Parks

We learned in June that Splash Mountain at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland would be closing sometime in the near future to be re-themed to The Princess and the Frog. This is the main project Disney is emphasizing as they pursue their new Inclusion Key. The ride is based on Disney’s film Song of the South, which drew criticism for its racist stereotypes. Disney has been further criticized for keeping Splash Mountain around while otherwise trying to bury Song of the South. The voice of Brer Rabbit on the ride, Jess Harnell, spoke to ComicBook.com about the ride’s closure and his mixed feelings.

Harnell is probably best known for his work as Wakko Warner on Animaniacs, which is returning to TV this month after 22 years. But Splash Mountain was the first voice acting role he ever had.

“[Splash Mountain] is really, really dear to my heart, because it was the first character voice job I ever did, and I did most of the voices on that ride,” Harnell said. “And it gave me a great sense of joy knowing that wherever I was, sleeping, awake, whatever condition I was in at that time, somebody somewhere in the world was on Splash Mountain, and hopefully it was making them happy. I loved that idea. Since then, I’ve gone on to do a lot of other stuff at the Disney parks. Those are still going to be there.”

Harnell went on to say that, while he didn’t find anything offensive about Splash Mountain, he doesn’t want to be part of something that upsets people.

“I’ve had the experience of looking down from above on the Main Street Electrical Parade, watching kids’ faces light up when voices I did come out,” he said. “And there’s no greater feeling. To know that you gave people that happiness. Now, personally, I don’t believe that Splash Mountain was offensive, and I don’t believe that it alluded to anything offensive, but if it’s going to upset people or make people feel bad about something terrible, then I get it. I’m sorry to see it go, because I loved it. It was an honor to be involved, and I’m happy I had that chance. But I don’t want to be a part of anything that makes anybody hurt.”

There is no closing date or refurbishment timeline for Splash Mountain, but Josh D’Amaro did recently say that work on Inclusion projects is speeding up.

Source: ComicBook.com

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Dizzylander
Dizzylander
16 days ago

Very well spoken and humble. I can only hope they don’t cheap out on the new version.

Ronald Patterson
Ronald Patterson
16 days ago

Best line in the entire interview
 “I don’t believe that Splash Mountain was offensive, and I don’t believe that it alluded to anything offensive” the wants of the few have overridden the needs of the many

Abby
Abby
16 days ago

I didn’t think that there was anything offensive about the movie either. Back during the 20th anniversary of WDW Song of the South was even played at Fort Wilderness and many people besides me were there. Some people are just to sensitive these days!

Jm mk
Jm mk
16 days ago

So sad that cancel culture is so ignorant to reality and there are too many people caving in for no reason and cowering down. Shame.

Dan F.
Dan F.
15 days ago
Reply to  Jm mk

Yes….just like the old saying, “If you don’t study history, you’re doomed to repeat it !”

Mark
Mark
16 days ago

I guess it’s ok to stereotype literally every other nationality. I’m honesty disguised with this cancel culture. There is zero negativity with splash mountain unless you truly look for it. Which it can be found in anything if you look hard enough. This was my daughters favorite ride.

Oops
Oops
16 days ago

Oh no. Oh no no no. This makes it so much worse. All this time I figured, “well, at least some African-American actors got paid.” Now to find that a white actor who says he voiced most of the characters, including Brer Rabbit, continued in the multi-century tradition of blackface, making his voice sound “Black” to voice characters with African origins that are clearly meant to be Black surrogates. And he doesn’t see what’s offensive about it. Oh no no no.

Prince Naveen
Prince Naveen
15 days ago
Reply to  Oops

THIS. This is is the exact ideology Disney is pandering to, and, yet, you are still not satisfied. And you never will be until all of American history is gone to YOUR liking. If you don’t like it, then don’t go to Disney Parks. It’s that simple.

SplashFan
SplashFan
14 days ago
Reply to  Oops

Actually, Nick Stewart voiced Br’er Bear in the ride and the movie. He was African American.

Dale Golson Warriner
Dale Golson Warriner
16 days ago

Changing history will never work. Why are the opinions of a few more important than the opinions of us that love Splash Mountain. Our daughter is 17 and she has loved Uncle Remus her whole life. The movie “Song of The South” portrayed a sweet lovable man whose stories are enduring and encourages acceptance of all people. The ride must remain and the Princess and the frog should get their own swamp somewhere else in the park. If we change who we have been, every time the wind blows, we will never be anything that feels like home…

Ray
Ray
16 days ago

#savesplashmountain

Bob
Bob
16 days ago

Thank you, Jess. Well said.

Bill
Bill
16 days ago

Damn shame.

dreamfinder
dreamfinder
16 days ago

In other words, “I see nothing wrong with it but if there are Karens out there who don’t like it, well then I’m fine with the censorship!”

Last edited 16 days ago by dreamfinder
Mark Lopa
Mark Lopa
16 days ago

I can appreciate Mr. Harnell’s look on this, but I don’t share it. While I think “Princess and the Frog” should have its own attraction, it should not be at the expense of “Song of the South” and these great characters and songs. Disney could say until they are blue in the face this is just about progression and changing things and going along with Walt that the parks will never be truly finished because they will always be changing. I’m not buying it for a second. They’re using that to further–as the author put it–bury “Song of the South.”… Read more »

Dan F.
Dan F.
16 days ago

So….. Disney doesn’t want to offend anybody, and still be all inclusive. I don’t see how they can do both. Many folks are offended by all the Rainbow Days and merchandise that is around. We don’t see how that falls in line with Walt’s idea of a family park where (Tradional) mothers and fathers can bring their families.

Prince Naveen
Prince Naveen
16 days ago

More people need to speak out about this atrocity! The voice of us real Disney fans don’t count or matter to the company, apparently.

the_winding_sheet
the_winding_sheet
16 days ago

I think I’d say I’m feeling about 65/35 now. 65% disappointed because I’ve always enjoyed Splash Mountain, the characters and songs, the film from which they originate and just the general folksy vibes…and 30% excited because Princess and the Frog is in my opinion the best of Disney’s latter day animated features and there’s a lot of potential for some real cool ride elements based on it. Perhaps I’d be more excited if Princess and the Frog were getting a proper dark ride of its own somewhere.

Ronald Patterson
Ronald Patterson
14 days ago

I think a re-theme of Tom sawyer’s island would of been a great idea, with the paddle boat, the Missippy feel, they could of done a restaurant, and even some sort of a boat ride kinda like pirates or Navie revier, maybe even maelstrom. such a great missed opportunity

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