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Why the 'zip-a-dee-doo-dah' lyric is so controversial — and why Disneyland has removed it

Song earlier removed from Disney World at entrance, Splash Mountain
People visit Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on April 18, 2022.
Posted at 1:27 PM, Mar 04, 2023

Disneyland has removed the "zip-a-dee-doo-dah" lyric played during its park parades because it comes from a movie that has been criticized for racist portrayals of Black Americans.

In January, "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” was removed from the Magic Kingdom entrance music loop at Disney World and was played at Splash Mountain,which took heavy inspiration from this film, but closed.

The lyric initially appeared in the "Magic Happens" parade at Disneyworld when it debuted in March 2020. The parade returned after a nearly three-year hiatus because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Upon its re-introduction last month, spectators of the twice-daily parade, described as "celebrating magical moments from legendary Disney stories" on its website, now hear the lyric — "think of the happiest things" from "Peter Pan"— in its place.

The change to the parade's lyrics was first reported in the OC Register.

The song "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" originated in the 1946 film "Song of the South" that has long been criticized for stereotypes of "spiritual" Black men and its seemingly nostalgic view of the antebellum South.

Disney is in the process of cutting references to the film in other parts of it parks. In 2020, Disney Parks and Resorts announced that Splash Mountain was being "completely reimagined" at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, because the log flume ride is based on "Song of the South." It's being revamped to star the characters from the 2009 animated film, "The Princess and the Frog," which features Disney's first Black princess.

Disney said at the time that the new Splash Mountain concept is "inclusive" and "one that all of our guests can connect with and be inspired by." The Splash Mountain ride at Walt Disney World in Orlando has already been closed for remodeling. The new attraction is expected to open at both US resorts in 2024.

Disneyland officials told the OC Register in 2020 that the removal of the "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" song from the theme park resort is part of a continuous process to deliver an environment that features stories that are relevant and inclusive. The OC Register also reports that in 2020, the song was removed from music played in Downtown Disney, the shopping and dining district of the Disneyland resort, and in 2021 it was removed from the music played at the King Arthur Carrousel.

"Song of the South" is so controversial that Disney has locked it away for decades and even kept it off the extensive library of Disney+. Changes to the log flume ride came after Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 that spurred deep conversation and introspection in Hollywood regarding depictions of race in popular culture.

WPTV contributed to this report.