Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Goes Bye-Bye

Disney has replaced a controversial song at its theme parks.

CNN (“Why the ‘zip-a-dee-doo-dah’ lyric is so controversial — and why Disneyland has removed it“):

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.

The lyric initially appeared in the “Magic Happens” parade when it debuted in March 2020. The parade recently 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 both 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 (DIS) 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 (DIS) 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.

The irony of “South of the South” having been locked away for decades is that most Disney park visitors have no idea where the Splash Mountain ride concept or “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” came from. They’re just Disney things.

It strikes me as weird to close one of the most popular rides at two theme parks to disassociate it from something which few associate it. But it’s their attraction; presumably, they’ve done the cost-benefit analysis.

The song, on the other hand, seems like a no-brainer. If even a relative handful of people find it offensive, changing to a non-offensive song from another Disney movie is something that can be done at essentially zero cost or effort. That they replaced one from a 1946 film with one from a 1953 film is, however, mildly amusing.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Popular Culture, Race and Politics, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tony W says:

    I can’t wait for the “conservatives” to be up in arms about Peter Pan replacing Uncle Remus, particularly given Cathy Rigby’s portrayal of Peter Pan, and their fetishization of “drag”. Is Peter a man or a woman? Is he trans? Is Disney woke?

    I’m sure DeSantis is preparing a press release this morning.

  2. Kylopod says:

    @Tony W: There’s a long history of gender-fluid characters in children’s literature, yet to my knowledge most of it went unnoticed at the time, even from the moral guardians who would get up in arms about stuff like witchcraft, masturbation, racial integration, and so on.

  3. Slugger says:

    Could we reserve terms like controversial for things that people are actually talking about? I haven’t heard much debate about this song at my local coffee shop. Likewise, people are not talking about Dr. Seuss or that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” song. This is all manufactured stuff.
    I don’t remember “Song of the South” as particularly racist. That is because the whole society was so racist that it didn’t stand out. In those days it was common to hear that black guys didn’t have the stuff to play quarterback. Why, yes, I am woke.

  4. Mister Bluster says:

    @Tony W:..Peter Pan

    When I think of Peter Pan it is always Mary Martin. After her Broadway run of 152 performances in 1954 it was a live NBC TV production first aired March of 1955. Per IMDb it was broadcast in color. No one in my neighborhood had Color TV but I remember my parents sending me down the street to my friend Susie’s house to watch the show.
    I have very dim memories of Mary Martin suspended above the stage floor flying across the tv screen. Obviously some sort of invisible rigging that fooled seven year old me. “How does Peter Pan fly like that?”
    It was some time after I saw this bit of TV magic that I discovered that it was an actress who played the Peter Pan role. “Mom, I thought Peter Pan was a boy. Why was Mary Martin playing him?”
    I have no idea what mom said in reply but it might have been something about how Mary Martin was smaller and it was easier for her to do the flying scenes. (am I imagining this or is it the wisp of a seventy year old memory? dunno)
    One thing for sure. My parents knew it was a woman playing the role of a boy. I am confident that they had no fear of me questioning my gender identity by viewing this role reversal. But then they never lived in Florida.

  5. Kylopod says:

    @Slugger: Well, there are two elements to what makes it a legitimate controversy. First, it’s important to realize these are all cases of companies doing their own accounting. It’s Disney’s choice to end the ride. And this has been part of an ongoing debate over the film that’s been going on for decades: the movie was never released on VHS or DVD, due to the controversy over its content. Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, I wasn’t even aware of the film’s existence (though curiously I do find the song “Zippity Doo Dah” familiar; maybe I heard it from clips or records as a kid).

    But the second element is that these choices by Disney (or Dr. Seuss’s estate, or any of the other folks in charge of decisions like these) are turned into controversies by Republicans who make a stink about it in order to create a narrative that there’s a war of “wokeness” on beloved cultural products from our childhoods. And as idiotic as this rhetoric usually is, it becomes a basis for real-world harm, as we’re currently seeing play out in Florida.

  6. Kylopod says:

    @Mister Bluster: I saw the Mary Martin version when I was around 12 or 13. I was weirded out by it.

    I’ve wondered for a while what the public reaction will be if they ever faithfully adapt The Land of Oz to the big screen. 1985’s Return to Oz is based on a mixture of that book and its sequel, Ozma of Oz, but Ozma appears only briefly in the film, the subplot about her being raised as a boy named Tip is eliminated, and most of Tip’s adventures are transferred to Dorothy.

    In 1960, the TV show Shirley Temple Theatre had an episode featuring a stage production of Land of Oz, with Temple herself (who was in her early 30s) playing Tip/Ozma, and she was surprisingly convincing in the role.

  7. Gustopher says:

    Given that “ Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” is one of Disney’s best known songs, I don’t know why they haven’t just repurposed it and stuck it into another movie., removing any racist verses if needed (I half remember the song)

    I could see Woody from Toy Story singing it, although they like to keep their Pixar properties very separate. But stick it in to something appropriate.

    Lots of songs have a racist past. Look up the original lyrics of “Oh, Susannah” and be shocked, etc. (That “shocked” is a funny joke if you know the original). Just change it, put it into a new context and move on.

  8. Lib'ral Cap says:

    So, I have that movie. As well as several other banned films & cartoons from that time.

    I have them because I am curious. and honestly one watch is all they will get.

    There is no question that “Song of the South” (set in the time just after the civil war) painted the race relationship as still very much master and slave on teh plantation on which it is set.

    If you are unsure why this is perceived problematic, I suggest that you jump forward to last year’s film “You People”.

    You People is very much a cringe comedy, however the challenges openly discussed in US race relations today are not wrong.

  9. Richard Gardner says:

    The whole segment/song is here, decide for yourself

    I think some prefer depressing music, “Mr Bluebird crapping on my shoulder….”

  10. Kazzy says:

    There’s a bit of irony in choosing a song/line from “Peter Pan,” what with its, er, controversial representation of Native Americans.

  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:
  12. Kylopod says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Yes, I’m well aware Peter Pan has been played by a woman for as long as it’s been staged, and was intended that way by J.M. Barrie.

  13. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod: Peter Pan isn’t even human.

    I don’t mean that in a “he’s a fictional character” way, but in a “within the context of the story, he was a newborn infant who decided he would become a bird, and then twelve other things happened and now he’s a n immortal bird-thing shaped like a human” way.

    If he’s not played by a parrot, it’s inauthentic.

  14. Richard Gardner says:

    As for Mary Martin (as Peter Pan) – her son was Larry Hagman, yes that Ewing you despised on Dallas.

  15. Jay L Gischer says:

    I’ve never seen the movie, but I sort of lament the loss of the stories collected by Joel Chandler Harris. It seems an act of love and remembrance. The tales of Brer Rabbit have stuck with me. “Don’t Throw Me Into That Briar Patch” is a thing you can use to describe certain situations.

    And the Tar Baby is also a brilliant metaphor. I’ve known certain projects that were referred to by engineers as “tar babies”. If you touch it, you will never be rid of it.

    I am quite willing to respect other people’s feelings if they don’t want to talk about certain things. I don’t, however, agree with them. Talking about painful things – in the right setting and with people you trust – is quite helpful, for all concerned.