Snow White asleep in the grass beneath a tree

Backlash over ‘true love’s kiss’ in Disney’s New Snow White ride due to ‘lack of consent’

After Disneyland finally reopened, the newly renovated Snow White ride stirred up controversy. The original ride, Snow White’s Scary Adventures in Disneyland, was replaced by Snow White’s Enchanted Wish. As opposed to the fun but frightening ride of the past, the new one presents a more cohesive and magical story — including the final scene where the Prince wakes the sleeping Snow White with true love’s kiss. 

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The San Francisco Gate newspaper describes it as, “A kiss he gives to her without her consent, while she’s asleep, which cannot possibly be true love if only one person knows it’s happening.” The article called for the removal or reimagining of the ride’s final scene to avoid this problem. [1] While the article criticized the 2021 ride specifically, it sparked a debate about consent and the original film’s true love’s kiss scene.

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The Impact of Snow White 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was groundbreaking at the time of release. It was the first animated feature film produced in Technicolor and English. Many people tried to discourage Walt Disney from the project, saying no one would want a feature-length cartoon about a fairy tale. But when it premiered on December 21, 1937, its audience gave it a standing ovation. When it was released to the public that February, the film grossed $8 million, the most money any film made at that point. Disney won an honorary Academy Award for the movie, and some of its songs were nominated for an Oscar. [2]

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While the film’s cultural impact is undeniable, the issue of consent in the final scene has been debated wildly for years. Many people argue that it’s problematic to romanticize a nonconsensual kiss. This argument also applies to Sleeping Beauty. Critics also point out the sexist message of how the princesses wait for a man to rescue them instead of being proactive. 

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Read: Cinema Replaces Seats With Double Beds

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However, not everyone finds fault with the “true love’s kiss” because of the unique context. They argue that Snow White was romantically involved with the Prince from the beginning; he wasn’t a stranger. And more importantly, the Prince’s only other option was not to kiss Snow White and let her sleep forever. According to Fox News host Todd Piro, the kiss compares to giving CPR. “And I don’t think anybody is looking at the Prince Charming kiss of Snow White and saying, boy, that’s a microcosm of date rape culture in college… I’m not saying date rape culture in college is a positive thing. I have a little daughter right upstairs here in my home. Absolutely don’t want that, but let’s disaggregate this. This is a cartoon; this is a fable from many, many years. It is not what we all fear as dads of daughters.” [3]

Disney Imagineer Jim Shull worked there for over 30 years, and he defended the true love’s kiss scene in the new ride. “Allowing for the fact that cultural changes occur over decades it must be acknowledged that in the context of the tale on which the film is based that the ride is accurate. People are of course allowed to dislike the story but the Imagineering team did a spectacular job!”

Some parents use Snow White and similar films with outdated messages to discuss topics like consent with their children. Others prefer to only show them films with more updated morals. As such, parents decide whether to take their kids on the new ride or not. 

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As The San Francisco Gate surmises, “…With the twinkling lights all around and the gorgeous special effects, that final scene is beautifully executed — as long as you’re watching it as a fairy tale, not a life lesson.”

Other Disney Ride Changes

Snow White’s ride originally didn’t have the true love’s kiss scene. Instead, it had scary images and jump scares that left some kids crying afterward. This could have been one of the reasons for the change to Snow White’s Enchanted Wish. However, there are two new ride updates with less innocent reasons.

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Splash Mountain is a Disneyland staple, but you don’t recognize any of the characters; it’s because it’s based on the 1946 film Song of the South. The film is no longer distributed due to its problematic racist tropes, depicting stereotypical “happy black slaves” after the Civil War. Because of this, it’s being “re-themed” to fittingly depict the Princess and the Frog, Disney’s first black princess film. [4]

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Similarly, the Jungle Cruise ride is also under construction as Disney works to remove racist depictions of Indigenous people, such as “Trader Sam” selling shrunken heads and primitive African “headhunters”. 

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As Imagineers, it is our responsibility to ensure experiences we create and stories we share reflect the voices and perspectives of the world around us,” says Disney executive Carmen Smith in a statement. [5]

Keep Reading: Hank Azaria apologizes for voicing Apu in The Simpsons

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Sources

  1. “Disneyland’s new Snow White ride adds magic, but also a new problem.” SFGate. Julie Tremaine, Katie Dowd. May 1, 2020
  2. “Disney releases “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” History. February 3, 2020
  3. “Disneyland’s Snow White ride faces backlash over Prince Charming’s kiss.USA Today. Gabriela Miranda. May 5, 2021
  4. “Disney Announces Redesign Of Splash Mountain After Some Call Ride Themes Racist.” NPR. Austin Horn. June 25, 2020
  5. “Disney Will Remove Jungle Cruise Ride’s Colonialist Depictions of Indigenous Africans.Smithsonian Mag. Livia Gershon. January 27, 2021
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