‘Keep the wenches’ Disneyland ‘toxic’ row as fans divided over attraction updates

Pirates of the Caribbean: New pirate Redd at Disneyland

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‘Toxic’ arguments have erupted on social media over Disney’s decision to ditch characters such as the Pirates of the Caribbean ‘wenches’. Some fans are furious at Disney’s ‘wokeness’ but others support the move to modernize the rides.

The latest row began when Bill Cotter, a former employee of the first park in Anaheim, California said he was shocked by levels of toxicity among fans.

Cotter runs and moderates a Facebook group of over 114,000 members called ‘Vintage Disneyland’ where users discuss their love for the theme park.

The former employee had asked users to complete the phrase “My Disneyland…” and found fans had a lot of anger to share.

He told SFGate: “My God, the hatred that was flying back and forth. Like ‘my Disney didn’t have whale-sized people stuffing food in their face’. What are you talking about? Body shaming is not acceptable.”

Some fans criticised Disney’s decision to remove a “wench auction” from the parks’ Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

The controversial attraction depicted women with a banner above them that read “Take a wench for a bride”.

The scene showed women being sold into sexual slavery and the display had been in place since 1967.

Disney have since replaced the scene with a wisecracking female pirate who is holding a bottle of rum.

When the “wench auction” was scrapped, one fan commented: “We need to stop shielding people from history. Why don’t we give all the pirates cellphones instead of interacting with each other?”

However another fan said: “If you’re upset that Disneyland updates attractions and you mockingly call it ‘woke’ there is something seriously lacking in your life. There are more important things.”

Disney has also turned the character of Jessica Rabbit, a nightclub singer from the film ‘Who framed Roger Rabbit’, into the head of her own investigation service.

Disney said Jessica’s new role was “more appropriate to today’s culture.” Previously the character was depicted in the boot of a car waiting to be rescued.

While reforms have happened at Disney parks all over the world, it is thought most of the complaints come from US fans.

Disneyland also changed its Jungle Cruise ride to withdraw “negative depictions” such as showing “natives” as “cannibals” this year.

Jungle Cruise had been called out for distasteful imagery for several years before the change was made.

Chris Beatty, a park designer said of the Disneyland updates: “We want to make sure everyone has the best time- that guests from all over the world can connect with the stories we share and that how we bring those to life are respectful of the diverse world we live in.”

Speaking about the toxic comments, Cotter said: “What frustrates me is that you’re trying to say you want to go to the happiest place on Earth and people just feel absolutely compelled to bring the outside world into it.”

Despite the ‘toxic’ complaints from some fans, Walt Disney World in the USA was the most visited theme park in the world in 2020.

Disneyland rides are designed by ‘Imagineers’ which the park describes as the “creative engine that designs and builds all Disney’s theme parks”.

Imagineers often have qualifications in architecture or design and getting a job as one is reportedly very competitive.

Disney has been contacted for comment. 

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