Racist Figures To Be Removed From Theme Park Ride

A Dutch theme park will remove figures of bucktoothed Japanese characters and nose-ringed African cannibals from one of its attractions after complaints.

But a recent newspaper poll has shown that over 90 percent of respondents were opposed to changing the ride.

According to the management of the “De Efteling” theme park, the most popular in the Netherlands, some puppets at the controversial rides called “Carnival Festival” are too outdated and will be removed during the next round of maintenance.

Credit: CEN
A Japanese figure in the theme park ride “Carnival Festival”

On the Carnival Festival ride, visitors are taken through different scenes from around the world.

Over the last few years, several action groups have taken offence at how the puppets on the ride stereotype Asians as being “slit-eyed yellow people with funny teeth” and how another scene depicted Africans as “primitive tribes living in bushes”.

The theme park direction therefore announced that “the puppets will get looks which fit better with the time we are currently living in”.

The controversial puppets will be removed when the 35-year-old ride closes for major maintenance from 4th March until 31st May.

Efteling director Fons Jurgens however emphasised that all adjustments are done from their own initiative and not because of the pressure of anti-racism groups.

Jurgens said that the attraction will remain recognisable for its loyal share of fans, saying “it will continue to be a cheerful ride across the world”.

The exact changes have not yet been made public, although Africans will no longer be depicted with frizzy hair and nose rings but instead wear colourful traditional garbs according to media reports.

It is a remarkable change from comments from park management two years ago when they refused to cave in to demands from action groups.

Germans are depicted as beer-brewing monks in “Carnival Festival”

At the time, a theme park statement read: “De Efteling is based on characters out of myths, legends and fairy tales. If we depict the story of Snow White, it does not automatically mean as well that all stepmothers are evil”.

One man, who has visited the ride frequently in the last 10 years, said: There is nothing racist about the ride, it stereotypes every culture. The Dutch are all depicted wearing silly wooden shoes and the Germans drinking beer. People should see the humour in it.” 

Yet one person who just came out of Carnival Festival said it was “quite racist”.

He said: “All stereotypes are lumped together. There is no appreciation for any culture whatsoever.

Bert Outmayer, the now 96-year-old designer of the ride, is not too pleased with the park direction getting rid of his beloved puppets.

Outmayer said: “If they indeed adjust the puppets, they will not be foreign puppets anymore. A Chinese person just looks like this, and someone from Egypt for example looks as well completely different.”

He said that it is unfair to just focus solely on the African and Asian figures while also Europeans are stereotyped.

Credit: CEN
96-year-old theme park ride designer Bert Outmayer

He said: “The Dutch puppets wear wooden shoes, but not every Dutchman walks in them, right? It is ridiculous.”

It is not known if the Dutch theme park will also change another ride which has been much criticised in recent years.

Monsieur Cannibale, a tea cup ride in which visitors sit in spinning cooking pots around an African cannibal, was described once by a journalist from the Wall Street Journal as “a racist throwback to the days of the Dutch East India Company that made for more explaining.”

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Story By: Koen BerghuisSub-EditorJoseph Golder, Agency: Central European News


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