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Disney Closes Splash Mountain; Segun Oduolowu is Interviewed about the Oscar Nominations. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 24, 2023 - 08:30   ET



HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Of any type. Of any type. But the big, moderate fans are 12 percent. So basically you have a dislike Ticketmaster and you upset the wrong crowd. And the result of that is that Senate hearing that we have later today, guys.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We learn something new every day.

Thank you, Harry Enten.

ENTEN: Thank you.

LEMON: Appreciate that.


LEMON: Disney World's Splash Mountain has officially been shut down after an outcry calling out the ride for being inspired by an old Disney movie that uses racial stereotypes, but still some critics are saying Disney made the wrong call. We're going to discuss, next.


LEMON: OK, so a live look now at Disney World this morning. You can see Epcot in the distance there. Just days after Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain ran dry. After 31 years, riders took their final splashdown before it closed for good on Sunday with some waiting nearly four hours at the height of the day.

Disney announcing in 2020 that it was planning to reimagine the ride after mounting complaints for its connection to the 1946 film "Son of the South," which has been criticized for racial stereotypes and its nostalgic view of the post-Civil War south.


The ride will be redesigned with Disney's "Princess and the Frog" in mind, a movie featuring Disney's first black princess, Tiana. Still, a 2020 petition to save Splash Mountain is still getting signatures with 99,000 people supporting the movement so far. The petition says that people don't understand on of the characters in "Song of the South," who many have deemed to be a stereotype of a spiritual black man and claims there is a misunderstanding of his relationship with his employers on a Georgia plantation, which takes place after the Civil War. It goes on to say, modifying Splash Mountain will not change history and will only encourage the easily offended to continue making desperate attempts at finding offence in additional attractions.

Back with us, CNN anchor and correspondent and host of CNN podcast "The Assignment with Audie Cornish," Audie Cornish.

OK, that was a lot. I mean -

HARLOW: I just wanted to say, like - whoo, for you.


LEMON: Yes. And - look -

HARLOW: But there's a lot there.

CORNISH: Yes, the culture wars are exhausting. They are. They are.

LEMON: It's a ride.

CORNISH: I mean, look, maybe there's going to be this big movement that's justice for Splash Mountain. But the truth is, Disney is in this, you know, got caught up in the culture wars the last couple of years. And right as the company is making sure to refocus on parks, which is the big revenue generator, you have this kind of issue coming up putting them back in the news, which is not ideal.

I hesitate to engage on the whole "Song of the South" part of it because I feel like it's practically an American pastime to kind of justify the legacy and history of things related to this Civil War. I mean it's -- that is actually part of the history and aftermath of the war itself is this romanticization of anything connected to it.

You guys are probably more into Disney World than I am. I mean do you -- is this like that?

LEMON: I'm not. No, no, no.

HARLOW: I - I told you I'm taking the kids.

CORNISH: OK, tell me, is this the most exciting splash you can do there?

HARLOW: I don't know. I've been like once. I went last year with the kids, but we're going again soon.

I'm interested in how you think, big picture, like, you talk about Disney focusing on the parks and being really lucrative. They've got a new guy in charge again. The old guy is back. He's not old, but, you know, the former CEO, Bob Iger, is back.


HARLOW: And I think it's going to be really interesting to see how he deals with these culture wars with Ron DeSantis because he was really outspoken on this, you know, the sort of broader issue when Florida went after Disney about a year ago then Bob Chapek was. Do you think new management changes things?

CORNISH: I mean it will be interesting to see how they try and walk the line.


CORNISH: Disney has done so much in the last few decades to really modernize its programming and the stories it's telling children, the way it presents families and ideas about families. That's very disruptive to people who see it fundamentally as a legacy brand and as something that is supposed to kind of look the same forever, you know what I mean? Like, Mickey Mouse always looks the same basically. And I think that seeing this pushback now has been very jarring for them. And it will be interesting to see how this boss comes back to it.

HARLOW: You can keep Mickey Mouse and do important things, like one of our favorite movies in our household is Disney's more recent "Princess and the Frog." And it is important for our children to see that diversity in these princesses. Come on.

CORNISH: Yes. And, you know, I think, again, this --

LEMON: But that's the key, I think.

HARLOW: What? What?


LEMON: That's the key, it is moving forward and doing characters that are more diverse.

So, listen, I have a - I think I have a --

CORNISH: So, you're saying, would they be fighting about it if the Splash Mountain wasn't moving to a film that was POC centered?

LEMON: So, this is what -- I feel very similarly, as I felt about "Gone with the Wind." So, we were talking about DeSantis and this whole idea. This is why you should be teaching these things, right, in schools.


LEMON: I think that this can be a teachable moment. I hate that cliche, but I think you can keep Splash Mountain and whatever it was based on and then teach kids about it. Look, Splash Mountain, no one -- you don't have to go to Splash Mountain. But kids have to go to a school. I would prefer that my kids not go to a school named Robert E. Lee. I would prefer the name to come off of it. But for a ride that is voluntary that you're going to go there for and it has a history, you can leave it and teach kids there and say, look, this ride was created around this movie, which was a stereotype of black, you know, whatever, and I think that -- CORNISH: I know, but it's like I don't go to - I don't go to corporate

media for teachable moments, unfortunately. I mean that - that's not how this works.

LEMON: Yes, but you don't have to go to Disney.

CORNISH: No one is going to be at Splash Mountain thinking about like eyes on the prize or something. Like, it's a dopey ride.

LEMON: I - yes.

CORNISH: And I think sometimes we let people move the goal post on culture war's discussions by drawing people into this kind of battle over this, you know, very silly thing. You know, it really gets you tied up into things that do not matter. You know, it is more significant for Governor Ron DeSantis to be tearing into the classroom saying what should and shouldn't be on the curriculum. It's far less so about, like, what color Splash Mountain is painted, you know?


I think it's a distraction from real political issues.

LEMON: Well, I'm just -- for me it's just a solution that if you want to keep Splash Mountain the way it is, again, it is voluntary. It is an amusement park.

CORNISH: The long list of things people want to keep the way it is gets longer and longer, right? I mean that -- that is part of this issue, right? Like, time marches on. There's plenty of things that we don't do anymore, including Vaudeville. But this idea now that there are like these certain traditions that only certain people get to pick and choose which ones we should keep, it's pervasive and it's exhausting.

LEMON: But don't you think - I mean it is -- it depends on what it is. Like, it should be case by case, don't you think? Isn't not - there's not like a --

CORNISH: Yes, but who's in -- who decides?

LEMON: I think we decide.

CORNISH: Well, it sounds like people with petitions decide.

LEMON: I think, you know, we were talking about the -

CORNISH: Yes, exactly.

LEMON: But, I mean, what is mean to anybody?

HARLOW: They said like 20 - what was it, that 21,000 signatures to change it.

LEMON: But is any - I mean they could - someone could just go on and keep voting and voting and voting. So it doesn't really matter. What does mean?

HARLOW: Yes. I'm not a - I --

CORNISH: Yes. No, is important. I'm just saying that I think sometimes when we get riled up in these debates we have to say to ourselves, what is this really about? Who's really behind it? And how much of a difference does it make to our material lives?

LEMON: So, you think Splash Mountain makes that much of a difference?

CORNISH: I'm saying people splash away. It's fine.

HARLOW: Yes, line up in the morning.

CORNISH: And if you need to put on headphones and play "Song of the South" to enjoy that ride, you get your life, you know. But I don't really think that that is a hill you want to die on.

LEMON: I do watch some of the cartoons and I'm like it's very - it's cringy. Very cringy.

HARLOW: I watched "Peter Pan" with the kids and I was like -

CORNISH: That's a whole other debate. I mean I won't be playing "Dumbo" in my house.


CORNISH: But, I mean, Disney knows that, right?


CORNISH: That's why they have made the changes they have.

HARLOW: Thank - thank you, Audie.

LEMON: Thank you. (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: Someone messaged me after your last segment with us in the 6:00 a.m. hour and said how great it was. And I said, she's a gift to our network anymore (ph). Thanks for being here.

CORNISH: Oh, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Check is in the mail.

LEMON: Gift to the world.

HARLOW: It is.

You can listen - Audie's a gift to your ears, too. You can listen to her podcast, "The Assignment with Audie Cornish." It's available wherever you get your pods.

Academy Award nominations just announced. We'll show you who's up for Hollywood's biggest awards, just ahead.

LEMON: Oh, boy. And a 21-year-old diver rescued hours after a current swept him away

from his family in the Florida Keys. You're going to want to see this. You're going to hear from him for the first time.

HARLOW: Yes. They find him. Oh.



HARLOW: Can't wait for you to see --

LEMON: I love this - I love this next story.

HARLOW: You should read it.

LEMON: I - no, no, no, go for it.

HARLOW: You should do it.

LEMON: No, no, I'll react. I'll react.

HARLOW: This morning's moment. He was lost at sea until his family showed up shouting his name. A 21-year-old free diver was swept away by a current in Key West, Florida, last week, prompting a frantic rescue mission. Here's the moment his family found him after he had been missing for hours in the north Atlantic.








LEMON: Oh, my gosh.

HARLOW: That is Dylan Gartenmayer. He grew up on the Florida waters. His family believes those years of experience saved his life. He was free diving last Thursday when he felt himself being taken by a strong current. By the time he resurfaced, the current had quickly drifted him far from the boat.

His two friends never saw him come back up. They got word to his family, who jumped in a boat, raced to the coordinates where Dylan was last seen. His cousin tells CNN, quote, the first thought was that he blacked out while diving and drowned. The worst feeling I've ever had. She added, everything was silent on that boat until the flashlight hit him and he put up his hands and we finally knew he was OK. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, that was amazing.




LEMON: I love the water. And I can imagine - and I know the currents can be crazy, right, because something can go wrong in just an instant in the water. But can you imagine hours without seeing --

HARLOW: No, I can't.

LEMON: But I think it was really smart. Obviously, he is more adept at navigating the waters than I am. He went -- they found him near a buoy. And I wonder if he was there, that buoy was helping him stay afloat.

HARLOW: Oh, like going to be -

LEMON: You can see the - the - like the big white balls in the water there.


LEMON: And I wonder if he was very -- he was near them. So, I'm wondering if he was kind of hanging on to those buoys or near the buoy to help. If you look, you can see that, but -

HARLOW: Someone - someone was on his side, that's for sure.

LEMON: See them right there?


LEMON: So, I mean they ran to the back of that boat and helped him on, and I would have been doing the same thing. That is amazing. I'm so happy for him. Congratulations to him and his entire family.

HARLOW: So happy for him.


HARLOW: Great story.


HARLOW: Now this.

LEMON: Now this.

The White House -- the White House invites new members of Congress over for an event today. It is unclear whether Republican Congressman George Santos will be there. And this morning, most voters in New York say that he should resign from Congress over the growing list of lies he told to get elected. Now, according to a Siena College poll of registered voters, nearly 60 percent say that he should go. New York Republicans are less likely than others to say that he should step down, but nearly half think that he should.


Remember, House Republicans just rewarded Santos with a seat on two committees.

I just said Sienna.

HARLOW: Oh, you were thinking of my daughter. Thanks. Thanks.

LEMON: I was. I was like, Poppy, does that cross your mind when you say that?

HARLOW: When I - or when I type - yes, well, when I text Sienna into a text, my husband's like, hey, babe, can you get Sienna, it types CNN.


HARLOW: I think that means I work too much.

Well, this is really exciting.

LEMON: Yes, the Academy Award nominations just dropped moments ago. We're going to break down all the major categories, next.


LADY GAGA, MUSICIAN (singing): So cry tonight, but don't you let go of my hand. You can cry every last tear.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, next up, the nominees for the best documentary feature film.

"All that Breathes."

"All the Beauty and the Bloodshed."

"Fire of Love."

"A House Made of Splinters."

And, "Navalny."


LEMON: OK, so, moments ago, the Academy announced the nominees for the 95th Academy Awards, which includes the CNN film "Navalny." Whoo-hoo.


HARLOW: So exciting.

LEMON: It was a year of big directors, big stars and big sequels for Hollywood. And now several block busters are contenders to win Hollywood's highest honor with familiar names like "Top Gun," "Avatar," "Black Panther" returning to theaters and shattering box office records. Indy films like "The Banshees of Inisherin" and "Everything Everywhere All at Once" breaking out and earning major recognition.

So, let's talk about the nominations here with entertainment journalist Segun Oduolowu.


LEMON: Shoots. I have to do that every time.

ODUOLOWU: No, you were great.

LEMON: Good to see you.

ODUOLOWU: But before we talk about these movies, like, are we cool with Colbert? Because I - I wore my - I wore my hood. Like, I'm not playing. Like, you don't come for the GOAT.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh, is this happening? Like -

ODUOLOWU: No, no, no, no, like, like, if there's still smoke, we've got - we're ready. I'm riding with Don Lemon.

HARLOW: What is this?

LEMON: This is all in good fun.

ODUOLOWU: I ride with Don Lemon. OK.

LEMON: I like it. I - what were you going to do?

ODUOLOWU: I'm just saying, like, whatever you want. I have him. We got to go (ph).

LEMON: I thought you were going to put your hood up. It's hilarious.

ODUOLOWU: No, no, no, but I'm ready whenever they're ready. LEMON: Thank you. It's all good. It was just all in -- all in good


HARLOW: Funness (ph).

LEMON: Thank you. But I'm glad you're a -- a lot of people said they wore the hoodies just because of the thing. We started a new trend.

ODUOLOWU: Yes, absolutely. We've got to let them know. Hollywood - you know how Hollywood is.

LEMON: So, let's talk about why we're here. "Navalny" winning - so what did you make of what you've heard so far of the nomination?

ODUOLOWU: Well, so, if you look at the Academy Awards right now and you look at what this show is going to be, you see a knee-jerk reaction to first the hashtag #oscarssowhite, but what happened in 2022. A lot of these nominees and even the people that are going to run the award show, it's, you know, Jimmy Kimmel is hosting again this year, right? So, we had Will Packer. We had the first ever black production and director. You had female hosts. And now because of maybe the Will Smith slap, it is a reversal. You're going back to something tried and true. And you see that even in the movies that are nominated. There's not as much diversity as we would like.

HARLOW: "Top Gun," "Avatar," "Black Panther."

ODUOLOWU: Right, blockbusters, true.


ODUOLOWU: But when you - when you look at the names, right, we want Angela Bassett, right? Will the queen finally get her due? But it's Angela Bassett and Viola Davis. Like, these are African American women whose names we are familiar with and it doesn't seem that the Academy stretched itself really. It's still a lot of the same. There's a bio pic with Austin Butler in "Elvis." There is a comeback with Brendan Frazier and "The Whale." It's basically paint by numbers again.

HARLOW: Huh, paint by numbers.

LEMON: Yes, I'm looking at these. It's -- it used to be like, in the old days, back in my day, like the people who were nominated and the films, you'd know every single one of them.

ODUOLOWU: Absolutely. Right.

LEMON: I'm looking at this and I'm like, well, I know "Top Gun," "Elvis" I kind of know, but like all of these other -- "Avatar," obviously, I know But I don't - like "Everything Everywhere All at Once." I'm like, what?

ODUOLOWU: Yes, no, that is -- that is Michelle Yeoh. It is a - it is a fantastic concept.

LEMON: It's a concept (ph). ODUOLOWU: And it's a concept of a film. But movies used to entertain us and take us to a different place. And they're really, with these blockbusters, is finally - finally the Academy is actually saying, the entertainment factor of a movie counts.

HARLOW: Like "Top Gun." Got a nod.

ODUOLOWU: Like "Top Gun." "Avatar." These are huge movies, right? These are huge movies with huge box office and that -- if you're a fan of the movies, that's what you want to see. You want there to be what you like as well as the art house flicks.

LEMON: So they opened it up. Is that why they're like - because it used to be like four or five, right?


HARLOW: There's more.

LEMON: And now I'm like, wow, this is a ton of films. Like --

ODUOLOWU: And - but let's think of that for a moment. They open it up for way more movies and we still don't get the diversity in film. The same directors that we've heard for decades, Spielberg, Baz Luhrmann, McDonagh, like, these are people that have been nominated before or their movies have won before. There's very few new even as they open it up to more slots.

HARLOW: And the Academy Awards are so important, obviously, for the capital gains in terms of how much more money films make and they can say -- but they're also really important because people will watch a nominated film that they might not watch before.

So, I think of our film, CNN film, "Navalny." The impact it has already had given this moment, Russia's war on Ukraine, given the imprisonment and dire health of Navalny himself, the fact that this has an Academy Award nod is huge for how many more people will see this and learn his story.

ODUOLOWU: Hopefully people will see it. I agree with you, Poppy, 100 percent, that if the award still had the glitter and the glam that they should, then this documentary will open eyes. But what we've seen is that that gold statue is not necessarily a golden ticket to eyeballs and those films and those actors and actresses even getting more work. I mean we think of Halle Berry winning an Oscar for "Monsters Ball," and --

HARLOW: I'll never forget that speech, that dress, all of that.

ODUOLOWU: And - but we don't see her getting the type of roles that an Oscar-winning actress should receive. And you see that a lot, unfortunately, with the Academy.

LEMON: That happened to -- that happens with a lot of people who win Academy Awards, they say their career after they win the award --


HARLOW: Really?



ODUOLOWU: Adrian Brody. I can go name for name.

LEMON: Yes, I've got to say, though, I've got to see "Everything Everywhere All at Once" because I love Jamie Lee Curtis, right?

ODUOLOWU: Yes, she's -

LEMON: And I love her, so I'm going to go see that.

But I have just one question before I go, and maybe there's no answer -

HARLOW: You've got 10 seconds they told us we have.

LEMON: Is that Angela Bassett -- does she ever age? I want to have whatever she's having.

ODUOLOWU: Whatever - whatever deal Angela made with the higher ups and by higher ups I mean the people upstairs, please tell me because I need that.

LEMON: Thank you, Segun.

ODUOLOWU: Thank you.

LEMON: That was fun.

HARLOW: Thank you for being here.

LEMON: Good luck to everybody.

HARLOW: CNN "NEWSROOM" starts now.