Disney fans are another step closer to goin’ down the bayou at Walt Disney World and Disneyland on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, the “Princess and the Frog”-themed reimagining of Splash Mountain coming to Magic Kingdom park and Disneyland park.
Disney has announced that Disney World’s version of Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom park will close permanently on Jan. 23, 2023, to make way for the new attraction. They’ve also shared a first look at original characters and a new scene being developed for the new ride. With an opening date of 2024, it’s not quite time to start singing “We’re almost there,” but we’re definitely on our way. Here’s the latest on what to expect from Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
Trading the Briar Patch for the Bayou
Disney first announced the impending retheme of Splash Mountain on June 24, 2021. The popular log flume ride that opened in 1989 at Disneyland and 1992 at Walt Disney World has been the subject of ongoing controversy due to its characters and storyline, which are based on the racist 1946 film “Song of the South,” a film Disney CEO Bob Iger called “not appropriate in today’s world.”
The new attraction, which picks up where the 2009 animated film “The Princess and the Frog” left off, will preserve the iconic “mountain” structure, giving it a new backstory rooted in the real-world setting for Tiana’s story, New Orleans, Louisiana. Walt Disney Imagineers researched the region extensively and identified one of the only geological structures in Louisiana with elevation, Avery Island, a salt dome that stands 163 feet above sea level.
Splash Mountain no more, the salt dome and surrounding area will be a base of operation for Tiana’s Foods, an employee-owned cooperative Tiana has established on the heels of the success of her restaurant, Tiana’s Palace. Through Tiana’s Foods, the entrepreneurial princess engages folks in her community and passes along some of her own business acumen.
In a video shared on the Disney Parks blog, Carter, a lead Imagineer on the project, explained the premise of the new attraction.
“Tiana actually invites us as the guests to go on an adventure with her in the bayou,” Carter said.
The ride will feature well-known characters from the movie, like Naveen and Louis the alligator, plus new characters (read on!), culminating in what Carter called “the ultimate Mardi Gras party.”
Splash Mountain and Tiana Both Get New Looks
Fans got a first look at a scale model of the new attraction on display at Disney’s D23 Expo in September, as well as video and concept art of the ride at night. The ride will employ a combination of practical and digital lighting, scenic paint and Audio-Animatronics to create visual effects Walt Disney Imagineering Executive Creative Producer Charita Carter and the team of Imagineers on the project refer to as “Bayou Magic.”
On the ride, Tiana trades her ball gown for a more practical look, which was first revealed at ESSENCE Festival of Culture. In an interview with D23, costume designer Ida Muldrow and cosmetology manager Tisa Powell from Disney Live Entertainment explained that the new look is the product of extensive research to create an authentic, timely look that a Southern Black woman might have worn on a journey into the bayou in 1927.
“The goal was to be authentic,” Muldrwo told D23. “Even though it is a fairy tale, it’s extremely important to bring out the pride and the dignity of the African American culture at the time.”
Careful thought was also given to Tiana’s new hairstyle.
“One of our goals was to represent the different hairstyles that African American women wore back in those days,” Powell told D23. “I think it’s great that Tiana is representing that era [in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure] with a beautiful hairstyle that is true to what African Americans wore then.”
New Furry Friends Revealed
In the latest piece of concept art to be revealed, Disney has shared a first look at a band of new animals guests will encounter when they first enter the bayou. Joining the familiar alligator Louis, a group of animals, including an otter, rabbit, raccoon, beaver and turtle, can be seen playing musical instruments they’ve created from found objects in the bayou.
The music the animals are playing, Walt Disney Imagineer Carmen Smith explains, is zydeco, “a special blend of rhythm and blues that was born in Louisiana” and “brings together the sounds and styles of many cultures.”
Earlier on in the design process, Visual artist Sharika Mahdi, an alumna of the YAYA (Young Aspirations Young Artists) Arts Center in New Orleans, was commissioned to create original paintings to help inspire the creative team and as can be seen from Mahdi’s piece showcasing the musical animals here, that inspiration comes across prominently in the new scene.
Familiar Voices Return
Carrying on the projects commitment to authenticity, the ride will also honor its film inspiration, bringing on several members of the original 2009 “The Princess and the Frog” cast to lend their voices to the attraction, including Disney Legend Anika Noni Rose as Tiana, Bruno Campos as Naveen, Michael-Leon Wooley as Louis, and Jenifer Lewis as Mama Odie.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is scheduled to open at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland in 2024, but a closing date for Disneyland’s Splash Mountain has yet to be announced. In the meantime, Disneyland has already debuted a new “Princess and the Frog”-themed addition to its New Orleans Square area. Eudora’s Chic Boutique Featuring Tiana’s Gourmet Secrets is a new shop opened by Tiana in partnership with her dressmaker mother, Eudora, and sells home goods, apparel and accessories.