Rex isn’t the only New Orleans royalty with a Fat Tuesday proclamation to make. Princess Tiana has one, too.
In a Mardi Gras morning announcement, Disney Parks revealed that Walt Disney World’s forthcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure attraction — a “Princess and the Frog”-themed replacement of its old Splash Mountain log flume ride — will roll sooner than previously expected, with a debut set for this summer.
Announced in June 2020, the re-themed ride was initially scheduled for an opening in late 2024. That was later changed to simply “2024.”
While the exact opening date has yet to be announced, Tuesday’s news of a summertime opening is the most specific yet.
It is also the surest sign yet that work on the re-theming is nearing the home stretch.
‘Everyone has the potential’
“The heart of Tiana’s story reminds guests that everyone has the potential to make their dreams a reality,” Disney said in Tuesday’s announcement.
“With teams of Imagineers, Disney Animation artists, cast members and Louisiana artisans working together, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is sure to pass a good time when it opens at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida in summer 2024 and later in 2024 at Disneyland Park in California!”
The new attraction will use the same ride track as Splash Mountain, including its famous guest-drenching drop, although it will include all-new advanced audio-animatronics representing dozens of characters from 2009’s “The Princess and the Frog,” according to Tuesday’s announcement.
That will include characters familiar to fans of the film, including Princess Tiana, Louis the trumpet-playing alligator, Mama Odie, Eudora, Charlotte, Prince Naveen and Prince Ralphie, as well as a number of new characters.
The timing of Tuesday’s reveal was no coincidence.
Since the re-theming was announced, Disney Imagineers have made repeated research trips to New Orleans to ensure they nail all the New Orleans details, as well as to ensure locals that the finished attraction will serve as what they have described as “a love letter to the city.”
To that end, they have enlisted a variety of local artists and artisans to help guide them.
That notably includes the family of culinary icon Leah Chase, whose real-life story was the inspiration for Princess Tiana’s (amorous amphibian excepted).
In addition, they commissioned New Orleans artist Shaarika Mahdi to create concept art to serve as an aesthetic North Star; Baton Rouge artist Malaika Favorite to design a mural adorning part of the ride structure; and master blacksmith Darryl Reeves, also of New Orleans, and apprentice Karina Roca to craft a one-of-a-kind weather vane for the ride’s exterior.
Musicians such as PJ Morton and Terence Blanchard were also recruited to record original music for the ride, which will play alongside tunes from the movie.
‘It is Mardi Gras season’
“It is Mardi Gras season at Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and the bayou will light up for a journey full of music, Mama Odie’s magic, and a whole boatful — log-ful? — of new friends, in preparation for a celebration where everyone’s welcome,” Disney said in describing the ride.
That spirit of inclusion was central to the decision to replace the racially problematic Splash Mountain. That ride was inspired by Disney’s 1946 “Song of the South,” which in turn took its cues from Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus stories.
In a January tour of the in-progress re-theming, every sign of the old attraction had been stripped out, replaced with artificial versions of native Louisiana flora, from cypress trees to Spanish moss.
Walt Disney Imagineering Executive Creative Director Ted Robledo said it will include a couple of subtle nods to its predecessor, but he made it clear that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is all about New Orleans.
“The city as a place is as important as a character,” he said. “The story reacts to the place. We’re starting to hint at that in the queue, to try to craft that love letter to New Orleans in every way possible.”