Disney has revealed new concept art and info about the dozens of Audio Animatronics in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, the reimagined Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. This shares all of the details and our commentary about additions to the attraction and Imagineering’s use of storytelling.
As previously shared, the reimagined ride will be named Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and will bring guests into the world of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ film The Princess and the Frog. According to the company, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California in late 2024.
During the D23 Expo in Anaheim last year, Walt Disney Imagineering shared more details about the reimagined ride, including a model showcasing how Splash Mountain would be transformed. See our Photos & Video of the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Model, which offers a comprehensive look at the new exterior, queue, and on-ride details that’ll be added to the attraction as it becomes Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. (Note: that is specifically the Disneyland version of Splash Mountain. Minor changes, like the queue and log ride vehicles, are expected to differ.)
Earlier this year, Imagineering shared new backstory for the queue of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The set-up to the ride will essentially explain the “next chapter” of the story for Tiana, set after The Princess and the Frog. Within the queue, guests will discover that she continues to grow her business with Tiana’s Foods, which is an employee-owned cooperative. Combining her talents with those of the local community, Tiana has transformed an aging salt mine and built a beloved brand.
Work has also been moving along at a quick pace on the Walt Disney World ride reimagining. If you’re curious about progress as of Spring 2023, check out our comprehensive photo report: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Construction Starts with Splash Mountain Rockwork Removal. Suffice to say, crews are moving fast on the Walt Disney World version of the attraction. A lot has already happened, and we observed construction workers on site after midnight.
Our expectation is that the Disneyland project will move at a similar pace once Splash Mountain closes there next month.
Anyway, let’s dig right in with the new details about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Disney indicated today that progress continues on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, with Imagineers hard at work designing an immersive experience inspired by the Walt Disney Animation Studios film “The Princess and the Frog” and the heart and culture of New Orleans.
Today, Disney shared a first look at a new scene and some of the brand-new characters the company is creating specifically for this attraction. In Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, the magic of the bayou is calling and its enchantment will illuminate with a celebration during Mardi Gras season hosted by Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen. As part of that, Mama Odie will reprise her role as the catalyst to that magic.
As depicted in this newly released concept art for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, Mama Odie jokes with guests along their journey after a special display of her magic. The two-hundred-year-old Bayou Fairy Godmother, with her eccentric belongings and “seeing eye snake,” Juju, is comically eccentric, yet wise and all-knowing, throughout the adventure.
In addition to this, Disney revealed that the legendary actress Jenifer Lewis, who starred as the voice of Mama Odie in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ The Princess and the Frog, is once again returning to her role for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
If Mama Odie is a catalyst to the magic, then Sharika Mahdi is a catalyst to the Imagineers’ creations.
According to Walt Disney Imagineering, this New Orleans artist and YAYA Arts Center alumna has inspired their work on the attraction with a local’s perspective. As Imagineers bring our attention to Mama Odie and the important role she plays in Tiana’s story, here’s the latest in a four-part series commissioned from Sharika, which is a tribute to our wise and whimsical keeper of the bayou:
According to Imagineering, the long and flowing brush strokes offer visual cues for the floating journey that lies ahead in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Along with The Princess and the Frog, the WDI team continues to use Sharika’s latest piece as inspiration for how Mama Odie will appear throughout the attraction.
Mama Odie joins a cast of friends, new and old, in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Here’s a run-through of what else to expect from this musical attraction:
- Brand-new cast of original Disney characters with distinct names and personalities
- Dozens of entirely new Audio-Animatronics figures
- Adorable critters with incredible talent, bringing the diverse flavors of musical gumbo found in New Orleans!
- New, original music alongside favorite tunes from the film
- Do you love beignets as much as Louis? Well, you’re in luck because the alluring scent of beignets being prepared for the party will be part of the attraction queue!
- Additional talent voices from the film reprising their roles, including Bruno Campos as Prince Naveen, Michael Leon Wooley as Louis, and the one and only Anika Noni Rose as Princess Tiana
- Familiar faces from the film such as Princess Tiana, Prince Naveen, Mama Odie, Louis, Eudora, Charlotte, “Big Daddy,” the King and Queen of Maldonia and Prince Ralphie
Disney really buried the lede with this one, which should have been the “dozens of entirely new Audio-Animatronics figures” bullet point. (To each their own, but I doubt many fans are excited about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure on the basis of inspirational art being commissioned for the attraction.)
In our last update on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, we bemoaned all of the no-news updates from Disney about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, which have highlighted research trips Imagineers have been taking to New Orleans and a bunch of things irrelevant to the ride itself. Presumably, those have been meant to underscore the attention to detail and authenticity of the attraction. But they’ve also become a bit tedious and have felt like window dressing.
At that time, we said that we really hope Disney shares something soon of substance to showcase that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will be an excellent attraction with elaborate themed design, details, show scenes, and impressive effects. That’s what’s necessary to instill fans with a sense of optimism and excitement about this transformation. We’ve been beyond ready to hear about the tech, see concept art of show scenes, footage of Audio Animatronics. Something, anything offering reassurance that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is going to be high-quality and fun.
Well, this is almost exactly that. It’s just buried in the bullet points for whatever reason.
As with any project, we will obviously reserve finally judgment until Tiana’s Bayou Adventure actually opens. But I’ve gotta admit that I was getting a little worried about the lack of detail, and was concerned complaints that “it’s going to be all screen-based” might have a degree of validity. (Otherwise, why fixate on distractions?)
Those bullet points should put those fears, worries, and complaints to rest. Dozens of entirely new Audio Animatronics is doubly reassuring and, honestly, much more than I expected (if it’s true). My guess is that “entirely new” actually means some will be repurposed, but still, it’s incredibly promising that the number is in the dozens (plural). That alone bodes really, really well for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
My previous expectation with Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is that a lot of the existing Brer Critter Audio Animatronics would be reused. That makes sense–a lot of those Audio Animatronics in Splash Mountain were recycled from America Sings at Disneyland and cloned for Magic Kingdom; they had nothing to do with Splash Mountain’s source material.
Going forward, those AAs are likely be given new life as part of an “expanded universe” for the Princess and the Frog. This makes even more sense now given what we’ve seen of the concept art and the bullet points above about a brand-new cast of original Disney characters with distinct names and personalities, as well as adorable critters with incredible talent. My guess is this means we’ll be getting more extensive backstory about all of the animals that inhabit the attraction, which is fine by me.
As mentioned previously, one of the things I loved about Splash Mountain was all of the critters, totally unrelated to the story being told, that inhabited Chickapin Hill. Why were they there? What was their deal? They were not just anonymous animals that spontaneously gathered to watch Brer Rabbit’s attempt kidnapping.
In fact, the alligator band–The Swamp Boys–had a concert poster in the queue. It would’ve been great to know more about these critters, even if wholly immaterial to the attraction itself. While wholly unnecessary, it would’ve been added color, world-building details for the eager fan. (I also vividly recall inspecting all of the birdhouses as a kid, wondering who/what lived inside.)
Many fans expressed concern or disappointment in response to the previous details about the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Backstory About Tiana’s Foods. I am not one of them. It sounds like that will be mostly relegated to the queue, setting the stage for the adventure to come. As with other queue backstories, it’s something most guests will probably miss.
Personally, I appreciate good world-building and superfluous backstory, with my one condition being that it doesn’t as a substitute for substance and isn’t an attempt to put lipstick on a pig. Around these parts, we call that “The Dino-Rama Rule.”
How many regular guests “get” that Cosmic Rewind takes place in the Wonders of Xandar Pavilion? That’s also should stage-setting to transition from EPCOT to the main adventure of that attraction, but paying careful attention to the galleries is absolutely unnecessary to understanding or enjoying the core of Cosmic Rewind.
That’s just one of many examples where the queue rewards astute observers, but is unnecessary to the main attraction experience. I’m absolutely expecting something similar with Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. But I digress.
Then there’s the potential for new Audio Animatronics. From the bullet points, it’s safe to assume we’re getting Audio Animatronics for Princess Tiana (perhaps more than one), Prince Naveen, Mama Odie, Louis, Eudora, Charlotte, “Big Daddy,” the King and Queen of Maldonia and Prince Ralphie.
While not yet evident in the U.S. parks, Imagineering has made tremendous strides with Audio Animatronics of animated characters in the last several years. I think it’s probably fair to say that the projected faces on Frozen Ever After and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train haven’t aged well; those are an example of ambitions outpacing available technology, which was still in an awkward position.
If you haven’t seen them, it’s worth checking out videos of the new Elsa Audio Animatronics for Hong Kong and Tokyo, or the Belle and Beast AAs that have already debuted at Tokyo Disneyland as part of Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast. Those are absolutely stunning, and perfectly meld old and new technology to create something more true to the animated character models. Those have excellent fluidity and features, and will also age much more gracefully than their counterparts in Frozen Ever After and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
While I’d imagine some Walt Disney World fans will remain skeptical, with the cynical view that the Asia parks always get nicer things, I do not expect that to be the case here. (And to the contrary, the company does spend big on Walt Disney World…it’s just not always what we want to see!) There’s every reason to believe that at least some of the human characters will be envelope-pushing Audio Animatronics.
Ultimately, this is exactly the announcement we’ve been hoping to see for months. Although light on concrete details or specifics, it allays concerns that were starting to creep into the picture. The specific lines from the bullet point are more than enough for me to give this project the benefit of the doubt, and assume that there’s a huge team working to transform the attraction in a thorough and meaningful way.
As I’ve said before, I hope Disney is dumping a ton of resources and a healthy budget into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Even if you were vehemently opposed to this reimagining, what’s done is done. The best everyone can–and should–hope for now is that the end result is an attraction that will exceed expectations and live up to the legacy of its predecessor.
Both Splash Mountain and Princess and the Frog deserve as much, and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure being an excellent attraction with elaborate themed design, details, show scenes, and impressive effects is the best outcome for all. For now, this teaser is sufficient reassurance that will be the case. Here’s hoping we get to see actual footage of the Audio Animatronics soon!
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Thoughts on the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure? Excited to hear that dozens of entirely new Audio-Animatronics figures are coming to the attraction? What about the brand-new cast of original Disney characters with distinct names and personalities, as well as adorable critters with incredible talent? What changes to the exterior are you expecting to see take shape in the coming months? Expectations regarding the Splash Mountain reimagining timeline? Agree or disagree with our assessments about this project or its construction? Keep the comments civil, as this is not the place for politically-charged arguing, culture wars, antagonism, personal attacks, or cheap shots.