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Speculation about New Rides: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a re-imagined flume ride expected to open later in 2024. The ride is going to open in both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom at around the same time (hopefully). The ride is built on the foundation of a classic Disney ride called Splash Mountain, a ride based on the somewhat controversial animated and live action movie Song of the South. Splash Mountain opened in 1989, after several years of construction and a cost of around 75 million dollars.

This “update” has been in the mix for a very long time for two reasons. First and foremost, Splash Mountain was centered around a Disney movie so controversial that they’ve never actually released it on DVD or Disney+. Song of the South is a film that takes place in the southern United States after the Civil War and focuses on the stories told by a black slave, Uncle Remus, working on a plantation. For the most part, the movie suggests that the slaves are happy working for their friendly masters, and the white masters are kind and just to their slaves. Splash mountain did not even mention slavery or slave owners, but instead focused on the stories that were told by Uncle Remus involving three main characters Brer Bear, Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit.

It seemed like Disney was just waiting for the right opportunity to change to the ride, and this opportunity came about with the popularity of the Disney film the Princess and the Frog. This film takes place in the bayous of Louisiana and celebrated black culture and in particular cooking. The fit seemed perfect, and many Disney speculators figured it was a matter of time till this conversion would take place.

The work on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure has been going on for a while now and a few things are known. The ride is not just a retelling of the story of the movie (as many dark rides do), instead it tells the story following the movie, after Tiana has already opened her restaurant. Disney has also already announced even more Princess and the Frog themed restaurants and merchandise to be released related to this new attraction, and a few pieces of merchandise have already been released. I expect that the closer the ride comes to opening, the more merchandise will flow into the market.

As for the ride itself, much like Frozen Ever After at Epcot, my prediction is that there will be little change to the layout of the ride. In particular the iconic drop at the end will likely remain as is. The theme for Splash mountain is easily changed to a bayou adventure since a great deal of it takes place in a swamp/forest. I would even guess that several of the animal creatures from Splash Mountain will remain, with the exception of Brer Bear, Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit, the titular characters of the Splash Mountain story. Splash Mountain actually has an interesting history of reusing animatronics since many of the original animatronics from Splash Mountain came from another defunct Disney ride called America Sings.

There will also be many new animatronics added as well, since Splash Mountain contained no human characters at all, many Princess and the Frog human characters will have to have animatronics. It hasn’t been announced what generation of animatronics will be added, but they’ll likely be fairly high end for this E-Ticket attraction.

The story of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is that “guests will join Princess Tiana, Naveen and jazz-loving alligator Louis on an adventure through the bayou as they prepare to host a one-of-a-kind Mardi Gras celebration where everyone is welcome.” It’s a fairly vague story, but that can be advantageous for a dark ride as detailed stories can be hard to follow on rides. It will be interesting to see how they incorporate the drop portion into a narrative about planning a party, but I’m optimistic they can figure something out.

As for the ride itself, my guess is that it will be very state of the art, and very atmospheric. The authenticity they’re putting into each and every detail of this ride is pretty amazing. From hand crafted architectural features and very authentic Louisiana costumes, the details of making this an authentic to the culture and region seem to be important to the Imagineers working on this project. I imagine that some Disney fans will miss the classic Splash Mountain as well, and there will be comparisons. I also imagine that there will be several nods to Splash Mountain in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. There have already been some indications of this on the outside construction, but Disney’s Imagineers have never failed to throw in a few Easter eggs to past attractions on newer rides.

I think this is going to be a beautiful ride, but I worry about the quality of the story. The Princess and the Frog was an amazing movie, but there was drama and steaks to what was going on. This sounds like a “we’re throwing a party… I hope nothing goes wrong” story. While I don’t wish ill will on anyone’s party, it’s not exactly a real drama if a party has problems. I’m cautiously optimistic about the story part of this ride, but I figure the beauty of the ride will be good enough to cover any holes.

I also worry about the quality of the tech being used. Disney has been focusing on immersion and using the highest quality tech in every new ride. The problem with this is that it means things break down a lot more often. Rise of the Resistance is the perfect example of this. While I hope this ride dazzles with the effects, I also hope they managed to keep it open without too many shut downs, particularly for the first few months that it’s open.

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