As you’ve probably heard, today, Walt Disney World offered an update on the new attraction Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. On Thursday morning, a few media outlets had the opportunity to attend a “fireside chat” with Walt Disney Imagineering as they told us about the upcoming ride. The event took place in a conference room at Walt Disney Imagineering – East (located behind EPCOT) filled with concept art from the attraction and photographs from the team’s multiple inspirational visits to New Orleans.
As we know, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open in Late 2024 at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. We learned Splash Mountain will close at the Magic Kingdom on January 23rd, 2023 while a closing date for Disneyland will be announced later.
The event was led by Executive Creative Producer Charita Carter and Executive Creative Director Ted Robledo As an informal event, there was no audio or video recording permitted, but here are some of the highlights from our approximately 30 minute talk:
- Presenting an authentic version of New Orleans is an extremely high priority. The team working on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure has made multiple trips to New Orleans to not only get immersed in the aesthetics of the region, but also the culture and the people. As they put it, New Orleans is a magical place where you feel loved and accepted by everyone you run into. It is their goal to reproduce that to the point that a guest visiting from New Olreans would say “this feels right”. “Authenticity” was definitely the word of the day.
- The team also pointed out that Tiana is not only Disney’s first black princess, she’s also Disney’s first American princess, so that is being celebrated as well. Tiana’s entrepreneurial spirit is on display in the story of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure as explained in the next point.
- Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is not a retelling of the film. Instead, it’s set one year after the film’s completion. Tiana, in an effort to give back to the community, has created “Tiana’s Foods” — an employee-owned company.
- The Imagineers acknowledged the concerns of many fans of how a mountain would fit into New Orleans, which is an extremely flat city. While New Orleans does not have mountains, it does have salt domes, and Tiana has purchased one of these salt domes and is using it as the base for Tiana’s Foods.
- Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will introduce several characters original to the attraction. We were shown a piece of ride concept art and character development artwork for a musical band of critters (my word, not theirs) including a beaver, opossum, raccoon, turtle, rabbit and otter. They create musical instruments using found items in the bayou. We were also shown a short computer-generated video sequence featuring them as the boat passed between them and Tiana.
- The characters were designed by Imagineer Laura West, while Eric Goldberg, who animated the alligator Louis, was also consulted.
- The Tiana we see in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will look different than we’ve seen before. The clothing she is wearing was meticulously researched and is based on what women of color actually wore in 1927. A lot of time was also put into the design of Tiana’s hair. “Subject Matter Experts” were used to ensure the style was not only appropriate for the era, but the look and texture were accurate for her ethnicity. As Charita joked, Ted now understands black hair much better than he did before.
- All of the original voice talents from the film will be back for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Specifically mentioned were Anika Noni Rose (Tiana), Jenifer Lewis (Mama Odie), Bruno Campos (Prince Naveen) and Michael-Leon Wooley (Louis).
- While the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will look great during the day, it will really come alive at night (as the concept below from the D23 Expo shows).
I was very appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure directly from Walt DIsney Imagineering. I’m very excited to experience it for myself in late 2024, and more hopeful than ever that it will be a worthy successor to a Disney parks’ classic.