The days of being able to ride on Splash Mountain at both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland are about to come to an end. Splash Mountain will, however, be replaced by another ride that’s more familiar to younger Disney fans.
Splash Mountain features characters and songs from Disney’s 1946 movie Song of the South. That movie, however, has been widely criticized over the years for perpetuating racist stereotypes.
The new ride, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, is inspired by Disney’s 2009 movie The Princess and the Frog. The ride picks up where the movie ends and is set in Louisiana’s bayou. It features Tiana, “a modern, courageous, and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important,” said Michael Ramirez, public relations director at Disneyland Resort, in a 2020 blog post when Disney announced plans to close Splash Mountain.
“Imagineers have been hard at work designing an immersive experience,” explained Carmen Smith, senior vice president for creative development, product/content & inclusive strategies for Walt Disney Imagineering. “We’re getting closer to going down the bayou.”
“Today, I’m excited to give you a first look at a new scene and some of the brand-new characters we’re creating specifically for this attraction,” Smith wrote in a blog post. “In Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, you’ll join Princess Tiana and jazz-loving alligator Louis during Mardi Gras season as they prepare to host a one-of-a-kind celebration for the people of New Orleans. This new scene is the thrilling moment you first drop into the bayou and encounter some friends both new and familiar.”
Recognizing That Times Change
Splash Mountain has been a fan favorite since the ride opened in Disneyland in 1989 and Walt Disney World in 1992.
Song of the South, perhaps due to widespread criticism, was pulled from circulation by Disney. It was last released in theaters in 1986, and, tellingly, was never released on home video in the U.S.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Splash Mountain’s days are numbered. After all, its replacement is part of a broad diversity and inclusion initiative at Disney to address offensive content in its parks. For instance, in 2018, the Pirates of the Caribbean rides at Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom were changed to remove animatronic women who were tied together and crying while they waited to be auctioned to pirates under a banner that read “Take a Wench for a Bride.”
Then, in 2021, Disney announced it would make significant changes to its Jungle Cruise attraction at both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. Those enhancements included new scenes and more humor. More importantly, the changes also made Jungle Cruise more inclusive and less racially insensitive in its depiction of some cultures.
Splash Mountain’s last day of operation at Disney World will be January 22, 2023. Disneyland has not announced a closing date for its ride yet.
Tiana’s New Adventures
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will take visitors on a “musical adventure,” according to Smith.
“Picking up where the film left off, 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,” Smith wrote in a blog post last summer. “Guests will encounter familiar faces, make new friends, and travel through the bayou to original music inspired by songs from the film as they are brought into the next chapter of Tiana’s story.”
All of this is possible because Walt Disney Imagineers have been traveling to Louisiana for inspiration as they conduct research to ensure Tiana’s Bayou Adventure “preserves the heart and soul of the city that inspired Princess Tiana’s story,” Smith continued. You can even join the fun by watching a video about a Walt Disney Imagineering research trip to Louisiana.
So, what will the ride be like? Well, for one thing, as Louis the alligator explains, there will be plenty of zydeco music, which is a mix of rhythm and blues created in Louisiana. But there’s much more than that.
“Tiana made some new friends out here in the bayou — a band full of adorable critters, including an otter, a rabbit, a raccoon, a beaver, a turtle, and others,” Smith explained. “The band members sing and play instruments made of natural materials they found in the bayou. It feels like they may have a bigger role to play in this story… but we’ll just have to wait and see on that one.”
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is expected to open at both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland sometime in 2024.
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