Friday, December 2, 2022

Tiana's Bayou Adventure to Replace Splash Mountain Late 2024


Art from Disney Parks Blog

Today during the Essence Fest, fittingly in New Orleans, Disney announced that the long awaited overhaul to Splash Mountain would be coming in late 2024 to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  The Princess and the Frog themed attraction will be called Tiana's Bayou Adventure, and will pick up where the movie left off, where "guests will join Tiana, Prince 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."

I never posted about this before, because the original announcement was made over two whole years ago, way back in June 2020 when the parks were still closed.  Seems like a lifetime ago, doesn't it?  There basically had been no update since that time, leaving many of us wondering if the project was still happening and what the time frame was supposed to be.  Recently, Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Tiana in the movie, let it slip on Live With Kelly and Ryan that the ride would open in 2024, so that appears to be accurate, even if she let the cat out of the bag a little early.

December 2, 2022 update: Disney today confirmed that Splash Mountain would be taken down on January 23, and would not reopen until late 2024 as Tiana's Bayou Adventure. That confirms our speculation below.  The last chance to ride Splash Mountain will be January 22, 2023.  If you have a trip planned before then, take full advantage.

If you hadn't seen (or remembered) the original announcement, Disney put out the above blog post talking about "plussing" the attraction (a Walt Disney word) and noting how finally The Princess and the Frog has its own attraction.  What they DIDN'T say in that piece is sort of the elephant in the room - Splash Mountain was based on the old Disney film Song of the South, which has basically been blacklisted from the Disney catalog for its troubling portrayal of race in the south.  While Splash itself doesn't seem overly problematic in this regard (the ride was built in 1989, and I suspect most people didn't know even then the movie it was based on), I think Disney wanted to put as much distance between themselves and that movie as possible, hence the announced changes.

That original blog post also said that as of June 2020, Disney had been working on this project for over a year.  That now means that it has been three years since the project began and we haven't seen anything of substance come to fruition.  That doesn't mean they haven't been working at all - today's post says that Disney has "been frequent travelers to Louisiana while conducting extensive research" and I have no reason to doubt this.

It just seems like there's a long tail here, as we're still essentially two and a half years away from "late 2024", and that's if everything goes to schedule.  There's no mention of when Splash will need to be taken offline in order to do this overhaul but it will probably be fairly extensive.  The Maelstrom at Epcot, for example, was closed in October 2014 and reopened as Frozen Ever After in June 2016.  I mention that one in particular, because they kept a lot of the ride structure there but replaced all the theming and animatronics.

Will Tiana's Bayou Adventure be the same?  Disney has been careful to not mention any specifics but the original concept art from 2020 shows the iconic log flume drop in the background, so I have to assume that isn't changing.  How such a drop will fit the theme of this ride is a problem for the Imagineers, so I'm not going to worry too much about it.  

Art from Disney Parks Blog

A similar question is how does Bayou fit in with Frontierland, which is where Splash currently anchors that section of the park along with Big Thunder Mountain.  In Disneyland, Splash is part of Critter Country, and it remains to be seen how it fits there as well (though at least in this case, that land is right next to New Orleans Square, where Princess and the Frog is a slam dunk thematically).

Splash usually goes down for maintenance annually during the cooler winter season in Florida.  It wouldn't shock me if it was taken down in early 2023 like usual, but never comes back in its old form after that.  If you are a Splash Mountain fan, I would suggest getting in as many rides as possible before that time, just in case.

I'm not going to make any moral judgment about whether this overhaul is necessary.  I for one love Splash Mountain, and I hope that at least the new ride does it justice (though no matter how good the new music may be, it's hard to imagine it will be as catchy as the iconic theme song it has now).  I find that it's never a good idea to look back in cases like this, but rather forward - Disney isn't changing their minds now, so there's no sense being upset if you're a Splash "purist."  Hopefully Tiana's Bayou Adventure will create many new memories for the next generation as Splash has for previous ones.

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