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Review: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Is a Joyful Celebration for Everyone

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We’re just around the corner from one of the most simultaneously contentious and anticipated ride openings in recent history — the debut of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure on June 28, 2024. Following a national outcry for social justice in 2020, the Walt Disney Company announced the retheme of the Splash Mountain ride in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. While the attraction’s highlights were bright – the dramatic 50-foot drop and impressive cast of furry animatronic characters – the lows were low. Splash Mountain was based on the 1946 film Song of The South, a film that Disney has attempted to distance itself from, refusing to release it on Disney+ or physical media.

From Splash to Tiana

When Splash Mountain closed in the Magic Kingdom on May 31, 2023, the ride’s most vocal fans didn’t let it go quietly. The ride opened in Walt Disney World in 1992, and lots of guests collected decades’ worth of memories onboard. Many were sad to see it go, while also realizing that it was time. However, disgruntled fans’ reactions ranged from signing online petitions to save the ride to discourse and even bullying on social media. Some guests went so far as to set up memorials near the drop hill.

The contrast between Splash Mountain and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is stark. Based on the 2009 film The Princess and The Frog, this is the first ride based on a black princess in the company’s history. While some fans argue that Tiana deserved her own ride, I would say that this feels like a completely different attraction, despite the track remaining the same. The ride is no longer about fear – it’s a joyful celebration, welcoming everyone and rejoicing in diversity. In the original piece “Special Spice” written for the ride by PJ Morgan and performed by Anika Noni Rose, visitors to the Bayou are told that it’s their own ‘special spice’ that makes life complete.

The Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Queue

The story picks up roughly a year after the film ends. Things are going well for our hero; Tiana has even paid off the loan for Tiana’s Place – you can spot a letter from the bank early in the queue. In her success, she decided to pay it forward and open up Tiana’s Foods, an employee-owned co-op marketplace that produces and bottles their line of hot sauces and other condiments. The team is gearing up for a big Mardi Gras party to say thank you to her friends and family. And, according to Ted Robledo, one of Disney’s creative executives on the attraction, absolutely everyone must be invited to her party.

As is vital in food service establishments, everyone has a job. You can spot their prep list near the start of the queue and note that everything has been checked off, except that Lewis didn’t hire a band for the party.

Riders funnel through the queue and can get a glimpse at keepsakes from Tiana’s past, like special photos, letters from her Father, and nods to his days in the military. You’ll pass through her kitchen where she’s in the process of mixing up a batch of her world-famous man-catching beignets. The scene is complete with a recipe on the prep table and the gumbo pot she used in the film. Imagineers were sure to pay homage to real-world inspiration Leah Chase, the late executive chef and owner of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans. The cookware shown in the kitchen is similar to that which Chase herself owned, and the family was consulted to make sure the display includes nods to the culinary legend.

The Ride Itself

As you continue through the queue toward the loading zone, things feel familiar yet distinctly different. After boarding your log, you are transported up the first lift hill to observe a stunning animatronic figure of Tiana. Here, she enlists our help to assist Lewis and herself in finding a band for the celebration.

The bayou is beautiful, with glowing lily pads and twinkling fireflies, and “Gonna Take You There” is played by an adorable cast of critters. Screens are used to provide backdrops, but truthfully, I felt like they added to the attraction rather than taking anything away, which sometimes can easily happen when rides rely on monitors rather than building physical scenes.

Tiana implores us to keep searching – high and low – and with Mama Odie’s help, we’re transported to the tiny, tiny, tiny size of a frog. This section of the ride is a brilliant use of the existing ride track. While some early critics of the ride have complained that the attraction lacks a plot, this serves as a very easily digestible transition.

Mushroom caps tower around us as we pass by frogs trumpeting on tulips and banging on conga drums, with fireflies dancing amongst the foliage. Once we’ve located our amphibian acoustics and assembled our frog band, Mama Odie brings us up the lift hill to make us big again because ‘the bigger you are, the bigger the splash we’ll make at the party’.

The lift hill includes a kaleidoscope of colors and fog as the precipice grows closer. And the drop itself serves as our route to the party, with the splash at the bottom just the same as it’s always been. The final scene is the show stopper as we wind through Tiana and Naveen’s new home, spotting familiar characters like Lottie and Eudora. With one last wave from Mama Odie, the animal band plays us out.

The Verdict

For full disclosure, I am not a water ride person. I’m not fond of getting soaked and having to walk through a theme park for a few hours. That being said, after my first time on the ride yesterday, I couldn’t wait for the next. The animatronics throughout the attraction are stunning, offering quality that we haven’t yet seen in the domestic parks. The songs are upbeat and so catchy that I’ve found myself humming the finale’s tune for the last day.

In my opinion, this ride has just plussed up all the things that I loved about the original. A delivery truck for Tiana’s Foods sits at the start of the queue, painted with a slogan: ‘Never Ever Lose Sight of What’s Really Important’. I think this truck can serve as a message to even the most avid fans of Splash Mountain. Is it possible that we can all dig a little deeper to embrace the elements that remain consistent in this ride – the gaggle of adorable critters, a thrilling 5 story drop that’s just about guaranteed to get you soaked, and one of the best views of the Magic Kingdom in the park – while making sure that everyone in the community feels welcome? I hope so.

You Want to Know …

How can I ride?

When the ride opens on June 28, it will operate with a virtual queue and presumably, sell lightning lane access. Guests can request to join the virtual queue via the My Disney Experience app at one of two times: 7 a.m. or 1 p.m.

Will I get wet?

Most likely, yes. In my experience, the first row will get you considerably more soaked than the second. You can opt to wear a poncho on the ride, and maybe consider having a pair of sandals to wear onboard.

Can I find any ride specific souvenirs?

Absolutely! The Critter Co-Op will offer ride specific merch, including clothing, bags, plushies, and more. The store also has a station to purchase your on-ride photo which includes a folder with other collateral from the ride, making the print a more substantial souvenir. The store will also sell a line of spices and sauce from Dooky Chase’s Restaurant; the first time the products have been available outside of the establishment.

Are you looking forward to the opening on June 28th? Let us know in the comments!

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Jacqueline Dole

Jacqueline Dole is a food & travel writer with bylines in Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, The Washington Post, and more.

One thought on “Review: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Is a Joyful Celebration for Everyone

  • Great review! I do like how the great aspirational moment in the queue is Tiana owning her own place, the true Millennial dream!


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