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We’re among the first people to ride Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. It’s no Splash Mountain.

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  • Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a feel-good ride that’s perfect for families.
  • It’s not a roller coaster, but guests may want to bring a poncho to stay dry.
  • Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens on June 28th at Walt Disney World in Florida and later this year at Disneyland in California.

Early on in Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” movie, Tiana’s dad James tells her, “You know the thing about good food? It brings people together from all walks of life. It warms them right up, and it puts little smiles on their faces.”

Instead of food, insert Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and you’ll know what to expect when the highly-anticipated attraction officially opens on June 28th at Walt Disney World in Florida and later this year at Disneyland in California. 

USA TODAY got a preview of Disney World’s new ride, which replaces Splash Mountain at both parks. Here’s what guests should know.

What is Tiana’s Bayou Adventure like?

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a feel-good ride.

Unlike “The Princess and the Frog,” the ride has no villains, like Dr. Facilier. Guests with little ones who are scared of the dark should be aware that it gets quite dark for multiple stretches, but there’s nothing else to be afraid of. Even the big drop is more thrilling than frightening. Lively music plays the whole time, and the bayou critters guests see along the way are as endearing as Louis the alligator from the film.

The outside of the attraction is covered in lush foliage, which carries into parts of the interior. Inside are some digital on-screen visuals mixed in with physical sets, but not as many as on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway or Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. And the swinging and swaying audio-animatronics are just what fans have been asking for after seeing the technological advancements at Disney’s international parks.

Is Tiana’s Bayou Adventure the same as Splash Mountain?

No. The bones of the attraction may be similar and there are few Splash Mountain Easter eggs, but it’s a completely different story. The big splashdown is still there, but the mountain has been reimagined as a salt dome-like Avery Island, Louisiana, which Imagineers visited on one of their research trips for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. This salt dome houses Tiana’s Foods, an employee-owned cooperative that guests learn about in the ride queue.

“She’s continued to grow her business, but this time she’s included members of the community,” said Ted Robledo, one of Disney’s creative executives on the attraction. Robledo explained that a co-op was chosen because it was accurate for Tiana’s time and region, and co-ops empowered the historically disenfranchised. 

Inclusion, authenticity and representation are significant parts of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, which fellow creative executive Charita Carter called “truly a love letter to New Orleans.”

Who is Tiana inspired by?

“Tiana would not be possible if we were not Leah Chase,” said fellow Disney creative executive Carmen Smith. Chase was the famed late executive chef and owner of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans. “It wasn’t just a restaurant. It was a gathering place that inspired so many.”

Chase’s grandson and the restaurant’s current executive chef Edgar ‘Dook’ Chase IV said his grandmother invited everybody into the kitchen. “That’s what her true gift was – not only her passion of food, but she just loved people.”

He said she would’ve been honored and humbled to be part of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. “Every time she would get recognized, she would always say, ‘I have to work that much harder. I have to do more to showcase this honor that I’m getting,’” he said. 

Smith said the Chase family was a “huge part of this project.” Louisiana artists like Sharika Mahdi and Malaika Favorite inspired the feel of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and some of their work is featured outside it. New Orleans music legends PJ Morton and Terence Blanchard worked on the music. 

“It makes me feel as though I’m seen and that they took so much care to not just like use the culture, but actually understand the culture and involve the people who help continue the legacy of that culture,” said Victoria Wade, a Disney fan and theme park influencer who previously spoke with USA TODAY about the cultural impacts of both Splash Mountain and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. “It’s important, and it’s honestly a great way, especially with this particular princess, to continue a legacy for New Orleans and for Black people in general.”

Why did Disney shut Splash Mountain?

Splash Mountain’s Br’er Rabbit story was tied to “Song of the South,” a 1946 Disney film, which has been criticized for its idealized portrayal of plantation life. A petition to retheme Splash Mountain went viral in 2020.

That same year, Disney announced the ride’s reimaging, saying, “The new concept is inclusive – one that all of our guests can connect with and be inspired by, and it speaks to the diversity of the millions of people who visit our parks each year.” Disney also noted that changes had been in the works since 2019.

Wade was one of the first people to preview the new ride.

“There’s a sign when you enter, and it says everyone’s welcome,” she recalled. “I love that message so much because it’s not just about, you know, Black people. It’s ultimately welcoming everybody in to be joyful and celebrate one another in our cultures and what makes us unique.”

Tiana may be Disney’s first Black princess, but Carter noted, “Tiana is everybody’s princess. She comes from a real place in America. She wasn’t born into royalty. She has a working mom. She has military ties. And there’s so much about her life that is relatable.”

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Done: Why some Disney fans were done with Splash Mountain

What is Tiana’s Bayou Adventure based on?

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is the next chapter in the story that begins with “The Princess and the Frog.” 

Spoiler alert: At the end of the film, Tiana’s dream of owning a thriving restaurant finally comes true. Now, she’s giving back to her community and hosting a big Mardi Gras party, where everyone is invited.

The only trouble is she’s missing a key ingredient. Mama Odie shrinks guests down to the size of frogs to help look for it in the bayou. Along the way, they’ll see familiar characters voiced by the same actors from the film and meet new musical critters.

“Technologically wise, it was phenomenal,” Wade said. “They’re very lifelike in their movements. I was particularly impressed with the Louis the gator animatronic.”

Is Tiana’s Bayou Adventure a roller coaster?

No. It’s a log flume-style water ride like Splash Mountain was. Guests may want to bring a poncho to stay dry, though there is plenty of Tiana-themed merchandise for sale if they need a change of clothes.

“I didn’t get wet, but I think it’s because I was in the back of the boat,” Wade said with a laugh. “I actually love what they did with the drop. I feel like, based on how it looks with Mama Odie’s bottles, it’s reminiscent of the (movie’s) ‘Dig a Little Deeper’ scene. I feel like at night, particularly, it’s going to look absolutely incredible.”

Can I meet Tiana at Disney World?

Yes. Princess Tiana greets guests in her signature ball gown at Princess Fairytale Hall in Magic Kingdom. 

Guests can also meet her outside the parks with character dining at 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. She wears her new pantsuit there. 

What is Tiana’s restaurant called at Disneyland?

Just like in “The Princess and the Frog,” Tiana’s restaurant in Disneyland is called Tiana’s Palace. The quick-service eatery opened last September and serves iconic New Orleans dishes like gumbo, po’boys, muffaletta sandwiches, and beignets.

While there’s no Tiana’s Palace at Disney World, guests can get Tiana’s Bayou Adventure treats in Magic Kingdom from June 28 through Sept. 6 and at select locations across the resort for a limited time. 

They can also take home Mama Odie’s Hot Sauce and Dooky Chase’s Seasonings, which were previously only sold at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans. 

The reporter on this story received access to the event from Disney. USA TODAY maintains editorial control of reviews.

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