Disney has shared new details and a first look at artwork coming to the queue in the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. This post shares photos of the upcoming barn mural, details from Imagineering and the artist behind it, and our commentary about the art and everything else.
As previously shared, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a reimagining of the former Splash Mountain. That might be underselling the transformation, as it should be on par with the change from Tower of Terror to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout and almost equivalent to Maelstrom turning into Frozen Ever After. Same show building, scene staging, ride system, and boat flume path–but pretty much entirely new substance aside from the Audio Animatronics supporting cast of critters.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a ride that promises to bring guests into the world of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ film The Princess and the Frog. According to the company, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California in late 2024. For more background and previously-released details, scale models, construction photos, etc., see Everything We Know About Tiana’s Bayou Adventure!
There’s a chance you’re already familiar with this work-in-progress artwork, as Imagineering teased a preview of it the other day. Even prior to that, painting of this barn mural started a couple months ago in Magic Kingdom and has been visible over construction walls. I don’t think it has started yet at Disneyland, where progress is a few months behind, but it’s also more difficult to get views over the walls there.
Against that backdrop, here’s what Disney shared about the barn mural:
Hailing from the vibrant state of Louisiana where creativity flows as freely as the Mississippi River, artist Malaika Favorite has managed to channel the state’s lively spirit and transform it into a masterpiece that will decorate the walls as part of the queue of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, an attraction inspired by the animated film, “The Princess and the Frog,” opening at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort next year.
Taking inspiration from the numerous murals and other works of art that decorate building exteriors throughout New Orleans, Princess Tiana’s desire to adorn the location with art is in keeping with the spirit that artwork is to be enjoyed and accessed by everyone.
When we were exploring how to introduce guests to the story of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure as they prepared to embark on the attraction, maintaining the authenticity of Princess Tiana’s experience as a young Black woman striving to achieve her dream in the soulful backdrop of New Orleans was one of our highest priorities. It only makes sense that an extensive search for an artist who could bring our vision to life brought us to Malaika’s doorstep.
Malaika’s art currently graces the halls of the Baton Rouge Gallery with a striking collection that explores the cultural heritage of African Americans and who we are as a people. Her artistic talent has been evident since she was old enough to hold a paintbrush. By the first grade, teachers were already paying her to commission pictures and posters. Her skills have only continued to blossom since then as she transforms canvas, wood, and metal into eye-catching displays.
Continuing the storyline from “The Princess and the Frog,” Malaika’s mural for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure features a collage of breathtaking scenes displayed on two of the building’s exterior walls as you enter the indoor queue.
These scenes highlight Tiana’s professional journey and the creation of Tiana’s Foods. When Tiana was young, her father made her promise to “never, ever lose sight of what is really important,” and the mural will reflect those elements: family, friends, food, music, art, and bringing folks together.
Turning to commentary, I’ll start with something totally unrelated to the barn mural. At the end of this update, this line caught my attention: “…when Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens at Disneyland park in California and Magic Kingdom Park in Florida in 2024.”
To the best of my recollection, this is the first time that Disney has dropped the “Late” from the 2024 opening timeframe. Previously, it has been “Late 2024.” Now normally, I wouldn’t make anything of this–and even now, it could simply be a copy oversight. Even with all of the eyes Disney has on literally everything, stuff like this happens. Often times, we’re reading into things that aren’t really there and I’ll be the first to admit that I overanalyze.
But in this case, I’ve actually heard rumblings that at least the Magic Kingdom version of the attraction is ahead of schedule. Personally, I’m still highly, highly skeptical of this. As I’ve said on countless occasions, I think there’s a nonzero chance that this attraction opens in 2025. And I maintain that. Even if things are ahead of schedule now, there’s nothing to say unanticipated issues won’t arise causing delays at later stages. (Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland says hello!)
Regardless, I think it was purposeful that this story didn’t include one instance of the word “late.” If there’s the internal belief that the Walt Disney World version of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure could be done and ready to open by or before October 1, 2024 the first step would be quietly dropping the word late and not drawing attention to that. As the timeline firms up, we’ll get an official announcement that Disney wants to surprise and delight with an earlier opening (probably in the name of improving the guest experience or something) and an opening season. After that, an official date.
If all of this speculation and conjecture is correct, I think we could get the season during the Thanksgiving or Christmas Day specials on ABC and the official date sometime in the first couple of months in 2024. Those are popular times for people booking vacations for the coming year, and this is basically the new thing Walt Disney World has to promote for next year. Having it done before Late 2024 at a time when occupancy and other numbers are falling would be huge. Again, this could also be a matter of me reading way too much into things.
As for the mural itself, no disrespect to the talented artist who is creating it, but this artwork strikes me as contemporary. Not to read too much into the verbiage of the announcement yet again, but I also noticed that it’s present-tense while describing the nods to New Orleans. Meaning that this is the kind of thing you’d see in the city today, not in the 1920s or 1930s.
When previously sharing the new costumes for Tiana, Imagineering drew attention to researching prevailing trends of the 1920s and looking through family archives to ensure Tiana’s look was historically accurate and authentic to the character. In fact, if there’s one thing that the marketing for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure has contained no shortage of, its highlighting research, historical accuracy, and authenticity. When it comes to the barn mural, only authenticity is mentioned.
It’s entirely possible this is historically accurate to the 1920s and that’s an innocent omission from the announcement. I am very aware that there was an explosion of public art installations in the 1930s (close enough) thanks to the Works Progress Administration (WPA). That was a New Deal agency that employed millions of jobseekers to carry out public works projects–a make work program to emerge from the Great Depression. One of the defining features of that, which survives in many places to this day, is the WPA murals. (Here’s one example from New Orleans.)
I purport to be an expert on neither the artistic sensibilities of the WPA-era public murals nor the predominant artwork of New Orleans during the 1920s and 1930s. All I can say is that we have done a lot of walking tours of Southern California (which is not part of Louisiana and has its own distinct culture that’s very different!), and there is a clear and obvious distinction between the surviving WPA murals and modern-day exterior building artwork.
Not only that, but most (almost all?) of the WPA murals were inside post offices, courthouses, federal buildings, public libraries, and other government buildings. What’s the in-story explanation for how Tiana ended up with one on the outside of her barn? To be clear, I love and appreciate both WPA and modern-day murals, but this one strikes me as a new mural I could see while walking around present-day Los Angeles.
Nevertheless, I could be wrong about all of this. It’s entirely possible (maybe even probable!) that I have a huge knowledge gap and there’s a style of art from that era exactly like this of which I’m entirely unaware. I’m open to the possibility that one of our many smart readers is going to leave a comment that makes me feel very stupid, undercuts all of this, and makes complete sense of the mural.
Beyond that, the mural just doesn’t really pass the smell test for me as being congruous with the rest of Frontierland at Magic Kingdom or New Orleans Square at Disneyland. It feels newer, more vibrant, and just generally different. And that’s probably the point–to create an eye-catching mural that will attract guests’ attention, serve as a photogenic backdrop for selfies while people are waiting in line, and get people excited about the attraction on social media.
If that’s the thinking, I guess I can’t really fault Disney for choosing this style of a mural. And in the grand scheme of things, it’s hardly important or a hill to die on. Within a few months of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opening, it’ll become familiar to fans, feel like it was always there, and “fits” the lands. Nevertheless, it strikes me as at least somewhat odd that Imagineering has been so laser-focused on research and historical accuracy, but there’s no mention of that here. I would love to know which specific works of art from the 1920s or 1930s in New Orleans inspired this.
To conclude on a positive note, I like the artwork itself and think that it could ‘present better’ and more organically in person. I also appreciate that Imagineering is putting in effort to actually transform the attraction (rather than a light retrofit) and that includes things like this hand-painted mural. Moreover, I appreciate the way they’re weaving together the animated world of The Princess and the Frog with real-world New Orleans. I still have sky-high expectations for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure and am really excited for it! But I also think it’s fair game to critique and question the historical accuracy and cultural authenticity, especially since Imagineering opened the door to exactly that by fixating on it themselves with past details about the attraction.
Thoughts on the barn mural being painted in the queue at Tiana’s Bayou Adventure? What do you think of the artwork? Does it strike you as on-theme for the era of the attraction and the lands? Think it’s pretty and that’s “good enough” justification for including it in the attraction? Expectations regarding the Splash Mountain reimagining timeline? Agree or disagree with our assessments about this project or its construction? Keep the comments civil, as this is not the place for politically-charged arguing, culture wars, antagonism, personal attacks, or cheap shots.