Disney has revealed closing date for Splash Mountain at Disneyland. This post shares what you need to know to prepare for your last ride, details about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and commentary on the turnaround time to transform the old ride into a new one in only 18 months.
For those who are unfamiliar with this project, the reimagined ride replacing Splash Mountain at Disneyland will be named Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and bring guests into the Princess and the Frog. According to Disney, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open at Magic Kingdom in Florida and Disneyland in California in late 2024 (supposedly).
During the D23 Expo in Anaheim last year, Walt Disney Imagineering shared more details about the reimagined ride, including a model showcasing how Splash Mountain would be transformed. See our Photos & Video of the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Model, which offers a comprehensive look at the changes to the Disneyland mountain’s exterior, queue, and even on-ride details that’ll be added to the attraction as it becomes Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
In preparation for this new experience, Splash Mountain at Disneyland will be closed starting May 31, 2023. This means the last day to ride this incarnation of the attraction will be the day before that–meaning May 30 is the final day of operations for Splash Mountain at Disneyland.
It’s interesting that Splash Mountain is closing right before the start of summer season at Disneyland, but staying open for what’s typically the slower month of May. In reviewing our 2023 Disneyland Refurbishment Calendar, the one thing that stands out is downtime for Matterhorn in April.
It’s possible that Disneyland is waiting for that to reopen…otherwise, it doesn’t make much sense from a strategic timing perspective to keep Splash Mountain open during the time of year when it’s less popular and close it right before what’s normally its peak season.
However, as discussed below, the decision may not be solely on the basis of capacity or logical timing.
There are also credible rumors that the single team working on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is focusing all of its attention on the Walt Disney World of Splash Mountain first, and will then move on to the Disneyland attraction after that. Note that this does not mean that they Imagineering will complete finish the Magic Kingdom ride reimagining and then start at Disneyland once Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is ready to open at Walt Disney World in late 2024. That’s not how this would work.
From what we understand, it would mean working out some issues in the field with what’s being installed in Splash Mountain for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Magic Kingdom and using what’s learned there and applying that at Disneyland. Basically, solving certain problems once and using that knowledge to streamline the process at Disneyland. Doing this as opposed to simultaneously figuring out the same solution twice would speed up the project at Disneyland, while also making it less costly (or having to redo work).
Another added wrinkle is that there’s some staging that needs to be accounted for in the Disneyland version that isn’t present at Walt Disney World. I’d stop short of calling this “added scenes,” because it isn’t really. Nevertheless, it’s space that needs to be filled with something different, and it’s my understanding that the plans for this have yet to be finalized.
If these rumors are accurate, the end result is that Disneyland’s version is necessarily going to fall behind the Walt Disney World version of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and that’s entirely by design. The expectation is that the reimagining process will move faster on the California incarnation as a result of what’s learned on the Florida project.
(This reminds me a bit of construction on the two copies of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. The Disneyland version of the ride was months ahead of the Walt Disney World version at one point. However, they ran into a major issue in California, had to redo a significant amount of work, and ended up falling behind. Florida’s ended up opening almost two months earlier as a result. In the end, both suffered from reliability issues, some of which still exist and potentially could’ve been caught had the construction approach differed.)
As is implied from all of the above, Splash Mountain is now closed at Walt Disney World. The Magic Kingdom Mountain Range icon had its last day of operations in early 2023, after its closure date was announced a little less than two months beforehand. This closing date was actually slightly later than we expected given Disney’s target of having Tiana’s Bayou Adventure open at Magic Kingdom in Florida and Disneyland in California in late 2024.
If you’re curious about progress as of Spring 2023, check out our comprehensive photo report: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Construction Starts with Splash Mountain Rockwork Removal. Suffice to say, crews are moving fast on the Walt Disney World version of the attraction. A lot has already happened, and we observed construction workers on site after midnight. Our expectation is that the Disneyland project moves at a similar pace.
This brings us to the feasibility of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opening in late 2024. Many fans are understandably skeptical, especially given how long it took to build TRON Lightcycle Run in Florida. Nevertheless, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opening in late 2024 is reasonable. Maybe. If Disney wants it to be.
Personally, I’m hoping that date slips into 2025, so my commentary below is at least partially-colored by that. Reason being, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is likely going to be around for decades to come. I’d like for Imagineering to have as much time as possible to do it justice. Sacrificing an extra few months for even incremental improvements to the quality of the new ride that’ll be around for years to come is a worthwhile trade-off, in my opinion.
As for TRON Lightcycle Run, the slow speed was purposeful. At first, Disney moved at a snail’s pace on that to spread CapEx costs out over multiple fiscal years. Then came the closure and uncertainty about travel thereafter, which resulted in a pause and slow restart. If the company wanted that roller coaster finished 2 or even 3 years ago, they could’ve made it happen. They didn’t, so it didn’t. At this point, work has accelerated on TRON Lightcycle Run and the timeline has moved forward. Again, by choice.
The point is that TRON Lightcycle Run is a poor comparison because it’s prolonged timeline was deliberate from the outset, and not a showcase of how slowly construction necessarily occurs at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Just look at how much more quickly the Polynesian DVC Tower and Disneyland Hotel DVC Towers have been built. Granted, those aren’t apples to apples comparisons given their comparative (lack of) complexity, but the point still stands. Disney builds DVC quickly because it’s advantageous, and slows other projects because it’s (also) advantageous.
There are also recent ride reimaginings that illustrate how quickly Imagineering can move. For Disneyland fans, the best example is undoubtedly Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout at DCA.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout took less than a year in total, with most of the exterior transformation occurring while Tower of Terror was still operational. Once the Hollywood Tower Hotel went vacant, the Collector took up residence in only 5 months. Without question, that’s the fastest turnaround time for Imagineering in recent memory–and the results were shockingly good. The reimagined ride far exceeded our expectations and silenced critics (like us).
As a much lengthier attraction, reimagining Splash Mountain into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will be a more involved process than those for Mission Breakout or Frozen Ever After. Still, those illustrate what can be accomplished in a couple years or less.
Our expectation with the Princess and the Frog attraction is that a lot of the existing Brer Critter Audio Animatronics will be reused. That makes sense–a lot of those Audio Animatronics themselves are recycled from America Sings at Disneyland and had nothing to do with Splash Mountain’s source material. Going forward, they’ll likely be given new life as part of an “expanded universe” for the Princess and the Frog.
This seems like a savvy move all around. It’ll allow redevelopment costs and budget to be allocated towards other components of the project, potentially shorten the construction timeline, and might blunt some of the fan outrage. Those ‘supporting player’ musical critters are beloved and themselves totally noncontroversial, so that seems like a win all around.
In addition to those, it’s likely that there will be advanced Audio Animatronics. Based on what’s been revealed thus far, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure sounds somewhat like Na’vi River Journey at Animal Kingdom, which uses Audio Animatronics and practical sets with screens and other effects. Splash Mountain already has dozens of AAs, so it’ll likely avoid all of the pitfalls that make Na’vi River Journey underwhelming in spots.
All of these things are fabricated and staged off-site, and then installed inside the attraction when the time is right. It’s not like Imagineers have to wait for Splash Mountain to close, and then go inside and start building a bunch of AAs and screens with hammers and chisels (or whatever tools are used for making that stuff–I’m not a scientist). In other words, construction crews don’t need to wait before starting work on the Princess and the Frog ride. That work has already begun.
Nevertheless, I am still somewhat skeptical that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open in 2024 at Disneyland.
Imagineering has had difficulty with delays in recent years, and there’s potential for more of that with Tiana’s Bayou Adventure–especially given the unknowns. It’s possible this project moves faster than expected and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens by Late 2024 at Disneyland. However, if I had to bet on an earlier or later date, my money would be on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure slipping into 2025. Of course, all of this is speculative–and being posted before work has even started!
Ultimately, that’s our perspective on the feasibility of this overhaul timeline and closure of Splash Mountain. Personally, I hope Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is delayed into 2025 at Disneyland to give Imagineering a more time to produce a high-quality attraction, and not just a quick and superficial redo.
Both Splash Mountain and Princess and the Frog deserve better than that. This reimagining NEEDS the very best creative talent, budget, time, and all other resources. I hope Disney is cognizant of the fact that the Splash Mountain reimagining is going to be under a microscope, both from fans and in the mainstream.
If the end result of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure feels rushed, sloppy, or phoned-in, it’s going to attract criticism from a diverse array of people. As the company has been getting a lot of social backlash recently, hopefully they realize the importance of avoiding that for once. Here’s hoping that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure delivers an exceptional experience that effectively silences critics and wins over skeptics.
Thoughts on Splash Mountain closing on May 31, 2023 at Disneyland? How much of the current attraction (e.g. random musical critter AAs) are you expecting to appear in the reimagined version? Excited for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure? Expectations regarding the Splash Mountain reimagining timeline? Think they can finish it by late 2024? Keep the comments civil, as this is not the place for politically-charged arguing, culture wars, antagonism, personal attacks, or cheap shots. We will be heavy-handed in deleting any comments that cross the line, irrespective of viewpoint. You are not going to change anyone’s mind via the comments section on this blog, nor are you going to change Disney’s priorities. If you wish to shout your outrage into the internet abyss, that’s why Facebook was invented.