Disney has revealed closing date for Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World. Additionally, new details have been released about the reimagined ride for both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. This shares all of the details, new concept art, and commentary about the condition of the attraction and the turnaround timeline.
As previously shared, the reimagined ride will be named Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and will bring guests into the world of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ film “The Princess and the Frog” like never before. 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 earlier this fall, 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 mountain’s exterior, queue, and even on-ride details that’ll be added to the attraction as it becomes Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
Anyway, let’s dig right in with the new details about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Disney indicated today that progress continues on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, with Imagineers hard at work designing an immersive experience inspired by the Walt Disney Animation Studios film “The Princess and the Frog” and the heart and culture of New Orleans.
Today, Disney shared a first look at a new scene and some of the brand-new characters the company is creating specifically for this attraction. In Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, you’ll join Princess Tiana and jazz-loving alligator Louis during Mardi Gras season as they prepare to host a one-of-a-kind celebration for the people of New Orleans. This new scene is the thrilling moment you first drop into the bayou and encounter some friends both new and familiar.
As you can see here, fireflies will light up the night and invite you deeper into the bayou, almost like they’re waving you forward. What you can’t tell from this rendering is that beautiful zydeco music will fill the air. Zydeco is a special blend of rhythm and blues that was born in Louisiana, and when you hear it, you’ll feel like you’ve truly stepped into Tiana’s world.
Here you’ll find Louis, who explains where this amazing music is coming from. Tiana made some new friends out here – a band full of adorable critters, including an otter, a rabbit, a racoon, a beaver, a turtle and others. The band members sing and play instruments made of natural materials they found in the bayou. In the announcement, Disney teased that they “may” have a bigger role to play in this story.
Like so many musical genres, zydeco brings together the sounds and styles of many cultures. Imagineering wanted that spirit reflected in this scene (and throughout the attraction) so that all our guests feel welcome to join in the celebration.
It’s emblematic of what we’re always striving for with our attractions – bringing people of different backgrounds together through timeless Disney stories. This new musical adventure provides us with a song sheet to write that concept into reality. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will take you on a journey inspired by the story and characters from the hit film, picking up where that story left off.
In preparation for this new experience and the many exciting updates ahead, Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World Resort will be closed starting January 23, 2023. This means the last day to ride this incarnation of the attraction will be the day before that.
Additional information about Splash Mountain at Disneyland Resort will be shared at a later date. At present, there’s no reason to believe Disneyland’s Splash Mountain will be closing on or before January 23, 2023.
I’m actually slightly “surprised” by the closing date–and lack thereof–for Disneyland. I thought for sure they’d close both coasts as soon as holiday crowds subside on January 9, 2023.
I guess with the Disney100 celebration kicking off at Disneyland in late January, the calculus is a bit difference there. Perhaps they’ll wait until Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (or even the rest of Toontown opens) to relieve some crowd pressure before closing. Still, that puts a lot of pressure on Imagineering with even more limited time to complete the overhaul.
On a different note, I’ve experienced Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom several times since summer, including yesterday (December 1, 2022). It has been in rough shape for a while, but it’s at the point that it’s not even show ready anymore. The show lighting isn’t even on in some scenes, multiple Audio Animatronics are broken, and the backgrounds just look dirty and tired.
Walt Disney World has clearly made the decision not to invest in routine maintenance and upkeep with the reimagining right around the corner…and it shows! (The photos here are not from December 2022–I didn’t bother with photos, incorrectly assuming they wouldn’t have relevance.)
Point being, if you haven’t had a chance to say your final goodbye to Splash Mountain, perhaps that’s a good thing. The version that exists in your memory is almost certainly the one that exists in the park at this point.
Accordingly, we also don’t recommend taking a long weekend trip for one last ride unless you are a serious Splash Mountain diehard and won’t have closure otherwise. (Now, we do recommend visiting for the 2023 EPCOT Festival of the Arts, and if that trip happens to include a ride on Splash Mountain, so be it–but don’t do a trip just for this.)
This brings us to the feasibility of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opening in late 2024. Many fans are understandably skeptical, especially given that the cloned TRON Lightcycle Run still isn’t open and that project has been in progress for the better part of 5 years. 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.
One thing that Walt Disney World fans will undoubtedly bring up when discussing the ambitious turnaround time for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is TRON Lightcycle Run and how long it has taken Disney to build a roller coaster in an empty warehouse. However, the lethargic pace of TRON Lightcycle run is deliberate.
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 how much faster they hustle when DVC contracts can be sold!)
There are also a slew of recent ride reimaginings that showcase just how quickly Imagineering can move. The best examples here are Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout at Disney California Adventure and Frozen Ever After at EPCOT.
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.
Converting Maelstrom into Frozen Ever After took a bit more time, but still occurred in under two years. That attraction might be the better comparison, as both are boat rides that will require new staging, the replacement of numerous show scenes, and more. (I’d be curious to hear from accountants about the depreciation rules for new builds v. renovations, as I suspect that comes into play with all of these projects.)
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.
To me, 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 and scenic illusions based on the roundtable video above. That instantly calls to mind Na’vi River Journey at Animal Kingdom, which melds 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.
This is also reminiscent of both Mission Breakout and Frozen Ever After, which use a mix of screens and Audio Animatronics.
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. I’m downright doubtful that it’ll debut by the June 30, 2024 date listed on recent construction permits. Even though it would make sense to open a log flume ride in the summer, there’s a lot of work to be done here. On top of that, the existing Splash Mountain infrastructure could need more work than is presently known.
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 June 30, 2024. 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 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 in late January 2023 at Walt Disney World and on ??? 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.