PHOTOS & VIDEO: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Model Reveals Reimagined Splash Mountain

A model of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure reveals the reimagined Splash Mountain at D23 Expo 2022 “Wonderful World of Dreams” Disney Parks booth. In this post, we’ll share photos and video from this detailed model, along with additional new details we now know about the overhauled attraction coming to Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

To quickly recap, Disney announced that Splash Mountain would be rethemed to the Princess and the Frog at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. This announcement was made in June 2020–over two years ago–and not much was revealed at that time. There was a single piece of high-level concept art, a vague premise of the attraction, and quotes from Imagineers and other involved parties.

In the two years that followed, not much else was revealed. There were details about Walt Disney Imagineering research trips to New Orleans, inspirational art, a roundtable with a bunch of parties participating or consulting with the project, and a few statements by park executives underscoring the obvious reality that the Splash Mountain overhaul was still in the early stages of development.

Finally, this summer we received concrete info about the ride reimagining. The name of the new Princess and the Frog inspired attraction evolving from the reimagining of Splash Mountain would be Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

According to Disney, the reimagined ride will open at Magic Kingdom in Florida and Disneyland in California in late 2024. Closure dates for the Splash Mountains on both coasts have not yet been announced, but we’ve been assuming for a while that they’ll both go down without much fanfare around the time of their annual refurbishments in January 2023.

Imagineering also noted that to ensure Tiana’s Bayou Adventure authentically reflects the real-life inspiration of Tiana’s story, their creative team has consulted and collaborated with a host of academics, musicians, and artists across the New Orleans region.

To that end, Disney also revealed a new look for Tiana, with character costume art. This revealed that Tiana’s look in the attraction would be historically accurate and authentic to the character. According to Imagineering, Tiana was equally at home in the bayou as she was at a banquet, and the creative team wanted her look to reflect that, and be a compliment to the setting of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will pick up this story after the final kiss, and join Princess Tiana and Louis on a musical adventure — featuring some of the powerful music from the film — as they prepare for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance. During this celebration, guests will hear original music inspired by songs from the film. Tiana is leading the way and guests will be able to encounter old friends and make new ones along the way as well.

That’s pretty much everything we know about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure two years later. Which brings us to the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure model on the show floor at the 2022 D23 Expo.

Here are our photos of the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure model:

Finally, here’s a video shot by Sarah that puts all of the above photos into better context:

Phew, that’s a lot to digest. There’s a ton of detail in this model, and I’m not sure I’ve done it justice. Given that there are two days left in the D23 Expo, I’ll probably return to this model many, many times, so if there’s anything else you’d like to see in better detail, please let me know and I’ll try to take additional photos.

Above all else, it’s nice to finally see something real and tangible for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

The model and its surrounding placards reveal a few new details about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. First, you might notice a few reference to something called “Tiana’s Foods.” In particular, there’s the tiara-topped water tower emblazoned with that logo.

Tiana’s Foods is an employee-owned community food co-op established by Tiana in 1927. She establishes Tiana’s Foods as a follow-up on the success of Tiana’s Palace Restaurant.

According to the backstory, the co-op is housed inside the aging salt mine within the former Splash Mountain with growers planting crops along the waterway that flows around the famed mountain peak.

During the opening of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, logs ascend through a mill house built into the side of the mountain.

At the top of that famed peak, you might notice bottles strung from the ceiling.

According to Disney’s backstory, magical lighting effects triggered by the film’s voodoo priestess Mama Odie will fill the hilltop cavern with glowing colors just before riders descend the log ride’s dramatic drop.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will feature Audio Animatronics, including Princess Tiana. It will also introduce 16 new characters; it’s unclear whether these are all-new, or recycled Audio Animatronics from Splash Mountain that can be repurposed (again) for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

Musical critters seen in the show scenes of the reimagined ride will include an otter audio-animatronic playing a fiddle made from a tin can, tree bark, and fishing line. I think I speak for everyone when I say that Walt Disney World and (especially) Disneyland have a serious otter shortage. Otter Grotto just isn’t cutting it!

With that said, my initial impression of the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure model is that’s it?!

One of the things that I thought was cool about the original concept art was that it used the existing tree as a jumping off point for something even bigger, with an impaled boat perched atop the tree a la the Miss Tilly at Typhoon Lagoon. In this model, that’s all gone and there’s no real personality to the peak.

To the contrary, it appears as if Imagineering is trying to minimize the mountain. This is unfortunate but understandable. One of the most common refrains we’ve heard from fans is that “there are no mountains in New Orleans.”

Personally, this never bothered me. Disney always plays fast and loose with theme and topography, and real world places are always romanticized. My ideal version of the real New Orleans would most certainly have a big tree with a boat stuck in it–just like it’d have pillaging pirates and haunted homes–so why shouldn’t the Disney version?!

Then again, I’m not a stickler for thematic purity. It’s certainly important, but it’s okay to break the rules when something just works or achieves the right aesthetic, atmosphere, or other important goals. Look no further than the Matterhorn towering over Sleeping Beauty Castle with both adjacent to a small street in the Midwest. All of that should be thematically jarring on paper, but it is not in practice.

Same idea here, I think. Beyond thematic integrity, fun experiences and eye-catching visuals are also important. The original design would’ve delivered on the latter front much better than a design that’s more accurate to the real world landscape of New Orleans.

Ultimately, I’ll withhold judgment until seeing it in person, and perhaps it’s one of those situations where I’m so familiar with the iconic Chickapin Hill that anything else would be jarring. Change sometimes takes time to accept–it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve started ambivalent towards the new-look of something in the parks (or downright hostile) and warmed to it over time. And to be clear, I don’t actively dislike the “mountain” of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, I’m just indifferent to it. There’s nothing iconic or memorable about its shape or landscape for me.

With that said, what’s inside is what really counts (my grandma was right again, I guess). I’m still cautiously optimistic about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, even after seeing the model. Imagineering and the company as a whole undoubtedly realize that the reimagining of Splash Mountain must be ambitious. Both the movie inspiring it and the beloved attraction deserve the very best creative talent, budget, time, and all other resources. Disney is cognizant of the fact that the Splash Mountain reimagining is going to be under a microscope, from fans in favor of it and against it, as well as mainstream audiences. I remain hopeful that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure delivers an exceptional experience that effectively silences critics and wins over skeptics.

If you are planning a Walt Disney World or Disneyland trip to visit New Orleans or the Bayou, check out our planning resources! The best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide or Disneyland Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!

YOUR THOUGHTS…

What do you think of the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure model? Disappointed that it doesn’t have the big tree and impaled boat, or happy that it’s more “thematically accurate” to real world New Orleans? Does this exceed your expectations, or were you expecting more? 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? 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.

38 Responses to “PHOTOS & VIDEO: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Model Reveals Reimagined Splash Mountain”
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