In June 2020, Disney announced that Splash Mountain, a mainstay ride at its U.S. parks whose theme was based on the Uncle Remus Br’er Rabbit story from the studio’s controversial 1946 film Song of the South, would be reimagined based on the studio’s more recent film The Princess and the Frog, which gave the world its first Black Disney princess. Disney unveiled additional information about the upcoming attraction at Disneyland and Disney World today.
The new rides’ timetable and names have yet to be announced, but Disney Imagineering Senior Creative Producer Charita Carter, who is in charge of the parks’ Tiana project, said her team has been hard at work behind the scenes crafting an all-new story for Tiana and friends that will take place after the events of the film.
That procedure required a great deal of brainstorming, planning, and general imagining. It will also entail many study trips to New Orleans, similar to what the Princess and the Frog animation team did 12 years ago, to ensure that the final result does the city justice.
“To be able to bring forth the spirit and vibe of this amazing city, we have to immerse ourselves. We have to walk the street and have conversations,” said Carter.
“We want our guests who are from all places around the world to say, OK, this is a really special place,’” she continued. “But it’s also important for our guests who come from New Orleans to say, ‘Yes. This is my home. They did it. They got it right.’ And that’s why we’re so diligent in our research.”
As Carter talked, an easel over her shoulder exhibited a work of art — all brilliant colors and even bigger grins — by Sharika Mahdy of the local YAYA Arts Center, a New Orleans native. It is the first of four pieces commissioned by Disney from Mahdy to act as a type of guidepost for Imagineers while they work on the ride.
“What we did was, we pitched to her our concept,” said Carter of Mahdy. “We didn’t show her any of our storyboards, we just pitched it to her, because we wanted to see from her perspective, from a native New Orleans artist, how she would interpret what we were saying and how it resonated with her. So she painted this amazing piece, and then in turn when we saw it, it inspired us.”
Carter added that from the time a passenger joins the ride queue, they will be surrounded by genuine small touches that will assist put them in a New Orleans frame of mind.
They will meet Princess Tiana once they reach the head of the queue.
“Tiana actually invites us as guests to go on an adventure with her on the bayou,” Carter said. “And the fun thing about this is we, as guests, are active participants in this adventure, so she acknowledges us, and just being the winning person she is, she takes us through this amazing journey.”
The adventure culminates in a full-fledged Mardi Gras party, but along the way, guests will be reunited with old Princess and the Frog characters and creatures – as well as encounter a few new ones.
In addition to contributions from Disney Animation, the ride will have a next-generation audio-animatronic figure, which Carter claims is technologically superior to those seen in other Disney attractions.
According to her, the attraction’s original track system — a meandering, float-thru indoor boat ride that finishes with a 50-foot log-flume-style drop — would not be much modified from its Splash Mountain design.
“The ride system, in terms of its ebbs and flows, will be something we’ll be consistent with, but we’re going to wrap a new story around that,” Carter said.
She did, however, guarantee that the new Tiana ride will be packed from beginning to end with New Orleans music.
“We’re just going to take that to 11,” said Carter. “We have such an opportunity to give our guests a lot of the music they recognize, maybe with a new twist — and there might even be some new tunes that we incorporate and weave into the story.”
That musicality is one of the few parallels with the new Tiana attraction to the old Splash Mountain, which since 1989 in California’s Disneyland and 1992 in Florida’s Walt Disney World has carried tourists through a revolving scene from Disney’s racially problemtic Song of the South.
Sid Philips is a father of two and a loving husband. He currently resides in Pennsylvania and has been a fan of Disney since his parents took him there in 1980! Sid has visited multiple Disney parks around the world and loves each one!
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