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On a recent sultry Central Florida morning that felt like a summer day in New Orleans, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom previewed Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, the new ride that moved in where “Splash Mountain” had been (though the splash remains).

Tiana leads the way as you traverse the Bayou.

Based on Disney’s classic 2009 film The Princess and the Frog, the new attraction picks up the action about a year after the movie ends, with Princess Tiana finally running the New Orleans restaurant that had been the dream of her soldier father, who sadly never came home from World War I.

With a big Mardi Gras bash being planned, Tiana and her alligator buddy Louis are on the hunt for musicians to play during the festivities, and the ride sets off to find them, floating riders via log-style boats through the cypress trees and Spanish moss of the Louisiana Bayou.

One of many “musicians” along the way.

That’s when the toe-tapping begins, as you pass a host of new characters—an otter, a rabbit, a beaver, a turtle and more—all jamming Zydeco, Rara and Afro-Cuban, with the film’s signature song, “Dig a Little Deeper” the primary tune. The ride also debuts the new song “Special Spice,” penned by NOLA musician and songwriter, P.J. Morton.

The “big splash” takes you to the final scene—Tiana’s party—a magnificent tableau featuring Tiana decked out in royal finery with Prince Naveen and all her friends at her side, including Mama Odie, who pops up at various times throughout the ride to offer words of homespun wisdom.

Princess Tiana dazzles in the ride’s final scene.

Movie fans will recognize the lovely voice of Anika Noni Rose, the original Princess Tiana, who reprises her role here and told an audience of travel advisors attending the preview, “this attraction keeps Tiana’s legacy alive.” Also along for the ride are original cast members Bruno Campos as Prince Naveen, Jenifer Lewis as Mama Odie and Michael-Leon Wooley as Louis. The new attraction officially opens on June 28.

Mama Odie.

“It is truly a love letter to New Orleans,” co-creator Charita Carter told the audience. Carter—the first African-American woman to be Executive Producer of Walt Disney Imagineering—was a major part of the team bringing Tiana’s Bayou Adventure to life. “Tiana is a dreamer and a doer, but she would not be possible but for Leah Chase,” Carter said, referring to New Orleans restaurant matriarch Leah Chase, who opened NOLA legend Dooky Chase’s Restaurant with husband Edgar (“Dooky”) more than eight decades ago and was the original inspiration behind the character of Tiana.

Today, the restaurant is owned and operated by Leah and Dooky’s descendants—daughter Stella Chase Reeves and multiple grandchildren—making the creative partnership with Disney a family affair.

The Theme is Delicious

Edgar “Dooky” Chase IV and Myla Poree, grandchildren of restaurateur Leah Chase.

Two of Leah’s grandchildren, Edgar “Dooky” Chase IV and Myla Poree, were on hand during the preview to showcase the spices that will be part of the ride’s merch—the first time ever that Dooky Chase’s seasonings will be available outside the restaurant.

The spices are being launched in the Magic Kingdom, but also will be available online and at Disneyland California when Tiana’s ride opens there later this year.

“My grandparents would say they helped change the course of America over a pot of gumbo,” Edgar Chase IV told the group. “You can’t cook a small pot of gumbo. You have to invite people over, and when I see the gumbo pot on the ride, it takes me back to the idea of bringing people together.”

Tiana’s kitchen, complete with gumbo pot and beignets.

The pot Chase refers to is the one simmering on the stove during the pre-ride queue, which winds past Tiana’s kitchen, where a counter is topped by a heaping platter of beignets, whose doughy, tantalizing scent wafts through the room.

Chase said that while the term “New Orleans cuisine” was technically a thing, the city’s melting pot of cultures actually encompasses the entire culinary world.

“When you talk about NOLA flavor, Creole and Cajun cuisine, we have so many influences, the West African, Native American, Spanish, French and Italian,” he said. “You will find your home in our cuisine.”

What’s New and Next at WDW

It won’t only be the new ride bringing Tiana’s world back into the spotlight—our hosts announced to tumultuous applause that Disney+ will launch a new show dedicated to Tiana in late 2024.

Never one to stop at one or two surprises, WDW has more in store:

  • Epcot’s American Adventure debuted Portraits of Courage, A Commander-in-Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, with paintings by former President George W. Bush hanging throughout the pavilion’s rotunda. The unveiling was accompanied by a surprise a capella chorus of songs from each branch of America’s military, as well as a performance by the Navy Band Southeast Woodwind Quintet from Jacksonville.
  • A new Country Bears Musical Jamboree will open in the Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland on July 17th, with new songs including “Try Everything” sung by country star Emily Ann Roberts.
  • Opening later this year in Hollywood Studios will be The Little Mermaid: A Musical Adventure, with beloved songs from the original film plus the new “Daughters of Triton” tune and additional visual and digital content enhanced by motion-capture technology.

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