Disney announced a big and necessary change for its parks in 2020: an update for Splash Mountain. The log flume ride in Florida’s Magic Kingdom and California’s Disneyland was based on 1946’s problematic Song of the South. The announced update would bring Tiana from 2009’s The Princess and the Frog into the spotlight. Four years after the announcement, the makeover is complete. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is on the cusp of opening at Magic Kingdom, bringing jazz, spice, and New Orleans flavor to Frontierland.

The lush exterior of Tiana's Bayou Adventures
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During a media event in advance of the ride’s opening, Executive Creative Producer Charita Carter explained why they chose to focus on Princess Tiana. “Tiana was our inspiration because Tiana is everybody’s princess. She comes from a real place in America. She wasn’t born into royalty. She has a working mom, she has military ties, and there’s so much about her life that is relatable. Everyone can find a part of Tiana’s story in their own story, and so many people are inspired by her. And you know, Tiana is a dreamer and a doer.”

A real-life dreamer and doer, Leah Chase, inspires Tiana’s story. Her and her husband ran Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans. Before The Princess and the Frog, Disney Animation visited the city and Chef Chase to learn more about them. And Walt Disney Imagineering went back to New Orleans as they developed Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. There, they talked with the current generations of the Chase family, through whom Leah and Dooky’s legacy lives on.

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The restaurant Tiana started in the animated film has thrived. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, Executive Creative Director Ted Robledo said, takes place about a year after the events in the film. “A lot has changed since then. One of the most exciting parts of the attractions in seeing where Princess Tiana’s life has taken her after that,” Robledo noted. “Following the successful opening of her restaurant, Tiana’s Palace, there next to the beautiful Mississippi River in New Orleans, she’s continued to grow her business, but this time she’s included members of the community and built a new beloved brand called Tiana’s Foods.”

Tiana’s Foods and Tiana’s Palace are prominent in the ride’s queue through newspaper articles about both businesses. What you hear in the queue helps set the stage for the ride’s story: Mardi Gras season is here and Tiana has a lot to do for a big party.

Robledo explained, “After we board our boats, then we pass through this beautiful, lush lagoon filled with trees, plants, and flowers of the bayou, of course we’re going to join Tiana and the jazz loving alligator trumpet player, Louis, on an adventure down the river. And we’re going to be searching for that essential missing ingredient, which you know is musicians. So along the way we’re going to meet bands of critters, this sharing all of the diverse and rich sounds of New Orleans playing their own renditions of these Tiana songs. And with the help of Mama Odie and her special magic.”

To bring authenticity to the setting of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, Disney sought out artisans local to the city. They collaborated with them on the attraction. Additionally, legendary musician Terence Blanchard, born in New Orleans, returned to the world of The Princess and the Frog to record a new song for the ride with Anika Noni Rose. Rose, of course, voiced Tiana in the animated film, and Blanchard played Louis’ trumpet parts in the movie. PJ Morton wrote “Special Spice” specifically for the ride. All of these elements contribute to the attraction being what the Imagineers call a love letter to New Orleans.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens at Magic Kingdom on June 28. It’s expected to open at Disneyland later this year.