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Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens June 28 at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida! The ride will take guests on a musical adventure picking up after the events of the Walt Disney Animation Studios film, “The Princess and the Frog.” Guests will encounter fan-favorite characters including Prince Naveen, Mama Odie and more, plus all-new music.

Disney | Olga Thompson

We’re almost there.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, the rethemed Splash Mountain, is set to reopen June 28 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The refurbishment of the iconic water ride was first announced four years ago. Similar alterations at Disneyland in California are expected to be complete before the end of the year.

Featuring characters from Disney Animation’s “Princess and the Frog,” Tiana’s Bayou Adventure takes guests through the swamps of New Orleans as Tiana preps a massive Mardi Gras celebration. And don’t worry, the more than 50-foot drop remains.

Riders will be immersed in a musical experience as they jettison along the log ride with new, original music alongside favorite songs from the 2009 animated film. Along the way, riders will spot familiar faces like Tiana, Louis and Mama Odie as well as a number of instrument playing critters from the bayou.

The revamp of Splash Mountain into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is part of a bigger strategy for Disney to infuse relevant, fan-favorite intellectual properties into its existing rides and theme parks. It’s all part of Disney’s wider effort to invest $60 billion in its parks business over the next decade.

Already the company has rethemed the iconic Tower of Terror at California Adventure to feature characters from Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” converted the California Screamin’ roller coaster into an “Incredibles” coaster (also at California Adventure) and replaced Maelstrom in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot with a “Frozen” ride.

Disney often refers to these updates as “plussing,” which is done in order to make attractions more relevant and to elevate the guest experience. 

Tiana’s transformation

Splash Mountain has been a staple at Disneyland since 1989 and at Disney World since 1992. There is a third Splash Mountain in Tokyo, which also opened in 1992. In recent years, there were calls from some parkgoers to strip away the “Sound of the South” theme from the ride. The source material, a film released in 1946, has been deemed racist by many even though the ride itself hasn’t been criticized as racist.

For Disney, retheming Splash Mountain allows it to upgrade ride elements, like its animatronics, tie the ride to a popular studio film and develop a slew of new merchandise, food items and drinks for guests to enjoy.

Imagineers have developed all-electronic audio-animatronics for the ride, including for characters such as Louis, the trumpet-playing alligator from the film.

Disney revolutionized animatronics decades ago with its hydraulic, or liquid-fueled, and pneumatic, or air-fueled, systems, but the electronic animatronics for Tiana’s Bayou allow for more refined and precise movement, making them appear more realistic. Similar animatronics can be seen in the rides Smuggler’s Run and Rise of the Resistance, in Galaxy’s Edge.

A preview of Walt Disney Imagineering’s audio-animatronics for the upcoming refresh of Splash Mountain, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

Disney

Interior pieces of some of the animatronics were crafted using 3-D printing, resulting in a lighter-weight material.

The relaunch also comes with new apparel lines, themed hot sauces, plush toys and a slew of different snack items.

Parks profits

In 2023, experiences was the best-performing part of Disney’s business, accounting for 36% of the company’s total revenue but 70% of its operating income. Meanwhile, Disney’s entertainment division, which includes its theatrical and streaming businesses, represented 45% of revenue but just 11% of operating income.

The ability to get more out of the parks in recent years was crucial for CEO Bob Iger and Disney’s board as they tried to make the company more profitable and improve share performance. 

“I looked at the return on invested capital in our parks and resorts unit over the, my tenure, really, and it was extraordinary,” Iger said during the MoffettNathanson Media Internet and Communications Conference last month. “And I asked about how much we were planning to invest over the next decade, and I realized that if we believe we’re going to basically turn things around from a cash free – a free cash flow generation perspective, which we’ve done, and we’re doing, then we have an opportunity to invest. Why not invest in the business that has the highest returns?”

Disney has already announced that the reimagined Country Bear Musical Jamboree would open on July 17 at the Magic Kingdom Park in Orlando. In an all-new show, the twangin’ bears will sing interpretations of classic Disney songs in different genres of country music including bluegrass, pop-country, Americana and rockabilly.

Additionally, a “The Little Mermaid” theatrical production inspired by the the 1989 film will debut later this year.

The company is also developing what it’s dubbed “blue sky” ideas for its parks — projects that are still in early development and may ultimately not see the light of day.

Disney has teased that an area based on “Coco” or “Encanto,” or both, could be underway in the Magic Kingdom. There were also talks about opening an area of the Magic Kingdom that would be overrun by Disney villains.

During the company’s investor meeting in April, Iger even teased the possibility of an “Avatar” land at Disneyland in California.

Price points for these projects will vary, if they do come to fruition. The recent additions of the two Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands in Disneyland and Disney World are estimated to have cost $1 billion each.



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