June 22, 2024

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Opening Season at Disney World!

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Walt Disney World has officially announced the opening season for Tiana's Bayou Adventure at Magic Kingdom! This shares the latest news, plus our predictions for a specific official opening date, brief preview & soft opening

Walt Disney World has officially announced the opening season for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Magic Kingdom! This shares the latest news, plus our predictions for a specific official opening date, brief preview & soft opening speculation, popularity among MK mountains, and a first look at the Audio Animatronics!

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a reimagining of Splash Mountain. The new-look attraction will use the exact same ride system and remain a log flume with an outdoor section, interior show scenes featuring Audio Animatronics critters, and several smaller drops culminating in one big drop. Same idea, different story and substance.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will pick up the story of The Princess and the Frog after the final kiss, joining Tiana and Louis on a musical adventure 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 friends along the way as well.

In celebration of Mardi Gras, Disney has announced that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open in Summer 2024 in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Disneyland in California will open “later in 2024” according to Disney.

Here are more details shared by Disney about the upcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure attraction at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland:

During Mardi Gras in New Orleans – home to Princess Tiana and her big dreams – they say “laissez les bons temps rouler!” And the good times will roll this summer when Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Oui, cher!

With Princess Tiana at the helm, this new attraction “digs a little deeper” into her story after the events of the Walt Disney Animation Studios film “The Princess and the Frog.” It is Mardi Gras season at Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and the bayou will light up for a journey full of music, Mama Odie’s magic, and a whole log-full of new friends, in preparation for a celebration where everyone’s welcome.

Music is at the heart of New Orleans, and guests will be tapping their toes all throughout the attraction thanks in part to adorable critters, who sing and play instruments made of natural materials found in the bayou.

Tiana’s new friends include an otter, a rabbit, a racoon, a beaver, a turtle and more. Their spirited stylings will turn the bayou into a party with zydeco and other types of music authentic to the region of New Orleans. There will be new, original music alongside favorite tunes from the film, created in collaboration with award-winning artists PJ Morton and Terence Blanchard.

In addition to musical critters, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure welcomes talent voices from the film as they reprise their roles, including Bruno Campos as Prince Naveen, Jenifer Lewis as Mama Odie, Michael Leon Wooley as Louis and the one and only Anika Noni Rose as Princess Tiana.

As guests float through the cypress trees and Spanish moss of a beautiful Louisiana bayou, they may see some familiar faces as part of the dozens of entirely new Audio-Animatronics figures. Along with Princess Tiana, Louis and Mama Odie, keep an eye out for Eudora, Charlotte, Prince Ralphie, Prince Naveen, and others.

As “The Princess and the Frog” makes its home in the Big Easy, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is more stuffed with authentic NOLA artistry than Charlotte is with Tiana’s “man-catching” beignets! Artwork from Louisiana artist Malaika Favorite will delight guests as part of the queue, and guests can see an original metalwork weathervane from master blacksmith, Darryl Reeves and his apprentice, Karina Roca.

New Orleans artist Sharika Mahdi’s artwork has inspired the attraction from the beginning. For some lagniappe (a “little extra”) guests will have a nose full of the sweet scent of beignets frying – reminiscent of strolling through the French Quarter – as part of the attraction queue.

Finally, here’s a sneak peek at one of the impressive Tiana Audio Animatronics in action:

 

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Turning to commentary, this looks fantastic. Right up there with the best of the best on our list of Top 10 Audio Animatronics at Walt Disney World. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but it’s still great to see it actually revealed–I’ve watched that video a dozen times already.

Disney had already teased that there would be advanced Audio Animatronics figures (plural) in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. We also believed the projected faces on Frozen Ever After and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train that haven’t aged well were probably things of the past, regardless.

Instead of those projected face figures, Imagineering will use Audio Animatronics in the style of the impressive new Elsa from World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland or the Belle and Beast AAs at Tokyo Disneyland as part of Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast. Those Audio Animatronics truly look like the animated characters come to life.

Tiana is an advanced Audio Animatronics in that style, and she looks incredible–like the animated character jumping out of the screen and into the dimensional sets of the attraction. It’s great to see the domestic parks investing in these, as they’re absolutely stunning, perfectly melding old and new technology to create something with wow-factor.

Enough though the video is only a small taste, this is exactly what we’ve been wanting from the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure marketing for months. For a while, we’ve been hearing “it’s actually going to be really good!” about the attraction from people who would know. That confidence in its quality has made the focus on fictional food companies and weather vanes and murals as we’ve turned the page into its opening year all the more of an odd choice.

Those are the things to emphasize when there’s no there there and it’s all a lot of fluff. But we have ample reason to believe that there is there there with Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and the ride is going to be something special. (Also, kudos to Disney on finally changing the construction wall signage. As a prolific wall-tographer, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard guests discussing/debating whether the ride was becoming a restaurant instead!)

Anyway, that’s all in the past–it’s great to see Disney finally giving us a small taste of the substance of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure and the incredible next-gen Audio Animatronics inside. This leaves us wanting more in the best way possible, which is perfectly fine since there are still several months to go before opening–but we’re almost there! 

Speaking of which, now that Walt Disney World has officially confirmed the season during which Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will debut, there’s the question of the precise date that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open. As noted above, the company has confirmed the nebulous “Summer 2024” timeframe. Technically, that means any time from June 20 through September 22, 2024.

That’s not how Walt Disney World’s seasons work, though. Rather than following the Farmer’s Almanac (or wherever those dates are derived), Disney uses the ‘colloquial calendar’ that defines summer in the United States as Memorial Day through Labor Day.

For the past few new attraction debuts–Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and TRON Lightcycle Run–we’ve said that Walt Disney World would open the rides when it’s strategically most advantageous. And that was true with all of those.

The critical distinction is that each of those attractions was originally slated to debut “in time for” Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, but was delayed due to the closure and subsequent phased reopening. In all of those cases, Walt Disney World purposefully postponed the openings–it wasn’t simply a matter of staffing shortages or construction progress. The opening dates were slow-rolled for strategic purposes.

It’s a totally different story with Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Most notably, this attraction’s debut is being moved forward–from Late 2024 to Summer 2024–rather than postponed. In a way, the opening of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is more like a race against the clock, as opposed to waiting out the clock, as was the case with the aforementioned attractions.

Setting that aside for a minute, let’s discuss the most logical opening date window. Whenever there’s anything slated to open in the summer season, Memorial Day weekend or June make the most sense. Those are the dates consistent with past precedent. Of the recent additions with summer openings at Walt Disney World, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Pandora – World of Avatar both debuted on May 27; Toy Story Land opened on June 30. Before that, the last big ride reimagining was Frozen Ever After, which debuted on June 21.

It’s also worth noting that both Cosmic Rewind and Pandora had extensive registration-only previews for APs and DVC prior to that in May. The same was true for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and TRON Lightcycle Run. Those previews were a savvy move by Disney, as it got locals and diehard fans to the parks at a time that was otherwise uncrowded. The lead-up to Memorial Day is similarly an attendance lull, so lengthy previews might likewise be strategically advantageous.

An official opening date for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure around Memorial Day or in June makes much more sense than debuting in July through September 2024, which is almost entirely unprecedented. Usually, the first half of July is strong for bookings regardless and summer is starting to wind down deeper into that month, with crowds dropping off in mid-August through September as schools go back into session.

With one major exception (see below), Walt Disney World hasn’t opened a major new attraction in August or September in the modern era. It’s usually either late May through early July, October 1, or the holiday season. So there’s really no reason to believe that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will be the attraction to buck that trend.

The only exception to this was the first phase of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which was an anomaly. Due to lower bookings in the first half of 2019, Disney scrambled to debut that new land ahead of its flagship attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. The thinking was that Galaxy’s Edge would be so popular that it could defy normal trends and cause people to book trips in the off-season. That was a massive miscalculation and those months were slow despite significant park hours extensions; it’s a mistake we would not expect to see Walt Disney World repeat.

Even if Walt Disney World isn’t yet 100% confident in when Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will be ready to greet guests, they are likely sufficiently confident that date will arrive before August. If not, they’d stick with “Late 2024” and purposefully held off debuting it between October 1 and December 5, which is the typical timeframe for late calendar year openings.

That brings us to an important point, which is that Walt Disney World probably still isn’t 100% confident about the exact date when the ride will be ready. We’ve been reporting for months that we’ve been hearing that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is ahead of schedule, which is obviously good news. This makes complete sense if you spend time in the park watching construction progress.

Not only is it moving at a brisk pace, but there are a ton of workers on the site every single day–and often into the night. It’s a very active project, especially as contrasted with the EPCOT overhaul or other recent rides. In fact, the scaffolding is starting to come down around the exterior of the attraction and the new mountain(ish) facade is now visible–it looks lovely. Not only that, but they’ve been refilling the flume and testing that, so they’re probably very close to finished.

Nevertheless, hiccups can always arise at the last minute that derail plans. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure obviously is not done yet, and anytime work remains to be completed, there’s the possibility of delays. It isn’t unprecedented for projects to be ahead of schedule until unanticipated issues during the later stages that derail things and delay the opening by weeks or months.

We’re not suggesting that’ll happen here–to the contrary, the odds are probably pretty low. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a ride reimagining preserving the previous system and track, so it’s much more of a known quantity. Still, there is the possibility of delays, however minor.

This also means that all of the discussion about the most logical opening date for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is somewhat academic. I’m sure Walt Disney World would love to have it open by late May or early June 2024 if at all possible. The problem, though, is that may not be possible. They’ve already managed to accelerate the opening timeframe by several months–a few more weeks may be attainable, or may not.

Accordingly, we also can’t make any confident predictions with regard to AP or DVC previews, or general public soft openings. It really all depends upon how conservative Walt Disney World is with the official opening date, how smoothly construction goes between now and then, and if unanticipated issues arise.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure could be the one Walt Disney World project that defies all recent trends and is done quickly, leaving ample time for affiliation previews and general public soft openings. Or it could be a mad dash to make whatever opening date is set, with work continuing after hours even after the official debut date and delayed openings for months to accommodate. (Anyone remember the rocky first few months of Frozen Ever After?)

Nevertheless, I’ll offer my best guess, which is that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will not officially open Memorial Day weekend. If progress were such that late May 2024 had already firmed up as the debut, I suspect that would’ve been announced for the Mardi Gras celebration instead of the Summer 2024 season.

My guess is that, a month or so from now when there’s a higher degree of confidence in the specific date, we’ll get another announcement. If I had to bet on a date, I’d use the Toy Story Land and Frozen Ever After openings as guidance, and predict an official opening date for Tiana’s Bayou adventure of June 20 or June 27, 2024.

That’s still early enough in summer that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure would debut before crowds really start heating up, and it could be conservative enough to allow for ample AP and other affiliation previews if the ride reimagining is ready before then. That’s just a guess, though. Regardless, I’m impressed by the Summer 2024 opening season–and Disney’s ability to meet and (thus far) maintain an accelerated timeline. Really puts CommuniCore Hall into perspective!

As for Disneyland opening predictions, I don’t have much to offer. I’ve heard next to nothing about progress on that version. Not only did Splash Mountain close a few months later at Disneyland, but it’s our understanding that a few show scene and staging differences were proving to make that reimagining “trickier.”

We haven’t heard any credible rumors about the Disneyland version since late last year. My guess is that they’ll want it open by Thanksgiving, but beyond that, I have no clue. (Southern California gets cold in December through February, so having it done by early November would probably be ideal.)

Whenever it does open this summer, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will instantly become one of the top 3 most popular attractions at Magic Kingdom. Regardless of how anyone might feel about the reimagining of Splash Mountain, that’s fairly undeniable. The ride was popular before and it’ll be even more popular thanks to marketing and it being new. That always happens, so it’s crazy to expect anything different here.

The only real questions are whether it can surpass TRON Lightcycle Run and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in terms of popularity. Moreover, whether Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will be a regular or a la carte Lightning Line. My early guesses are that it replaces Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in both regards, becoming one of the longest wait times and most coveted Lightning Lane selections in all of Walt Disney World.

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Your Thoughts

Surprised that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is actually going to open ahead of schedule? Excited for the new-look ride? How much of the former Splash Mountain (e.g. random musical critter AAs) are you expecting to appear in the reimagined version? Expectations for a specific Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opening date? 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.

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