June 22, 2024

Cute Critters Coming to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure

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Tiana’s Bayou Adventure speeds towards completion in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, entering the home stretch of the transformation before the reimagined ride's Summer 2024 opening. With the transformation wrapping up, Imagineering has shared




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Tiana’s Bayou Adventure speeds towards completion in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, entering the home stretch of the transformation before the reimagined ride’s Summer 2024 opening. With the transformation wrapping up, Imagineering has shared names and backstories for the adorable animals in the attraction. We have details & concept art, plus our own proposed new names for the critter crew.

Let’s start with the official details via Disney. In the bayou, Princess Tiana is getting ready to throw a big party, but there’s been a bit of a mix-up between Prince Naveen and Louis. Uh oh — the princess suddenly finds herself in need of a band. All-new Disney characters are being created for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure and that’s where the critters come in.

Even with the richest roux for your gumbo and the most delicious beignets, a true Mardi Gras celebration isn’t complete without music. We’ll follow Tiana and Louis into the bayou in a last-minute search for this essential missing ingredient for her party — musical critters!

In the first critter encounter, we’ll discover a group of critter musicians playing a rendition of one of our favorite songs from “The Princess and the Frog,” “Gonna Take You There.” This raucous Zydeco musical recipe of fiddle, accordion, washboard, and other instrument voices will have you singing along as you float down the river under dancing fireflies.

The familiar melody is being played on charming makeshift instruments constructed from natural materials and some human-made found objects. But who’s behind this critter band? Meet some of the adorable musicians and get to know them a little more.

Byhalia the Beaver – Byhalia doesn’t just build dams; she helps build musical instruments using natural materials from the bayou. As a strong-willed percussionist, it’s safe to say Byhalia is the heartbeat of the band, as well as a natural designer and engineer.

Gritty the Rabbit – Always willing to dig a little deeper to help others, Gritty plays the washboard (a found automobile license plate) with a high-energy flair. It’s the perfect instrument for someone who’s often overzealous and digs to relieve her nerves.

Beau the Opossum – Seeing limitless possibilities, no one finds more wonder in the bayou and the sounds of zydeco music than Beau. All she knows is beauty, especially her own. You can find her plucking out the low notes with her upright gourd bass, which of course, involves some musical dexterity with her tail.

Apollo the Raccoon – Apollo loves transforming abandoned objects into works of musical art – like his squeezebox. He’s full of energy and storytelling, especially about the objects he finds in the bayou. He’s particularly close with Rufus and appreciates Rufus’ calm demeanor.

Rufus the Turtle – Rufus may be a turtle, but he’s quick to jump into rhythm with his harmonica. He’s also the first to join in on new adventures! He’s genuine and sincere but may come across as a little sarcastic at times with his habitual sighing. Rufus loves going on adventures with Apollo.

Timoléon the Otter – He’s the eldest of the band, but Timoléon’s fiddle-playing is inspired by all the ‘kids’ he spends his time around while in the bayou. When he’s not sawing out a jig, he’s famous for telling stories of days long ago about his explorations of every corner of the bayou.

In addition to these talented new friends, Tiana wonders who else we might discover in the bayou. More on that soon, in the second installment of brand-new original Disney characters coming to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. More good news: if you wish you had a critter friend of your own, you are in luck–Beau, Apollo and Rufus will soon be available in the form of huggable plushies for you to purchase.

There are many Imagineers and partners who are bringing these cute critters to life.

Meet Laura West, a lead concept designer with Walt Disney Imagineering, and the creator of these adorable critters:

In collaboration with Walt Disney Animation Studios, Laura carefully crafted the brand-new characters that you’ll see in the attraction.

Check out her detailed creative process below:

 

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When it comes to commentary, you might think “news” like this wouldn’t warrant much analysis. And you’d be very wrong. To begin with, we have further elaboration on how the stage-setting in the queue will tie into the attraction’s story. As a reminder, the new backstory for the queue of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure was first announced last year.

Within the queue, guests will discover that she continues to grow her business with Tiana’s Foods, transformed an aging salt mine, built a beloved brand, and are preparing to throw an amazing party during Mardi Gras season. There’s been a bit of a mix-up with the party preparations, Tiana invites us to meet her at Tiana’s Foods to help with the missing ingredient for the party. From what it sounds like, that’s basically the catalyst for the ride.

Many fans expressed concern or disappointment about this backstory. While it doesn’t get me the least bit excited, I also don’t think it really matters. It sounds like the backstory will be mostly relegated to the queue of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, setting the stage for the action to come. As with other queue backstories, it’s something most guests will probably miss.

From its reveal over a year ago, the “missing ingredient” story conceit struck me very much as a MacGuffin. Meaning that it would not matter to the moment-by-moment action on the ride, and would end up being friendship or family or love or magic or something stupid that didn’t really matter (to the ride, not in life). Let’s just hoping the missing ingredient is not Beau the Opossum in the literal sense. This story is set in Florida, not [insert state you don’t like where people eat possum]!

Joking aside, it now seems likely that the missing ingredient is the musical critters, but in the figurative sense. We’re not going to eat them in a gumbo. (Right…?) At least according to this announcement. It’s always possible that there are more missing ingredients, in the literal sense, but that seems doubtful. Sorry, turmeric fans.

With this news, I hope it becomes painfully obvious to everyone that the “missing ingredient” absolutely is a MacGuffin, and is a perfectly acceptable one. (If MacGuffins are good enough for Hitchcock, they’re good enough for Disney boat rides.) Who doesn’t want an excuse to board a boat and rock out with musical mammals?!

This also makes sense and is unsurprising to me, given how prominent random ‘cute critters’ with no Song of the South affiliation were in the original Splash Mountain. This makes complete sense as it doesn’t mess with the formula of the underlying attraction all that much, and retains a lot of what fans thought made it special.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure recycling a lot of the existing Brer Critter Audio Animatronics makes complete sense–a lot of those Audio Animatronics in Splash Mountain were recycled from America Sings at Disneyland and cloned for Magic Kingdom; they had nothing to do with Splash Mountain’s source material.

We’ve been saying all along that those AAs are likely be given new life as part of an “expanded universe” for the Princess and the Frog. (Recycling might be the wrong word here–I wouldn’t be surprised if the old AAs were so antiquated that they’re being replaced entirely. It’s my understanding that Imagineering has been/will be swapping out a lot of Audio Animatronics for modernized ones all around the parks.)

Previously, I wrote that one of the things I loved about Splash Mountain was all of the critters, totally unrelated to the story being told, who inhabited Chickapin Hill. Why were they there? What was their deal? They were not just anonymous animals that spontaneously gathered to watch Brer Rabbit’s attempt kidnapping.

In fact, the alligator band–The Swamp Boys–had a concert poster in the queue. It would’ve been great to know more about these critters, even if wholly immaterial to the attraction itself. While wholly unnecessary, it would’ve been added color, world-building details for the eager fan. (I also vividly recall inspecting all of the birdhouses as a kid, wondering who/what lived inside.) I really hope Tiana’s Bayou Adventure tells more of the story of the expanded universe of these critters.

So it probably goes without saying that I’m completely on board with giving these critters names and backstories–I love that Disney is doing this! If any of you are against this, my view is that you’re just nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking, grasping at straws trying to find anything to hate about this ride reimagining. It’s not like the animals having names and so forth that’ll be unknown to 99% of guests hurts anything. It’s just lore and detail for diehard Disney fans to savor–nothing more.

With that said, I will do some “nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking” of my own. I’m sorry, but a lot of these names are just not good. Everybody knows that adorable animals need cuteness and cadence. Here are my critiques, along with proposed new names for each character:

Gritty the Rabbit – Gritty is the name of the mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers. He has taken such full ownership of the name Gritty and embodied its personality that, henceforth, no character shall be named Gritter. Might as well call this “Oprah the Rabbit.” Instead, I’d propose Rufus the Rabbit.

Beau the Opossum – Beau is not an opossum name. It’s just not. Have these Imagineers even met an opossum?! Apollo the Opossum is a good fit if we’re looking for a script-flipping name. Peyton or Paisley the Possum are also good ones.

Apollo the Raccoon – The only option here is Rackety Racoon, carrying over the Critter Country Cinematic Universe from Tokyo Disneyland, where Rackety Raccoon is a former moonshine maker who had an unfortunate brewing accident (thus creating the whole area, per lore) and now operates a hot dog and ice cream saloon. What a baller.

Rufus the Turtle – Another obvious one: Timoléon the Turtle. It’s incredible how many good names Imagineering came up with…and then assigned to the wrong animal. Timoléon is just objectively better as a turtle (or chameleon) name. This is common knowledge.

Byhalia the Beaver – This one is perfect as-is, assuming I’m pronouncing “Byhalia” correctly–no guarantee there. I’d also accept Beau the Beaver.

Timoléon the Otter – Apollo could also be a strong otter name–has a good flow to it. But I’d go with Ozzie the Otter or Outlaw the Otter. (You’ve heard about the otter stealing surfboards, right? They’re real jerks.)

These are just off the top of my head after only one cup of coffee this morning. I will revisit this very important topic in the future with even better names, especially for the turtle (a tough one since Yertle and Squirtle already have laid claim to the best turtle names).

Ultimately, I am very excited by this news. Perhaps much more than is merited. But I love lore and critters, as well as the idea of Disney elevating supporting players into bigger roles. This is why I’m such a fan of Lieutenant Bek in Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. It’s also why I love the Tokyo Disneyland version of Critter Country, which already does this with ‘kawaii creatures’ having nothing to do with Song of the South. And it’s why I wanted more of that with Tiana’s Bayou Adventure from the outset.

There’s another new wrinkle for me, personally, and that’s having an animal-obsessed (stuffed and real) daughter. I’ve actually been looking for a raccoon plush for her, and can’t believe I didn’t think to do the same with an opossum! My only criticism on the stuffed character front is that there’s no love for Byhalia the Beaver or Outlaw the Otter. Even so, we’ll absolutely be buying these characters for Megatron. Her stuffed rabbit, Benedict the Bunny, currently is working overtime and could use some reinforcements.

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YOUR THOUGHTS

Thoughts on the cute critters coming to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure? Any new name proposals for the added animals? Does this make you feel better, worse, or about the same with the “missing ingredient” MacGuffin? How much of the current attraction (e.g. random musical critter AAs) are you expecting to appear in the reimagined version? Excited for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure? Agree or disagree with our assessments about this project? Keep the comments civil, as this is not the place for politically-charged arguing, culture wars, antagonism, personal attacks, or cheap shots.




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