July 21, 2024

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Ride Review: Failure, Flawed or Fantastic?


Reviewing Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a fool’s errand. Most Walt Disney World fans already have their minds made up one way or the other and are entrenched in their opinions. Some seem to get quite

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Reviewing Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a fool’s errand. Most Walt Disney World fans already have their minds made up one way or the other and are entrenched in their opinions. Some seem to get quite mad with anyone who dares disagree, especially with reactions that are not unequivocally negative or positive. It’s a no-win proposition.

So naturally since I am a fool, I’m going to do not one, but two reviews of the new Magic Kingdom attraction. Not only that, but, spoiler alert, neither will be wholly negative nor positive. We’re going to cover the good, bad and ugly of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Glutton for punishment, you might say.

The first review is going to begin with a thought experiment, much in the same way our recent review of CommuniCore Hall theorized what we’d think of that building if it didn’t take 4+ years to open). The crux of the question is: what if Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opened a decade ago, back in 2014, as a brand-new ride beyond Big Thunder?

Such a scenario sidesteps the controversy swirling around the reimagined ride, as it invites no comparisons to Splash Mountain and also (mostly) predates the most heated of the culture wars. It allows us to evaluate the attraction in the vacuum of its own merits. For those who think this is a cowardly cop out unreflective of reality, fear not, as our next review is “Tiana’s Bayou Adventure vs. Splash Mountain.” But that’s the last time you’ll see the previous attraction’s name in this review.

You might think that this lowers the bar and sets the table for a more charitable review of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (TBA). If you read on, you’ll see that’s not the case. Regardless, we’re doing this because it’s an appropriate ‘real world’ way of assessing the attraction.

Absent a time machine, it’s riding Tiana’s Bayou Adventure or nothing if you’re visiting Magic Kingdom now. What’s done is done–you cannot ride any alternative attractions in this space. And for the many guests who are first-timers, that’s precisely the scenario anyway—they approach TBA with a clean slate and no priors to bias their opinions.

In such a thought experiment, the ride would’ve been a pure addition not replacing anything and based on an underrated fan-favorite film that was the end of an era for Walt Disney Animation. It would’ve been lengthy at a time when rides were getting shorter, and featured a mixture of modern technology and impressive Audio Animatronics. Not only would it have avoided the “book report” criticism that plagued the Little Mermaid dark ride, but it would’ve introduced new characters and continued the story beyond the beloved movie.

On paper, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure sounds like a pretty perfect ride that checks all of the right boxes and gives fans what they’ve wanted for a while. (Yes, including back in 2014.) Even today, a lot of this sounds pretty appealing! But of course, execution is everything and how things sound “on paper” doesn’t tell the whole story.

In the interest of full disclosure before we get going, we attended the media preview of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure before it opened to the general public. Given that, you might want to discard our opinions or take this review with a grain of salt. I’d like to think the review is fair, balanced, and wouldn’t differ had we just waited to attend the AP/DVC previews or official opening, but you can be the judge of that.

So against that backdrop, let’s dig a little deeper and review Tiana’s Bayou Adventure on its own merits to determine whether it’s a fantastic, flawed, or failure of an attraction.…

Let’s start with what type of attraction, exactly, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is. At its core, it’s a lengthy log flume ride with multiple show scenes, Audio Animatronics, and other effects. But that wasn’t really what I meant—what genre of ride is Tiana’s Bayou Adventure?

This is a tricky question. As noted above, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is not a “book report” ride. It’s also not a “something has gone terribly wrong” attraction. Well, unless the something going wrong is an ingredient going missing (it’s not).

It’s also not a series of vignettes or cocktail party attraction, as Walt Disney famously called Pirates of the Caribbean, where you can just pick up on bits and pieces of the action as you float on down the bayou.

I’ve seen some proponents of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure refer to it as this or a “good vibes” ride. That’s wrong for a couple of reasons. First, it sells TBA short. It would make the closest comparison Na’vi River Journey.

Disney fans only call that Avatar attraction a “good vibes” ride because they don’t want to speak negatively about the expanse of dead space in its first three-quarters. Na’vi River Journey is arguably a boring ride; its saving graces are the music, quasi-impressionistic visuals, and the Shaman Audio Animatronics. Thankfully, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a lot better than Na’vi River Journey.

The other reason TBA not just a good vibes attraction is because it is narrative-driven. There’s a story. In fact, there are several of them! It/they can just be confusing or difficult to discern, so it’s almost easier to ignore the specific story beats, sit back, and let yourself be enveloped by the action. This provides a natural segue into the bad of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, so we might as well start the substance of the review there…

Paradoxically, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at once has too much story and not enough story. Ironically, it feels like there were too many cooks in the kitchen all with competing visions for TBA, and instead of settling on one, they threw all the ingredients into the pot.

This starts before you even board a log, where Imagineering has created an all-new backstory for the queue of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The set-up to the ride explains the “next chapter” of the story for Tiana, set after The Princess and the Frog.

There’s a lot for guests to discover in the queue, which primarily revolves around Tiana’s Foods, which is an employee-owned cooperative that (more or less) explains the exterior portions of the attraction. Combining her talents with those of the local community, Tiana has transformed an aging salt mine and built a beloved brand.

Many fans expressed concern or disappointment about this Tiana’s Foods backstory. My pre-opening perspective was that it didn’t matter. A lot of attractions have superfluous story in their queues that’s forgotten the moment the ride-through portion of the attraction starts. It helps pass time in long lines or sets the stage for the action to come. Queue backstories are something most guests miss–and that’s okay.

Again, that was my pre-opening perspective. It was probably wrong. There’s a lot of this backstory presented in the queue via an incredible amount of detail, some of which is compelling and–as a result–will be absorbed by guests. The queue being very good shouldn’t be a problem right?

Well, I think that it is due to the sharp contrast between the backstory building to the ride, and the ride itself. The backstory contains a voluminous amount of worldbuilding, letting you know what Tiana and friends have been up to, why there’s a mountain in the bayou, and (somewhat) setting the stage for the ride.

And then the ride mostly ignores this and has a very simple story. But, again, it does have a story. This juxtaposition is jarring, and not what you’d expect. There are a lot of cases where this might exist for Disney diehards who have read all of the lore, but I think this is the rare one where it’ll be true for the general public who simply walks through the queue cold.

I’d actually go a step further and say that the story for the ride-through portion of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is too simple. The basic outline of the plot is that there’s a Mardi Gras celebration at Tiana’s house, and she needs to find a band for the party.

My issues with this are two-fold. First, the resolution to the story feels too swift. It’s not immediate, but it’s pretty quick. It does help that there are multiple scenes of Tiana and Louis “finding” musicians, but the attraction–which is long and has plenty of time to let things marinate a bit longer–doesn’t really build to it. Except for one little scene of Louis digging in a garden, it just happens.

Second, the ride isn’t over once you find the critter bands, so there’s additional action that unfolds long before the finale…and I’m still not completely sure why. By this, I don’t mean that it’s bad or feels out of place to the attraction. I mean I literally didn’t understand why the things that were happening, were happening.

We’ll circle back to the second quibble in a bit, but let’s first further discuss the first. This also gets to the pacing of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and a common complaint I’ve seen from ride-through videos: there’s too much dead space in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

I agree with this to an extent. I find the set design to be lacking in places, as you’re floating towards Audio Animatronics, waiting for them to arrive, without much on the sides of the log along the way. There are several expansives of untouched bayou, and then big show scenes packed with action. It’s sorta like Walt Disney World as a whole–acres of nothingness, dotted with highly-dense theme parks.

I’m actually surprised that this would be a problem with an attraction on which Disney Legend Tony Baxter consulted. This doesn’t seem like a mistake he would’ve made. The dark rides he worked on are great at staging; they guide your eye through the scenes and don’t waste any space. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure wastes a lot of space.

It does help a little that the effort has gone into creating these ’empty’ bayou areas–meaning they aren’t really empty. It’s not simply dark to hide a lack of detail (looking at you, DINOSAUR). I can’t think of anywhere that I could see bare show-building, walls or ceilings. It’s actually a bit puzzling how much effort went into staging these scenes…of nothing.

Regardless, this is precisely why Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is not a cocktail party attraction…unless it’s one hosted by Michael Scott where everyone congregates in a corner. There’s not enough to drop-in on, there are almost no visual gags, there’s very little ‘throwaway’ dialogue or visuals to miss and pick up on subsequent rides. There’s simply not enough (and also, again, there is a story).

But what’s most frustrating about this, for me personally, is that the scenes of the critter bands that follow the dead spaces are absolutely jam-packed with adorable animals. The character design on all of these little fellas is fantastic! They are emotive and expressive! Some are young and carefree, just jammin’ with the band, and others are haggard and have seen some things. You can tell just with fleeting glances at their faces.

So what, exactly, is the problem? You’re left wanting more. Not necessarily a bad problem to have, but in this case, there’s an obvious ‘two birds with one stone’ solution to that and the issues with dead space and pacing. Create little animal adobes, critter caves, or other little details leading to the discovery of the bands.

This is hardly an original idea. I’m honestly surprised Imagineering didn’t see this when deciding how to go about the reimagining and stage the scenes for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. These empty spaces could be brimming with details, doing worldbuilding for the critters to add to their charm, helping out with pacing, and better building up to the discovery of the bands.

It’s so obvious that I’m hoping Imagineering goes back and does exactly this over time–or that it’s not too late for the Disneyland version of TBA. There’s precedent with the Little Mermaid dark ride being tweaked like this post-opening. It wouldn’t even be expensive–the key thing that would improve Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is not more AAs or other flashy tech, it’s static scenery to chew on.

Another tweak that should be made is raising the lighting levels pretty much across the board. I get that this is the bayou at night, but it’s still too dark. There are details that are difficult to discern as a result of how dark the ride is, and my camera picked these up better than my naked eye during daytime rides. (I haven’t had the chance to ride at night yet–I’m curious how much better it’ll look then once eyes have adjusted.) I also think the show lighting is needlessly uneven in many places, but this might be a photographer’s nitpick.

Even the staging of the action-packed scenes leaves something to be desired. This might be another nitpick, but the way the animals are arranged and holding their instruments made their faces sometimes difficult to follow as you float past. Some of their platforms are also ever-so-slightly elevated, when they’d be better at boat level. This arguably adds to re-rideability, especially when it comes to the finale, though.

Again, these dark scenes are not totally dead or empty. Disney fans accustomed to last-minute budget cuts might be inclined to blame those, but I’m highly skeptical that’s the underlying issue. There’s actually a solid amount of set design in these spaces to conceal the show building and bring the outdoors, indoors.

To Imagineering’s credit, some of this is engaging. There are firefly effects throughout, accomplished via both practical effects and multimedia, that feel like a modern day opening act to Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.

Because I’m overly analytical, I couldn’t help but note all of this on my ride-throughs and think about how much it all had to have cost versus home much simple, static animal apartment scenes might’ve set them back. I know the Orlando housing market has gotten insane, but it still would’ve been cheaper than some of the screens and other effects.

Continuing with both screens and the bad of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, there are a couple times when their use leaves something to be desired. On a couple of occasions, Mama Odie and Juju appear above the boat before lift hills or drops to work her voodoo magic. She’s a catalyst for the action in later scenes of the ride–once the band is already found–who clumsily propels the story forward.

In another scene (the name of which I don’t know, so I’m just going to call it the “Mushroom Cavern”), gigantic versions of Tiana and Louis are featured prominently on screens as you float past. These are CGI versions of the characters that look awkward as compared to their very on-model Audio Animatronics.

In fairness to Disney, all of these sequences are essential and I don’t know how they could conceivably be accomplished but for screens. That’s the nature of retrofit rides–and nowhere is that more clear than these screen scenes. Imagineering is playing the cards they were dealt.

The only solution I can think of is creating another original character–a small one–for the attraction, and having that replace Mama Odie and Juju as AAs in the lift sequences. Such a character could act as her antagonist in a voodoo magic battle or something of that sort. I’m not sure that would work, so this is a relatively minor complaint.

Turning from minor complaints to nonexistent ones, there’s been a lot of talk about Dr. Facilier not being in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Many fans think he’d be perfect for the climatic sequence. I’m not necessarily averse to Dr. Facilier being in the ride–after all, he’s a great and iconic villain. I also don’t think he’s necessary.

Riding through the attraction as built, I don’t think the mood, storytelling, or worldbuilding really necessitates or–for that matter–supports a villain. To be sure, there’s a totally different Princess and the Frog attraction where Dr. Facilier would be a perfect fit. But that’s not Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

Nevertheless, critiques about a lack of tension have validity to them, especially given that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure culminates in a massive drop that just…happens. Again, the plot wraps up neatly fairly early-on in the ride. The only question at that point would be whether you’re going to make it to Tiana’s house in time for the party, but that’s (oddly) not a question the ride even asks.

So I think simply asking that and making this a ‘race home’ as well as adding the animal homes before you encounter the bands would add the nominal amount of tension necessary for an attraction like this, which is at its heart a joyful celebration. Not a whole lot of suspense in most celebrations!

Before turning to the good, let’s quickly dispense with the ugly of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The ride is currently unreliable. It breaks down a lot. Some proponents of the ride might say that this always happens with new attractions, and is the whole point of previews. And while they’re technically right, this feels excessive–like the ride should still be in test & adjust. It’s not quite ready to greet guests, even in a preview or soft opening capacity.

The cause of that is unclear, but it seems like there are issues syncing the logs with the show scenes. On all 6 of my ride-throughs during the media event, there were noticeable issues with a lag between the dialogue and the movement of the Audio Animatronics. On multiple ride-throughs, Audio Animatronics were motionless even after their loops should’ve started. There were other issues of this nature leading me to believe there’s a problem syncing the ride vehicles with the action.

There are also issues with the audio. In some scenes, the music isn’t loud enough. In others, it’s too loud to hear the dialogue of the characters. Even after a half-dozen ride-throughs, I’m not 100% confident in my assessment of missing story, because maybe I just didn’t hear important lines. (For example, the PhotoPass border and merchandise indicates the drop is a “shortcut” to the party–but I never once heard any explanation as to why the drop is occurring.)

The good news is that all of this is fixable. It seems like it was a race against the clock to get Tiana’s Bayou Adventure open at Walt Disney World in time for the (hot) summer season. That makes sense. But I hope Imagineering is given more time on the Disneyland version to properly test & adjust to work out the problems. It gets cold by November in California, anyway; open the ride in flawless form in 2025.

Better sound-mixing or syncing might also undercut a lot of my quibbles with the story. Or simply adding more lines of dialogue if they truly aren’t there already. Thankfully, all of the ugly is easily addressable. I hope it’s a non-issue to the point that these paragraphs don’t even make sense to anyone riding in July.

We’re already over 3,000 words into this TBA review and have only focused on the bad and ugly, which might seem like cause for concern. Before we dig deeper into the good, I’ll start by saying that I really like Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. (Perhaps I should’ve followed my advice for the ride and paced my review better.)

There are a lot of specific things that I flat-out love about it, but at minimum, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a “warts and all” attraction that I very much enjoy. As I write this, I’m wishing I could ride again today. It’ll be a mandatory every visit attraction for us, just like all 4 other past and present rides in the Magic Kingdom Mountain Range.

I love that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is not a book report attraction. Those can be great (see Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Journey), but that’s the direction Imagineering has trended with many recent rides. It’s the safer approach since the story of the movie is already a known quantity–and a good one. It’s harder to screw up and success is simpler because the ride is simply a call-back to the movie itself, making it easier for emotional connections. But it’s also a shortcut and can sometimes be unearned.

Original attractions are riskier, and also, they’re what fans are clamoring for! Bob Iger recently made comments about how “almost all” of the new attractions during Disney’s $60 billion decade of parks investment would be based on existing IP, which was met with fierce fan backlash (even if it should be totally unsurprising).

Obviously, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is an intellectual property attraction–it’s based on the Princess and the Frog. But this is about as original of an IP attraction as is possible. The majority of the characters are new, existing ones have evolved since their stories unfolded, costumes are different, the story is original–the list goes on and on.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is almost the antithesis of a book report ride–most of what it brings to the table is new and created whole-cloth for the ride! I’m shocked to hear so many fans grumble about this, as it’s what they purport to want.

Then there’s what I really love about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure: it gets weird. This is what tickles my Disney fan bone, so to speak, after growing up with so many oddities in the 1980s and 1990s when Disney wasn’t afraid to take creative risks in its theme parks. I honestly never thought I’d see another new Walt Disney World attraction that is so unabashedly eccentric.

This is accomplished in little ways like Lari the Armadillo, a scene stealer who (frankly) belongs in like a half-dozen more spots. It comes through via the choice of stories and vignettes in the queue, and on the ride itself. Even the cute critters forming the bands further this oddball quality with character designs that are as unique and distinct as they are adorable.

But nowhere is it more obvious than the scene I’ll dub the Mushroom Cavern. Here you’re shrunken to the size of a firefly (itself a very weird story decision!) and are surrounded by towering mushrooms and gigantic frogs on all sides of the log. One of my favorite ‘moments’ from my preview ride-throughs was getting stuck briefly (too briefly) by an oversized Mondo the Frog playing bongos. It was a glorious three minutes.

If this scene were designed by Disney Legend Rolly Crump five decades ago after ingesting some of what’s featured in the scene, modern fans would still be eating up its trippiness. It would be featured on Etsy shirt designs and fanfic and who knows what else. And over time, I think this will, too.

The whole Mushroom Cavern scene makes me appreciate that this is a retrofit. I feel like a lot would be different if this were a fresh build, with that being a very obvious omission as a “needless” non-sequitur. That would be unfortunate, as everything about this–from the menacing mushrooms to the zombie-like fireflies on parade to the massive Mondo jamming out–is excellent. As Stefon would say, this scene has it all.

Not everyone goes to Walt Disney World for some good ole fashioned weirdness, which is a big part of why this type of thing is far less common than it used to be. Oddball attractions and entertainment are polarizing, which at least partially explains the strongly negative and positive responses to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

But I also have been around the block enough to know how Walt Disney World fans operate, and the quirkiness of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is precisely why it will develop a passionate following over time. I am completely confident in that, and say this with 100% certainty.

This has happened with so many other attractions, and admittedly is why I’m glad I was fortunate enough to write this review after my sixth ride rather than my first. (I suspect this will be a controversial take, so bookmark this section of the review for 5 years from now.)

Turning to less controversial topics, the Audio Animatronics in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure are amazing. This uses Imagineering’s newest A-1000 Audio Animatronics generation. As a result, the core character Audio Animatronics in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure just look so incredible.

“Lifelike” isn’t the right word, but they’re basically animated characters jumping out of the screen and into the dimensional sets of the attraction. They’re stunning, perfectly melding old and new technology to create something with wow-factor that will probably stand the test of time. Just like the Audio Animatronics from classic dark rides still look great today.

They are a notable upgrade from the projected faces a la Frozen Ever After at EPCOT and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. There was a time when those were cutting edge technology, but they just haven’t aged well. By contrast, these A-1000s are amazing. Their range of motion and fluidity is next-level, which works really well in tandem with the music of the ride. It’s like they’re dancing.

For those who are wondering, these Audio Animatronics are every bit as good as those in the international parks. These AAs would be right at home in Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea. Although there’s no technical ‘wow-moment’ like in that Frozen ride, they’re no less impressive. That’s part of why the three screen scenes take you out of it–because the AAs are so good at suspending disbelief and making you feel like you’re riding through an animated film.

Not all of the Audio Animatronics are advanced, which has become a source of criticism. And a very misplaced one, if you ask me. From our Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Journey review: “Equally as impressive to me is the Audio Animatronics in the attraction that are more basic and only have limited range (some are probably more accurately classified as figures rather than AAs).”

“This isn’t meant to be backhanded praise. To the contrary, I think this is brilliant. It’s not criticism that is making the rounds in fan circles because it’s almost imperceivable. Since there’s so much in each scene that grabs your attention, you don’t realize some figures are not advanced–your brain blurs them together with the advanced ones (it’s science, I guess).”

“A good example of this in motion–well, not really–is Disco Yeti at Animal Kingdom. There are so many guests that still swear up and down that yeti took a swipe at them, but he didn’t–it’s an illusion. And speaking of which, the yeti is also a good example of this in the first place, because that Audio Animatronics was a colossal waste of money for something that can only be seen for a fraction of a second. In a park that has plenty of problems and needs more, the yeti should never be fixed. Budgets are finite and that’s a poor use of both (down)time and money. Sorry not sorry.”

It is the exact same scenario with Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Maybe it’s easier to perceive watching on YouTube, but floating through–you know, the way rides are actually intended to be experienced–not once did I notice AAs being too simple. To the contrary, the right type of figures seemed like they’re used on every occasion. And even on my sixth ride-through, I was still spotting new details in the finale.

Imagineering did an excellent job of choosing the right tools in the kit, which extends to using a variety of practical and screen-based effects throughout. We already noted the three spots where screens stick out, but they’re utilized earlier on in the attraction incredibly well. The line blurs between the dimensional environment and the screen scenery (or screenery, if you will).

Honestly, there’s a lot of overlap between what Imagineering did with Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Journey at Tokyo DisneySea and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure in the U.S. parks. Whereas the former has been widely (and rightly) lauded as a masterpiece, the latter has been largely derided. In my view, at least some of this is unfair–especially when it’s a surface-level comparison of technology. I can’t help but wonder how perceptions of American park fans would differ if Tiana’s Bayou Adventure were the ‘forbidden fruit’ of Tokyo Disney Resort.

Finally, the music. It’s exceptional. Between the attraction’s soundtrack and the critter crews, I can see why so many fans of it are calling Tiana’s Bayou Adventure a “good vibes” attraction. There doesn’t really need to be a plot or story–it could just be two-dozen Mondo the Frog AAs dotting the bayou paired with this music and it’d be a pretty good ride! (Wait a minute…I love that idea.)

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure features original arrangements of songs from the Princess and the Frog film and an original song (“Special Spice”) for the finale of the attraction, and it’ll leave you feeling happy after riding. I’d also add that “Special Spice” grows on you considerably after hearing it a few times. So if you don’t “luck out” with a logjam that delays unload, you’ll nevertheless come to enjoy it more on subsequent ride-throughs.

From pretty much the outset of the attraction, you’re grooving along with the beat, swaying around with your shoulders and such, or however one might “dance” while sitting in a boat. (I can’t dance while standing up, so you’re asking the wrong person.) The ride ends up being a “good vibe” thanks to the music, from start to finish. Even if other elements of the attraction don’t connect on your first ride-through, the music alone will pull you back to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

My overall impression (or vibe, if you will) of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a positive one. It’s not a modern masterpiece nor is it flawless, but I still like it a lot. It’s a very fun and repeatable ride, with more than enough highlights to outweigh the lowlights (or the literal low lights). Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a top 15 attraction in all of Walt Disney World for me. Possibly top 10.

So why so much time devoted to flaws? Because I also take theme parks seriously–too seriously, by most reasonable accounts. If you don’t, I kind of wonder what’s the point of all this–what are we even doing here? If we’re going to hold Walt Disney World in high esteem, treating Imagineers as artists and attractions as their medium, then it follows that reviewing theme park attractions is a form of art criticism.

If you only care about fun, that’s fine. I get that.

I can turn my brain off and have a hoot with the Fast and the Furious films just as much as the next guy. Thankfully, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is nothing like a Fast and the Furious film. From my perspective, it’s closer to Top Gun: Maverick or Mission: Impossible – Fallout if we’re making movie comparisons. There are some plot holes that are apparent upon scrutiny, but you’re having so much fun along the way–simply enjoying the ride–that they can be ignored if you so desire.

If you’re only wondering, “will my kids like this?” you’ve probably come to the wrong review…and you definitely stuck around way too long if you’ve read to this point. To nevertheless answer that question, kids will absolutely adore Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. (So long as they aren’t scared of the dark.) It has cute critters, catchy music, a lovely outdoor section with big views of Magic Kingdom, great ride cadence, drops, a gigantic frog playing the bongos and mushrooms the size of a Stegosaurus. (Kids these days are still lovers of giant frogs and mushrooms, right?)

Ultimately, in answering the titular question, I would say that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is flawed-but-fantastic. It’s definitely not a 10/10 ride, and I have no doubt that some fans will consider it a failure, especially those who bring sentimentality to the table. And I get that. It’s difficult not to do so if you’ve been through this mountain (sorry, salt dome) many times before. You’re almost certainly going to be making a mental comparison and noticing what’s changed–sometimes for the better, sometimes the worse.

We often remark that ‘nostalgia is a helluva drug’ when it comes to Walt Disney World and think that applies here, too, as fans will be likely to fixate on what’s “missing.” That is fair, but keep in mind that this should cut both ways, and there’s a lot in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure that’s an unequivocal upgrade.

Perhaps it’s possible that the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia make faults in fan-favorite attractions easier to overlook, while it’s easier to scrutinize new rides before that attachment forms. And maybe opinions evolve over time as our mind’s eyes glosses over the faults and savors the strengths and sentimentality.

Suffice to say, I’m fairly confident in saying that your sixth ride on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will be better than your first. That may seem unreasonable–that an attraction shouldn’t need to be experienced multiple times to be fully enjoyed. That it’s a weakness since most guests will only ride once. But I’m not directing this part at most people, I’m directing it at fans who have already ridden this ride system many times. You need to ride several times…possibly over several years.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure also benefits from being the rare blockbuster Disney attraction that isn’t afraid to get weird and take creative risks, all of which adds to the fun and my personal (favorable) feelings towards the ride. In trying to rack my brain to think of the last attraction of this caliber that did that, I keep coming back to one…but I already promised I wouldn’t mention it again for the rest of the review. (It rhymes with mustache ploughman.) The bottom line is that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a ‘warts and all’ attraction, but one towards which I think time will be very charitable.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


Are you excited for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure? If you’ve experienced the reimagined ride (in person, not via YouTube), what did you think of it? Any other Disney or Universal rides to which you’d compare it? Where does TBA rank for you among the Magic Kingdom Mountain Range, and other recent additions? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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