What should Disney fans expect when Splash Mountain is closed permanently?
Disney recently announced that Splash Mountain– which has been a staple attraction in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort and at Disneyland Park in Disneyland Resort for decades, and one of the “big three mountains” alongside Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain– would be retired in 2024 and replaced by a newly-named Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
Disney had previously announced that the attraction would be rethemed to feature Princess Tiana and the movie Princess and the Frog (2009) but had not set an official date up until last week. Anika Noni Rose, who voices Princess Tiana, recently revealed earlier this month that the Princess and the Frog attraction would open in 2024, but Disney would not confirm those comments until it made its official announcement at the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans.
So, with the permanent closure of the attraction likely just a year away, here’s a look at five changes Disney fans should expect when Splash Mountain is closed permanently to make way for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
1. We’ll pick up where the story left off
Disney previously shared these details about the reimagining:
The theme is inspired by an all-time favorite animated Disney film, “The Princess and the Frog.” We pick up this story after the final kiss, and join Princess Tiana and Louis on a musical adventure – featuring some of the powerful music from the film – as they prepare for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance.
Tiana is a modern, courageous, and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important. It’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou. In 1966, Walt himself opened New Orleans Square when it became the first new “land” added to Disneyland park, so it feels natural to link the story and the incredible music of “The Princess and the Frog” to our parks.
If you’re looking for a “timeline” on what to expect when looking at the story of the attraction, we’re talking about picking up “after the final kiss.”
If you need a reminder, here’s how Princess and the Frog ends *Spoiler ahead*:
Naveen and Tiana are married and as they kiss, they are turned into humans (by marrying Naveen, Tiana is now a princess and the spell is broken). With Naveen’s help, Tiana finally opens her restaurant, like she always wanted.
So, with the story picking up after the last kiss, we could possibly get a look at Tiana’s restaurant. Obviously, with the two taking a trip to New Orleans, it will be interesting to see how the Disney Imagineers design the sets and how they pay tribute to New Orleans and the culture of the area.
2. An all-new Splash Mountain music soundtrack
As part of paying tribute to New Orleans, we can expect that the attraction will have an all-new music soundtrack.
Disney recently shared its inspiration for what Disney Park Guests can expect in the new attraction.
The Imagineers took in many sights and sounds from all around New Orleans, including the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, dedicated to Leah Chase, an iconic Black New Orleans chef. Next, the Cast Members headed out on the Bayou on an airboat tour, they headed to Chicago Square, including a memorial to Louis Armstrong and a museum honoring the place where Free People of Color and enslaved people congregated to enjoy music.
They also enjoyed the YAYA Arts Center, where they are collaborating for the redesign of Splash Mountain.
“We’re getting exposed to a number of things from that time period that are gonna be really helpful,” said Charita Carter, Executive Producer of Relevancy Activations at Walt Disney Imagineering. “There are even a couple of exhibits that we were able to take advantage of. We got to see set design, props, and all kinds of things that are really appropriate for what we’re trying to do in being authentic as we represent the city as a part of our attraction.”
Carter and the Imagineers also went to Xavier University, a part of the Historically Black College and Universities system, to talk to professors and staff about the history and culture of New Orleans.
“We even went out to Avery Island to take a look at a salt dome, which is one of the only areas in Louisiana that has any elevation,” Carter said. “It was really important for the team to be able to get an opportunity to come to New Orleans because it is very important that as we’re telling a New Orleans story as a part of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, we want to be really authentic.”
Carmen Smith, Senior Vice President, Creative Development – Product/Content & Inclusive Strategies, shared more about the trip on Disney Parks Blog:
Walt Disney Imagineers have been frequent travelers to Louisiana while conducting extensive research to ensure Tiana’s Bayou Adventure preserves the heart and soul of the city that inspired Princess Tiana’s story. From exploring the French Market and the bayou, to consulting with academics, chefs, musicians and cultural institutions, Imagineers have received inspiration from all over the region and learned from local experts along the way.
This research was explored in detail today at the French Quarter’s historic Preservation Hall during an intimate event held in honor of ESSENCE Fest, happening this weekend in New Orleans. With its own distinct history bringing people together, Preservation Hall was the ideal location to celebrate an attraction where music and community are at the heart of a transformational journey.
With this trip to New Orleans and the creativity surrounding Princess and the Frog, we can expect that there will be a very different soundtrack when the attraction opens in 2024.
While many Disney fans were hoping that “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” would still be included in the attraction, it seems that Disney is going for more of a clean break. The soundtrack will feature much more Jazz and a tribute to the culture of New Orleans in the 1920s.
3. The end of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear
Speaking of “clean break,” the theming from Song of the South (1946) that have inhabited Splash Mountain are not likely to still be around.
With Disney changing the name “Splash Mountain” to something completely different, it doesn’t bode well for Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, or Br’er Bear to be included in some way.
Perhaps Disney will leave a small tribute to Br’er Rabbit and the Briar Patch in a small animatronic, but most likely we’re looking at the characters being stripped away completely and a new era taking over the area.
Disney’s official description of Splash Mountain currently reads:
A Hare-Raising Ride
Gently drift through a colorful Southern bayou along with happy-go-lucky Br’er Rabbit as he looks for his “laughing place.” But be warned: Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox are in hot pursuit of this wayward hare.
Glide by over 100 adorable Audio-Animatronics geese, frogs, raccoons, possums, bees, alligators and other down-home critters as they sing classic Disney ditties, including “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” and “Ev’rybody’s Got a Laughing Place.”
Then hang on to your hats—this delightful musical cruise ends in an exciting 5-story splashdown into a thorny Briar Patch!
4. Frontierland will have a different feel
Splash Mountain has been the staple attraction in Frontierland at both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park for several decades now. That’s not going to be the case anymore.
While we can expect that Disney may pay tribute to the retired attraction by perhaps playing some rendition of its music in Frontierland, there’s no doubting that when Splash Mountain is changed to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure– it will be deeply cemented in New Orleans culture– that there will be a “different feel” for many when they enter the area.
It will still be Frontierland and there will still be plenty of tradition, but there’s no doubting that there will be an updated vibe to how this feels and what fans think when they enter the area as a whole.
Frontierland will still have attractions like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Country Bear Jamboree, as well as many of its iconic decorations, at Magic Kingdom, as well as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Mark Twain Riverboat, and much more in Disneyland.
5. There will still be a mountain to splash on
At the end of the day, the attraction’s story and theming will be gutted. But, the actual construction of the ride isn’t expected to change all that much.
This can obviously change as Walt Disney Imagineers begin going through their plans, but at this point, the concept art still shows a water adventure, likely with a big drop at the end.
It won’t be called Splash Mountain anymore and you may not even be able to recognize the iconic attraction once the new decorations and story take hold, but the one thing that will almost surely stay the same is the big drop at the end… and, of course, you’ll get wet.
Possibly even soaked.
What do you think of the changes coming to Splash Mountain in the form of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure? Let us know in the comments!