Disney Commissioned New Orleans Teacher for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Concept Art

in Disney, Disney Parks

Artist Sharika Mahdi with her Tiana's Bayou Adventure concept art

Credit: Disney

In order to bring the upcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure to life, the Walt Disney Company has commissioned New Orleans artist and teacher Sharika Mahdi to create concept art for the Splash Mountain replacement.

Credit: Disney

One of the most beloved rides in Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom Park, and pretty much every other Disney Park in the world, the Splash Mountain attraction will be coming to an end after over 30 years. Originally telling the story of Brer Rabbit from the controversial film Song of the South (1946), the new version of the ride will instead focus on The Princess and the Frog (2009).

The ride will follow the story of Princess Tiana establishing her new restaurant, Tiana’s Palace, and celebrating with a Mardi Gras party. Guests will witness a story with new characters as well as returning favorites, including Prince Naveen, Mama Odie, and the Jazz-loving alligator Louis.

Tiana guiding riders past a band of river animals and Louis the Alligator Princess and the Frog
Credit: Disney

Related: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Won’t See “Friends on the Other Side”

However, not all Disney fans are happy with the change, stating that the ride shouldn’t be changed despite the subject matter’s controversial past. This has led to multiple people creating petitions and even contacting lawmakers to save the original version of Splash Mountain.

But one thing cannot be denied: the art showcasing the ride’s potential has been breathtaking. Whether it’s the hand-drawn images of Guests traveling down the bayou in a log or the model of the ride’s exterior, there’s no doubt that Disney Imagineers are doing a fantastic job, and the ride will look incredible. And one of the artists using their incredible talent to help with that process is New Orleans native Sharika Mahdi.

Sharika Mahdi Brings Tiana’s Bayou Adventure To Life

Teacher and Artist Sharika Mahdi showing off her art studioTiana's Bayou Adventure Splash Mountian
Credit: WVUE

related: “Be Kind to Tiana” Says Splash Mountain Cast Member as Ride Shuts Down

Walt Disney Imagineering has made a point to bring as much authentic New Orleans energy to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure as possible. Not only does that involve visiting and studying the city, but bringing in local artists as well. One of those artists is the talented Sharika Mahdi.

“I actually received an email, and I thought it wasn’t a real email. Like literally, it was a contact on my website saying they were interested in my work,” Mahdi said. “The young lady said she was interested in my work, and if I’d be interested in doing a project with Disney.”

Mahdi continued, “So, I responded. She responded back. Then we had a phone call. I wasn’t quite sure what it entailed until that first phone call. She told me they were looking for some concept drawings for the new ride at the Disney Parks in honor of Tiana’s The Princess and The Frog.”

Two paintings created by Sharika Mahdi for Tiana's Bayou Adventure
Credit: Disney/Sharika Mahdi

Related: The Next Disney World Attraction to Join Splash Mountain

Sharika Mahdi has described the experience as a dream come true, noting that “People describe my art as very happy, very whimsical, very musical… I even remember receiving comments that my work looked like Disney.”

Mahdi was also excited to work on the project because of how much The Princess and the Frog and Tiana meant to her. “She reminds me of my sister, who started her own restaurant, or some other women I’ve seen start restaurants and other businesses that really had to fight the elements.”

“Mainly her story of just having a dream, being told she couldn’t do it and persevering and doing it,” Mahdi clarified.” I was told, ‘ I don’t see you being an artist.’ I had someone tell me that, that they didn’t see me being that great.”

“If somebody would have told me several years ago that I would be just making a contribution to Tiana’s Princess and The Frog. I would be like really… really? So, this is actually truly a wonderful experience, and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Mahdi explained further, “To know that I have a part in it, and other little girls and other artists can look at that and go, ‘Wow, an African American woman did this from New Orleans and influenced the iconic imagery of the ride.'”

What do you think of the concept art for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

in Disney, Disney Parks

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