Disney’s popular Splash Mountain water flume rides in both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom are about to transform. The attractions will soon lose their Song of the South connection and gain a Princess and the Frog theme, with characters, music from the film.
We have new updates for you on story and concept art for the new ride from Disney Imagineering.
The original story of the attraction follows Princess Tiana and Louis the Alligator on a musical adventure as they prepare for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance. Music for the attraction will be recorded by original cast from the movie Anika Noni Rose and Michael-Leon Wooley, among others.
Splash Mountain Before:
In Disneyland, the attraction fits perfectly between New Orleans Square and Critter Country, a rare attraction that fits the theme of both lands it borders.
The concept art shows the familiar lift and splashdown, with a few twists. The rocky top of the mountain has been transformed into a giant tree with Mama Odie’s boat lodged in the branches.
Ray the Firefly and friends hover around a tree.
The boats in the concept art reflect the Disney World version of the attraction. There is no word yet on if Disneyland’s mountain will get updated two-seater logs.
Princess and the Frog has many of the elements necessary for a successful Disney dark ride. There is uplifting and catchy music, a scary villain, goofy animal friends, and lots of action that mostly takes place on and around a river. It seems as though this film was always destined to take residence in Splash Mountain.
Princess Tiana herself, Disney Legend Anika Noni Rose, stated,
“It is really exciting to know that Princess Tiana’s presence in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will finally be fully realized! As passionate as I am about what we created, I know the fans are going to be over the moon. The Imagineers are giving us the Princess and The Frog Mardi Gras celebration we’ve been waiting for, and I’m here for it!”
Carmen Smith, creative development and inclusive strategies executive at Walt Disney Imagineering said of the new attraction,
“We continually evaluate opportunities to enhance and elevate experiences for all our guests. It is important that our guests be able to see themselves in the experiences we create. Because we consider ourselves constant learners, we go to great lengths to research and engage cultural advisors and other experts to help guide us along the way. I am incredibly proud to see this work continue to move forward with great support from leadership across Disney.”
The original creative director of Splash Mountain, legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter, weighed in as well,
“When Splash Mountain came to life over 30 years ago, the wave of Disney Animation that started with The Little Mermaid, had not yet begun. New stories would give us characters, music, and wonderful places that now reside in the hearts of audiences everywhere. Following conversations with Imagineering’s leaders about the new attraction’s scope and resources, I had a great sense of reassurance — the attraction will be one to be proud of… bringing to life places, characters, and music from the animated classic, The Princess and the Frog. Being able to participate as a creative advisor on the planning and design with the Imagineering team, I look forward to being a part of a new adventure in Disney magic and fun!”
AUGUST 23RD UPDATE:
Disney has released a new piece of concept art and story details for the reimagined attraction. The ride’s story picks up after the final kiss as Naveen and Louis join Tiana in a new adventure… winding down colorful canals filled with original music, Tiana leads the way to an ultimate Mardi Gras celebration. You’ll find familiar faces and new characters along the way!
In creating this story, Imagineers did in-depth research into the culture of New Orleans to tell a story that’s as authentic to that region as it is to the characters’ stories. Additionally, Walt Disney Imagineering commissioned New Orleans artist Sharika Mahdi a series of paintings to inspire key elements during the planning phase. The first of four paintings was also released today:
A key group of minds involved in the attraction’s planning gathered to discuss how they incorporated the culture of New Orleans into the ride’s sound and visuals along with next-level technology, and the impact of Tiana’s story over the last decade. Kenneth Moton (National Correspondent for ABC News) joins Stella Chase Reese, (Owner of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant and daughter of Leah Chase – whom Disney modeled Tiana after), Carmen Smith (Creative Executive, Vice President, Inclusive Strategies for Walt Disney Imagineering), Charita Carter (Senior Producer for Walt Disney Imagineering), and Marlon West (VFX Supervisor for Walt Disney Animation Studios) at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans:
When Can We Expect To See The New Attraction In The Parks?
The yet-to-be-named attraction is in active development right now, but no construction has yet begun. So you’ll still have a chance to ride Splash Mountain one last time before the transformation begins. Disney will have construction updates soon.
The Imagineering Scoop
D23 spoke with the head of Walt Disney Imagineering, Bob Weis, about the Princess and the Frog attraction. We’ve excerpted some of it for you here:
The last time I saw Marty (Sklar) was at the D23 Expo in 2017 when he talked about Imagineers making changes to the auction scene in Pirates of the Caribbean. He said, “I can’t think of a single attraction that has not been enhanced and improved, some over and over again. Change is a ‘tradition’ at Disneyland that today’s Imagineers practice—they learned it from their mentors, many of them Walt’s original team of storytellers and designers—the Disney Legends.” I think about this concept quite a bit, and it really represents the great responsibility we feel as Imagineers, to uphold Walt’s vision of constant improvement.
The work on a Princess and the Frog overlay isn’t brand new. The project has been in early development for a while:
It has been a year or more since we started talking about this particular concept. While we’ve explored many new themes in the past, that’s when we really began to hone in on Princess Tiana’s story. That said, Splash Mountain has been the subject of many conversations through the years. Its brilliant ride platform and landscape create the potential for great storytelling.
Why retheme an attraction instead of building a new one?
We have a longstanding history of enhancing attractions with “new magic,” like Pirates of the Caribbean, and completely retheming others, like Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! We completely understand that these decisions aren’t always popular, but I think our biggest fans know that we care as much as they do.
What can guests expect when they head into the bayou?
Working closely with our partners at Walt Disney Animation Studios, we are expanding on what guests know and love from the film today. From a timing perspective, guests will see Princess Tiana throughout the experience (hint—after “the kiss”). She and Louis are bringing friends together for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance, alongside many of our other favorite characters from this instant classic.
When can we expect to be “goin’ down the bayou”?
We are working with our operations partners now to determine the timing for this project to get underway. For now, we know that both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland parks will re-open with the existing Splash Mountain attraction.
You can read more from Bob Weis on the D23 Blog HERE.
The Songs of Princess and the Frog
And while many of you are going to miss the catchy music of the original version of Splash Mountain, the songs in Princess and the Frog are delightful ear-worms that are sure to be hummed by you and your kids for decades to come.
The film was released during the holiday season of 2009, that’s just long enough ago that some may not remember the catchy tunes.
And to quote the amazing Michael-Leon Wooley, Louis the Alligator from Princess and the Frog, and guest at many MiceChat events:
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Let’s Hear From You
Are you ready to join Tiana, Louis the Alligator, Ray the Firefly, Dr. Facilier, Mama Odie and friends down on the bayou?
- Published 6/25/20 and updated with additional images and quotes on 6/26/20.
- Updated 8/23/21 with new concept art and story details.