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Tiana’s Bayou Adventure looks better than Splash Mountain, see for yourself

The Splash Mountain replacement brings The Princess and the Frog to Disney World — and eventually Disneyland

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Walt Disney World
Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 and is now editor-in-chief. He co-hosts The Besties, is a board member of the Frida Cinema, and created NYU’s first games journalism course.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure has finally replaced Splash Mountain at Disney World. The Disney Parks YouTube account is celebrating the completion of this unprecedented transformation with a nearly 10-minute, 4K ride-through.

Our first impression? Holy moly, they actually pulled this off!

The ride’s designers had to walk a tightrope while reimagining one of the biggest rides — in terms of scale and popularity — at Disney’s theme parks. They would need to maintain (or improve upon) Splash Mountain’s abundance of animatronic characters, representing the classic approach to Disney’s most iconic rides. But they’d also have to incorporate modern technology (ultra high-resolution screens, custom 3D animation) for Bayou Adventure to fit alongside the parks’ other new “E-ticket attractions,” like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.

In a decision that will please the most nostalgic among us, the design team favored the old-school approach, stuffing the ride with an astonishing number of animatronic characters. They used screens to supplement the experience, like the powdered sugar on a delicious beignet.

concept art from the Disney theme park ride Tiana’s Bayou Adventure: an illustration of Tiana from The Princess and the Frog holding a lantern at the front of a canoe as Prince Naveen rows the boat at night with all kinds of animals around them Image: Disney

As with Splash Mountain, the ride has a relaxed start. On a log flume, the guests take a leisurely tour of Tiana’s garden and the nearby bayou, before collecting animal instrumentalists to play a tune at the Disney Princess’ restaurant. First, the riders meet a zydeco band featuring possums, beavers, bears, and wolves. Then, the voodoo priestess Mama Odie shrinks riders to the size of a frog so they can tour a mini version of the bayou and befriend some musically gifted bugs and amphibian friends.

The ride culminates, as promised by its premise, with a performance by Tiana at her restaurant, accompanied by her animal orchestra. By our count, this humongous space features no fewer than 15 animatronics, a re-creation of Tiana’s restaurant, and a wealth of high-res screens featuring additional characters from the film, reimagined from 2D into 3D.

Tiana, a Black woman in a tiara, silver gown, and white opera gloves, clasps her hands together and smiles at a frog next to her in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog Image: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Splash Mountain, based on the 1946 film Song of the South, opened at Magic Kingdom in 1992, despite Disney having never released the film on home video in the U.S. due to its racist portrayal of life on a plantation in the Southern United States. In 2023, Scout Tafoya wrote about Disney’s long history of attempting to alter or erase the history of Song of the South, and the company’s treatment of the film like a cultural artifact that has become toxic with changing sensibilities. “But even in its day,” Tafoya wrote, “Song of the South was derided as racist pandering, and it faced a nationwide attempt at a boycott.”

In 2020, Disney announced that Splash Mountain would be replaced by a ride inspired by 2009’s The Princess and the Frog.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens at Walt Disney World on June 28 and later this year at Disneyland. Polygon will be touring the ride ahead of its opening, so come back soon for firsthand impressions and interviews!

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