Does Tiana Deserve Better Than a Splash Mountain Revamp?

The internet has been buzzing today with news that the classic Disney Parks ride, Splash Mountain, will replace its animatronic characters from Disney's forgotten 1946 feature Song of the South with new ones from their 2009 classic, The Princess and the Frog. The announcement was made right on the heels of massive civil unrest in the middle of a pandemic that forced closures of Disney parks around the world. It would seem that Disney was keeping this project in their back pocket for over a year as they waited for the right time to announce it to the public. They could not have picked a better time to reveal an attraction dedicated to the first black Disney Princess than this very moment. Yet, the timing seems almost too coincidental after so many complaints masses about a ride featuring a movie that has been virtually deleted from the Disney library for generations. Is this really a tribute to the fantastic reimagining of "The Frog Prince" that Disney released a little over a decade ago, or is it an attempt to make amends with angry fans who were offended by the portrayal of slavery in Song of the South?


The Princess and the Frog is a cinematic masterpiece that undeniably deserves its own ride or restaurant. When the movie came out, Walt Disney World transformed their Liberty Square Riverboat ride into a mini musical where the characters sang and danced as they rode the iconic riverboat down the bayou. On the other side of the country, Disneyland has annual Mardi Gras festivals where Tiana, Naveen, and Louis come out to play and dance with guests visiting New Orleans Square. The characters from the film have maintained a presence in the parks since its release, but were never given a proper attraction to call home. That will change when the newly revamped Splash Mountain ride comes to life. The ride will featuer Tiana and her friends celebrating their first Mardi Gras since Tiana and Naveen got married and were restored to their human form, which means it will not tell the story portrayed in the movie with their frog transformations. Not quite a roller coaster and not quite a dark ride, Splash Mountain has been a staple in the Disney legacy since 1989. The upper portion of the ride that leads up to the famous waterfall has plenty of room for animatronics, but it doesn't have enough sections to tell a complete story.

Over the years, I've come to accept that my taste in Disney attractions is among the minority. I strongly prefer dark rides over thrill rides. Until recently, dark rides were the standard for princess-themed attractions. That focus started to shift during my last trip to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, when I went on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride from the New Fantasyland expansion. What had once been Snow White's Scary Adventure is now a 30-second roller coaster that zips through the mines of the seven dwarfs and ends with a peek through their cottage window where you can just make out an animatronic of Snow White from the original dark ride. The shorter runtime combined with the height limit that excludes smaller children mitigates the storytelling possibilities of the experience and the age of guests who are permitted to enjoy it. I feel the same way about Splash Mountain. If Disney is going to add a new attraction for The Princess and the Frog, it should be one that the entire family can enjoy, especially young girls who may be too small or skittish for thrill rides.

Another thing that I would love to see the Disney Parks do for The Princess and the Frog is to open a themed restaurant. The entire movie centers around Tiana's dream of opening a restaurant, so it only seems fair for Disney grant her this wish in the place where Disney dreams come true. There's already a gorgeous restaurant in New Orleans Square called the Blue Bayou that would be the perfect setting for Princess and the Frog character dining. Walt Disney World in Florida has a Port Orleans Hotel that could easily revamp one of their restaurants as well. Tiana and Naveen were some of my favorite characters to meet in the Disney Parks, so I would love to have more opportunities to interact with them. Yet, Disney seems to be veering away from character dining and storytelling experiences with their closure of the princess-themed Ariel's Grotto restaurant in Disneyland among other commercialized rethemings. It's easier for them to make minor adjustments to a ride that has already been built than to create an entirely new experience from scratch. They have demonstrated this countless times by transforming classic attractions such as Tower of Terror into Guardians of the Galaxy and Epcot's Maelstrom boat ride into Frozen Ever After.

Am I happy that one of my favorite Disney movies is getting a ride at the parks? Of course. At the same time, I now have a better understanding of what some people were complaining about when Halle Bailey was cast as the next Ariel instead of giving her an original Disney Princess movie to work with. Pandering to the masses is simply not as satisfying as something completely new and innovative. The upcoming Beauty and the Beast ride from Tokyo Disneyland looks absolutely incredible. Why can't Tiana have something equally incredible? She is an inspiring character who made me feel less alone during a time in my life that I felt stuck in my career. I would love to see her featured in an attraction that embraces the nature of her character, such as a new princess-themed restaurant or dark ride. In the meantime, I will remain grateful for the scraps that Disney throws out whenever their parks open to the public again.

Update: After posting this article, I was informed that Disney will open a Princess and the Frog themed restaurant at their upcoming Reflections hotel in 2022.

Comments

PrincessContent said…
Your comment here on Halle Bailey and original movies reminded me of an upcoming disney movie that I had completely forgotten about. There has not been any news since 2018. Here's an article about it, in case you have not heard about it.

https://variety.com/2018/film/news/disney-african-princess-fairytale-movie-sade-1202888258/
Lisa Dawn said…
Neat! Thanks for sharing! The premise sounds a little bit like Secret Society for Second-Born Royals (which just got delayed for two months :( ).
PrincessContent said…
You're welcome! <3
I do wonder why they decided to delay a streaming movie? Maybe they wanted to tinker a bit more with the effects?
I have a felling that Disney wants to make Second-Born Royals their next streaming franchise, now that Disney's Descendants will be over soon.

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