Tiana's Bayou Adventure Review - IGN (2024)

Tiana's Bayou Adventure is now open at Magic Kingdom in the Walt Disney World Resort. The Disneyland version is scheduled to open later in the year.

In 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, Tiana’s late father, James, told his young daughter to "never, ever lose sight of what’s really important." We saw her live up to her father’s words in the film, and now, thanks to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, we see that the message is stronger than ever for the Disney Princess. The selfless heart that lifted her community is on display in this wet and wonderful new attraction that has replaced Splash Mountain, and it has helped take it to new heights and secure its place among Disney Parks’ best.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure takes place one year after the events of The Princess and the Frog and it kicks off with an Audio-Animatronic of Tiana, who is voiced once again by Anika Noni Rose, and she needs our help to find a band for her upcoming Mardi Gras party. Bayou Adventure’s 48 Audio-Animatronics are extremely impressive in the way they move, speak, and feel pulled right from the movie (especially jazz-loving alligator Louis and voodoo priestess Mama Odie), but not everything is perfect. During a press preview, I saw a few instances of mouths not moving and mistimed lip-syncing, which broke the immersion of the experience for me because the Audio-Animatronics are so front and center. (This was a few weeks before the attraction’s scheduled opening, so there was still time to work out the kinks.)

Tiana's Bayou Adventure at Walt Disney World Images

That aside, they add a lot to the colorful and enjoyable river voyage, as do various arrangements of songs from The Princess and the Frog. I was singing and dancing like nobody was watching, but I was still able to notice plenty of little details that make Tiana’s Bayou Adventure feel alive. Not only could I smell the grass as I entered the bayou and see fireflies dancing beautifully, but each adorable critter recruited for the Mardi Gras band is playing a makeshift instrument built from some natural and/or man-made material. Gritty the Rabbit was the standout for me: He’s fashioned a license plate into a washboard – the very same license plate that’s missing from the Tiana’s Foods truck parked outside the actual attraction. World building, my friends!

The rest of the ride has a lot of fun moments I won’t spoil here, but there are clever tricks that occur that change things up in a cool way. And that legendary 50-foot drop is still as thrilling as ever, providing great relief on a 100-degree day in Orlando and a spectacular view of the castle. It didn’t soak me as much as I thought it would – the ride vehicles protect guests from the worst of the splashes. I still recommend a poncho if you’re worried about getting too wet, but don’t anticipate a drenching that’s going to ruin the rest of your day at the park in most cases.

As for the story, it’s a charming albeit simple one that shows Tiana giving back to those who helped realize her and her dad’s dream of opening Tiana’s Palace. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but it serves its purpose and never gets too scary. A handful of attractions, including The Seas with Nemo & Friends, have one or two parts that can get a bit too much for the younger crowd, but this one never delves into that darker territory. This is a happy story and it’s all the better for it.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure culminates in the previously mentioned Mardi Gras party, and it’s a finale mostly worthy of praise. While the good times roll with dancing, singing, fancy attire, and more of those impressive Audio-Animatronics, the celebration is filled out by a few CG characters who appear in windows. While it’s great to see characters like Eli “Big Daddy” La Bouff again, the new 3D art style they’re rendered in is a departure from the look of The Princess and the Frog and a bit too shiny in a way that makes it off-putting.

Tiana's Bayou Adventure isamong Disney Parks’ best attractions.

Furthermore, the finale is too good to end as quickly as it does. There is so much to take in, including the brand-new song called “Special Spice” – sung by Rose and written by Grammy-winning New Orleans native PJ Morton and – and it’s frustrating that it’s over in less than 30 seconds. I was able to ride Tiana’s Bayou Adventure five times, and I still feel like I missed a lot of what was on display.

All in all, however, the 10ish minutes of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure are a resounding success with far more positives than negatives. I had a huge smile on my face the whole time, and loved being back in the world of The Princess in the Frog while anticipating each small and big drop and burst of speed.

The Princess and the Queue

As great as the attraction is as whole, the queue, shockingly, had me excited about getting back in line. From the moment you enter the waiting area of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, you’re taken from Orlando to New Orleans circa 1927. Disney’s Imagineers went above and beyond and brought so much of the Crescent City to Disney World to help with the wait, including murals on the walls from local artists and musicians contributing to a radio program with songs from the film and more. In fact, you’ll even be able to hear Leah Chase Jr. – the daughter of the famed New Orleans chef Leah Chase who was a huge inspiration for Tiana – sing a version of Louis Armstrong’s "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans."

Once you’re inside, you are first taken to Tiana’s office and can read newspaper clippings and letters on her desk and on the walls to catch a glimpse of what’s been happening in her life since the credits rolled in The Princess and the Frog. We are also introduced to Tiana’s Foods – the employee-owned co-op Tiana started after the success of Tiana’s Palace – and the employees’ aprons and clock-in cards are all there as if this were a normal day.

Tiana’s kitchen is next, and you can smell the beignets that are sitting right on the table, see some of her recipe cards – stained with ingredient splatter for an added touch of authenticity – and even catch a glimpse of the pot she and her dad used for gumbo.

Surrounding the kitchen is a section dedicated to her father: We learn they won a gumbo contest at the Louisiana State Fair when Tiana was six, that he became quite popular in the 369th Infantry Regiment thanks to his cooking, and that he sadly passed away during a battle in World War I while rescuing other soldiers.

Tiana's Bayou Adventure Review - IGN (1)

What really hit home for me, as someone who lost my father five years ago, were the letters he wrote to Tiana when he was overseas. These letters, which you can read on the walls near the kitchen, brought me to tears, as they showcased their love in a whole new and surprisingly honest way. James didn’t hold back in talking about how tough it was in the war, but he wove in his love for Tiana and that she was the shining star that lit up even the darkest moments.

This is storytelling at its finest, and it made everything in the queue and the attraction mean so much more – filling it with love, emotion, and that oh-so-sweet smell of beignets. Every move Tiana has made has been with the help of her father, mother, friends, and community, and the story of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is about giving back to all of them and making them proud. In the world of the attraction, Tiana never lost sight of what was important and she proved, once again, that dreams do come true in New Orleans.

Tiana's Bayou Adventure Review - IGN (2024)
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