A retheming of Splash Mountain to the Disney animated feature “The Princess and the Frog” was announced today. The concept of retheming the attraction has been in the works at Walt Disney Imagineering for over a year.
The story picks up after the final, magical kiss in the movie, and follows Tiana and Louis as they prepare for their first Mardi Gras performance. The project will be led by Imagineer Charita Carter, who recently oversaw the creation of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The attraction will also include some of the incredible music from the Academy Award®-nominated movie.
D23: The Official Disney Fan Club asked President of Walt Disney Imagineering Bob Weis about the retheme.
D23: The Official Disney Fan Club: Many fans are very passionate about Splash Mountain and, of course, making changes to any attraction evokes feelings on both sides. You mentioned on the D23 Inside Disney podcast about living up to Walt’s vision of maintaining tradition while staying true to the idea that “the park will never be completed.” You also talked about Disney Legend Marty Sklar’s feelings about the park not being a museum. Can you elaborate, now with this context?
Bob Weis (BW): The last time I saw Marty 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.
D23: When did you start reimagining the attraction?
BW: 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.
D23: Why The Princess and the Frog?
BW: Tiana is a modern, courageous, and empowered woman who pursues her dreams while never losing sight of what’s really important. So it’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou. In 1966, Walt himself opened New Orleans Square when it became the first new “land” added to Disneyland, so it feels natural to link the story of The Princess and the Frog to the park. And as you know, music is a big part of the story and our attractions, and the incredible songs and score from The Princess and the Frog are often among fan favorites.
D23: Why retheme an attraction instead of building a new one?
BW: We have a longstanding history of enhancing attractions with “new magic,” like Pirates of the Caribbean, and completely retheming others, like Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure to 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.
D23: When can we expect to be “goin’ down the bayou?” Will this alter any of the timelines for Avengers Campus or Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disneyland or perhaps TRON at Magic Kingdom?
BW: We have separate project teams working on these efforts, but we are still evaluating project timelines based on the extended closures we’ve experienced due to COVID-19. While several projects, like Avengers Campus are able to surge forward based on where we were in development, there are others that will be picked back up in stages—like Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disneyland and TRON at Magic Kingdom —and some that are longer-term that we will need more time to assess. We are working with our operations partners now to determine timing for this project to get under way. For now, we know that both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland parks will re-open with the existing Splash Mountain attraction.