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Disneyland and Walt Disney World's iconic Splash Mountain attraction has been set to get a redesign at some point in the future to change out the existing Song of the South theme for The Princess and the Frog. It's certainly not uncommon for Disney Parks fans to be upset by any announced change. Splash Mountain is 30 years old and so many have grown up with the attraction, and the fact that the ride they know will be gone soon is understandable. Having said that, it's also quite exciting to contemplate what the future has in store.
Splash Mountain won't simply take guests through the story of The Princess and the Frog when it's all complete. Instead, what little details Disney has revealed tell us that the attraction will take place following the events of the film, and focus on Tiana and the trumpet-playing Louis getting ready for their first Mardi Gras performance. However, the details also tell us that some of our favorite Princess and the Frog music will also be featured, and we can expect other elements from the film to appear. So let's do some armchair Imagineering by putting together some key film elements and how they should appear in the new attraction.
"Down in New Orleans"
When the new ride starts up, the first thing it will need to do is set the mood, and that means making the guests feel like they're in 1920s New Orleans. Dr. John's "Down in New Orleans" does that perfectly in The Princess and the Frog, and there's no better way to do the same thing on the ride than with the same song. Most of the Princess and the Frog songs are worthy of returning, but many of them might be difficult to fit in due to the fact that they're so specific to the story, but "Down in New Orleans" works in any situation. Also, Dr. John is awesome and deserves to be a part of Disneyland as much as Tiana does.
Okay, so making sure that the Prince who was once a frog is part of the attraction based on The Princess and the Frog might seem obvious, and it is, but that's what made a total lack of reference to him in the original Disney announcement unusual. It's not actually clear how or where he'll appear. The story is focusing on Tiana and Louis, not Tiana and Naveen, and there's nothing wrong with that, but hopefully there will a proper place for Naveen to appear as well. And ideally it won't just be an animatronic cameo, but a significant role in whatever story the ride is planning to tell. Whether frog or man, Naveen is a lot of fun and hopefully we'll get to enjoy all that.
If the new Splash Mountain takes place after The Princess and the Frog, then it's certainly true that it would be difficult to add the Shadow Man, Dr. Facilier, to the attraction. He saw a rather unfortunate end in the film that would seem to make it unlikely that he would ever appear again. Having said that, the story of the ride is going to need some sort of conflict, and the Shadow Man is such a great villain that I can't imagine anybody else being in that role. Certainly Imagineers can come up with some magical reason why Dr. Facilier is back. And can you imagine Keith David's voice singing "Are you ready?" as you make your way up the incline toward the big Splash Mountain plunge? It sounds absolutely perfect.
"Dig A Little Deeper"
Much like "Down in New Orleans" should be used to open the attraction, another Princess and the Frog song is the perfect way to wrap it up. Currently, Splash Mountain ends with a big celebratory sequence where dozens of animatronics dance and sing the classic song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." I would expect the new version of the ride to be, structurally, much the same, so we'll likely get a similar finale in the new version, and "Dig a Little Deeper" is the perfect Princess and the Frog song for that moment. In the original film, the song is sung by Mama Odie, and the concept art for the new ride shows us her home in the tree at the top of the mountain, so odds are she'll be on hand as well. Somebody has already done a test run of this idea:
That works pretty well, though the song may need some new lyrics.
In addition to needing a new song, the end of the new Splash Mountain will need a new location, and there's only one place for that. Tiana's Palace is the restaurant Tiana finally opens at the end of the film, and so seeing the ride end here as well, maybe with tables full of animatronic guests enjoying the musical performance of Louis and Tiana, would be awesome. Tiana's Palace needs to exist in the parks, and if it isn't going to be an actual restaurant, then it should absolutely be found on the ride.
The Firefly Five Plus Lou
If the story of the new attraction involves putting on a musical performance, than surely the attraction needs to end with that musical performance. In The Princess and the Frog, we see Louis performing on stage at Tiana's restaurant, and if that's where the new Splash Mountain ends things as well, I can only hope he's playing with the same band. The Firefly Five Plus Lou is a great band name because it's actually a pretty awesome Disney easter egg.
The name is a reference to a real band, The Firehouse Five Plus Two, which was a jazz band made up of Disney animators. The band had many different members over its 30 years of life, but among them, you'll find some major names in Disney history. It included Ward Kimball and Frank Thomas, two of Walt's Nine Old Men; Harper Goff, who drew the original concept art of Disneyland; and Jimmy MacDonald, who was the first person to voice Mickey Mouse after Walt Disney gave up the job. I want to see this easter egg make the jump to the parks.
These are just a few of the elements of The Princess and the Frog that i certainly hope appear in some way in the new ride. Beyond that, I'm excited to see what new characters, songs, or locations could become part of it. It's going to be years before we actually get a chance to experience this new ride, but that just means we have plenty of time to get excited about it.