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A Weird Thing Happened After Princess Tiana Actress Announced When The Splash Mountain Re-theme At Disney World Would Be Complete

Disneyland's Critter Country with Splash Mountain
(Image credit: Disneyland Resort)

Ever since Disney World and Disneyland had announced its popular ride Splash Mountain would be getting a huge makeover, aka re-theme, fans have been champing at the bit for new details about what is to come. Well, it seemed like we got some new info this week as Princess Tiana actress Anika Noni Rose (who has been vocal about the Splash Mountain re-theme in the past) seemingly announced the Princess and the Frog refurb would be coming in 2024. But then a weird thing happened. 

Anika Noni Rose appeared on Live with Kelly and Ryan to talk about a slew of topics, including the new Disney ride that she’s been involved in. She seemingly was in the know, telling Ryan Seacrest and Kelly Ripa, ‘It’ll be out in 2024” before mentioning she had been asked to weigh in on the ride plans “in the beginning.” You can see the full clip of her talking about the process and the date, below. 

Then, however, people started reaching out to Disney for confirmation on the date, and instead of just confirming or denying, a spokesperson sent out the following statement (via Fox News):

We have already shared how we are bringing Tiana’s story to life at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. While timing has not been determined, we look forward to sharing more details during Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans in July.

Honestly, it’s kind of a bizarre response. Either the date’s wrong or Anika Nona Rose simply dropped the information earlier than Disney expected. It seems clear from the response we’ll learn more in July, but I certainly hope that if the re-theme is coming in 2024 that Disney has more to offer than the date at that time, otherwise, why not just say, ‘Yeah, that’s what we’re shooting for?’ The festival listed by the spokesperson runs between July 1 and July 5 this year. 

As the statement noted, we’ve already learned details about the Princess and the Frog re-theme. It’s going to be set in the sixties. It’ll pick up after the events in the animated Disney classic. The adventure will take place in the “bayou” and "end with Mardi Gras,” with an Imagineer noting last year, “because if Tiana is throwing a party, it's the ultimate party.” The reimagined ride should fit in really well with the theming, particularly at Disneyland, which actually has a New Orleans section of the park. 

In addition, we knew it would be a while before fans would say goodbye to “Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah” and the Song of the South-based ride, which have been a prominent part of the attraction at both parks since opening in 1989 at Disneyland and 1992 at the Magic Kingdom. Previously, Melissa Valiquette, the vice president of Magic Kingdom, said that creating a completely new re-theme isn’t something that can happen overnight. It involves “months” or even “years” of prep time and planning and then execution to boot. She stated back in 2021:

When we are reimagining a new attraction or a new area of our parks, this can be a lengthy process. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. I’m in a lot of meetings right now around Splash Mountain, and of course, our guests haven’t seen any changes yet. That’s going to take some time. The sequence of these things is that sometimes the decisions can be made many many months, even years, before any of that will be seen onstage. So it’s going to take us a little bit of time to reimagine Splash Mountain.

The Disneyland and Disney World parks have been quietly prepping to remove the ride, which is tied to a movie that Disney has long shelved over racist themes, for months now. It's part of a move Disney has made to be more inclusive in the parks, including adding "inclusion" as a "fifth key" or tenet, with employee training also being based around "safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency." 

One other thing that’s worth noting is that when it is warm out, Splash Mountain is one of the most popular rides at both of the theme parks and is one of the Disney rides that can command long wait times. So, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’d try to refurb during the colder months for an opening when the weather is heating up, but that is simply speculation on my part. I guess we’ll be waiting for more information in July…

Amazing Race & Top Chef superfan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.