Princess and the Frog Star Hopes Disneyland Builds Tiana's Palace Restaurant

With The Princess and the Frog, the fan-favorite movie that has long been all-but-invisible at Disney Parks, taking over the theming of the beloved Splash Mountain log flume ride at Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the film's star hopes to see Tiana's Palace, the character's restaurant from the end of the film, incorporated into the area. Anika Noni Rose said in an interview with People that she expects the ride to be Mardi Gras themed, with music, fun, and a little bit of fright. But she also thinks it would be a missed opportunity not to incorporate food.

The decision to re-theme Splash Mountain came earlier this year. After years of being lobbied by a small but dedicated number of fans to remove the ride's Song of the South characters and theming -- the film contains numerous racist caricatures of Black people and has been all but disavowed by Disney, with no official release in decades -- the company finally made the move after the death of George Floyd sparked a nationwide conversation about how pervasive racism is in everyday American life.

Along with removals or re-examinations of monuments to Confederate soldiers and blackface performances in film and TV, Disney announced that they would be embracing a suggestion to re-theme Splash Mountain with Song of the South characters replaced by The Princess and the Frog, the movie that featured Disney's first Black princess. A press release issued when Disney made the decision public claimed that it had been in the works for a year -- which, as stated, is possible, since they have been hearing similar requests for quite some time.

The ride's storyline will pick up "after the final kiss, and join[s] Princess Tiana and Louis on a musical adventure — featuring some of the powerful music from the film — as they prepare for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance."

Louis, for those who might not remember, is a horn-playing alligator who appeared in the movie and will seemingly serve as the ride's musical guide.

"Anytime you talk about Mardi Gras, the music has to be fantastic," Rose told People. "I'm hoping Louis will get to play and make us laugh. It should be a little thrilling, but it also should be just a whole lot of fun."

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Given the Princess branding and its importance to Disney, it would not be surprising to see them embrace the "Palace" setting, although how it would play into the ride (or IF it would -- even if they decided to use it, they could just make it a nearby restaurant) is anybody's guess.

There's something of an irony built into the challenge of re-theming the popular Splash Mountain attraction; before the ride was opened in 1989, then-CEO Michael Eisner, who had already started distancing the company from Song of the South, didn't like the original, planned name (the Zip-A-Dee River Run) and wanted to tie the ride to Splash, the hugely successful 1984 film in which Tom Hanks falls in love with a mermaid played by Daryl Hannah. Eisner's note was mostly ignored, except for the name change, but it seems likely that the Zip-A-Dee name and the more explicit ties to Song of the South might have hastened changes to the ride. On the other hand, if they had more fully embraced Splash, it likely would have been changed much sooner, since while the film remains loved by many, it's hardly thought of in the same way that Disney's animated classics are.