‘Princess & the Frog’ Cast Reunites To Celebrate Opening of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Disney


by Veracity Savant

June 21, 2024

The celebrities gathered down at the bayou ahead of the attraction’s debut!

Anika Noni Rose, Jenifer Lewis, and Keith David, the voices behind the iconic characters of Princess Tiana, Mama Odie, and Dr. Facilier (The Shadow Man) in Disney’s beloved ‘The Princess and the Frog,’ came together for a special preview of the new ride inspired by the film, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

A monumental moment for the culture, the preview event wasn’t just about the star-studded attendees; it was about the heartwarming message behind the animated blockbuster and the cultural significance of this moment for young Black children everywhere. Charita Carter, the first African-American woman Executive Producer over Walt Disney Imagineering, kicked off the festivities, underscoring the importance of continuing Princess Tiana’s narrative and ensuring her legacy is etched for generations to come.  


“Tiana is everyone’s princess. She is a modern princess inspired by real places, with a real American upbringing. She has a working mom, she has military ties, and there’s so much about her life that is relatable. Everyone can find an aspect of Tiana’s story in their own story, and so many people are inspired by her. Tiana is a dreamer and a doer,” Carter told attendees.

The mastermind behind the new attraction, Carter, offered a special preview of the ride to Because Of Them We Can, showcasing the intentionality behind each element, from the lush flora surrounding the attraction, meticulously replicated from flowers that bloom in New Orleans during Mardi Gras season, to the children’s community garden that greets visitors in the queue line, a tribute to Mrs. Leah Chase, the late NOLA matriarch and restaurateur who inspired Princess Tiana’s story.

The original cast, deeply moved by the occasion, reunited to witness Tiana’s second act being immortalized at Disney World in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. As they absorbed the gravity of the moment, each cast member acknowledged what the ride’s opening signified for their already illustrious careers and the profound impact of ‘The Princess and the Frog‘ on a whole new generation. 


“The difference between me and Tiana is I’m not almost there; I’m there. I’m 67 years old and I have been to the mountaintop, and I’ve been in the valleys. And here I am now at the happiest place in the world. It doesn’t get any better. It’s beyond bliss for me…[this ride] will outlive me. So to know that my voice will still ring through the ages, for all ages of children and adults, makes me feel very privileged,” Lewis told BOTWC. 

Rose echoed those sentiments, speaking of the lasting impact of an attraction 15 years after the animated film’s release.

“This is a different type of permanence. The ride is here. I think that when we think of the word Americana, [African Americans] never get to think of ourselves… It’s a beautiful way to show how far we have come. It is a forward movement. And I think kids get it more than adults do. They get it internally, they get it through their heart, and their spirit, and their imagination… When I’m gone, this will be here. And I don’t have to tell anybody, back in the day we had. [Princess Tiana] will tell you. She’ll tell you.”


PJ Morton, who produced the attraction’s finale theme song alongside Rose, called it “a dream come true.” He and veteran journalist Tamron Hall were emotional as they reflected on how their children felt getting on the ride for the first time.

“That’s what made the ride special for me today. The first time, I was trying to focus on the details, but today, I was just with my family. I kept looking at my daughter to see how it affected her, so it was just a deeper meaning today riding it. It’s just so special,” explained Morton.

“It will appeal to people around the world, but we know what it means for our children and us especially. I’m 53 years old, an unapologetic Black woman from the south. To see this at this moment, and with my son…these lashes don’t have enough glue,” added Hall.


Legendary actor Keith David, who played the beloved villain in the 2009 film, was all smiles as he hit the red carpet, calling the ride’s opening a reason to “rejoice.”

“It was a gift to be a part of it in the first place. As far as I’m concerned, it’s been the gift that keeps on giving. And here it is, giving once again. This is Disney, and this is very different from anything that they’ve done before. It’s the beginning of something new, a wonderful tribute to how things are beginning to change. And we now, in this day and age, get to experience some of that change. We still have a long way to go, but what a wonderful beginning. Therefore, it’s something to rejoice. Let’s be grateful for that.”


Attendees were able to ride the new attraction ahead of its debut, preview merchandise and Chase Family seasonings at Tiana’s newly established Critter Co-Op gift shop, and be treated to a riveting N’awlins style celebration, second line included. Michael-Leon Wooley, who played the jazz-loving alligator Louis, was ecstatic as he flicked it up with Disney’s life-sized Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen.

Terence Blanchard, the 7x Grammy Award winner, 2x Oscar nominee, and renowned trumpeter who played all of Louis’ original trumpet parts for the film reprised his role for the new ride. He worked alongside fellow NOLA native Morton to produce what Disney Parks called “a lyrical love letter” to their hometown.

Despite his accomplishments, Blanchard said he could’ve never imagined working with Disney. He, too, was inspired by the commitment that went into expanding Princess Tiana’s story. Blanchard credits the hard work and spirit of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure to Disney veterans Carter and Carmen Smith, who serves as Senior VP and Creative Executive at Disney Parks. 


“This means a great deal because…we’re trying to influence young minds to dream big and to understand that you have worth in the world. While it’s based around a young African American woman, this really inspired a lot of kids to go after their dreams. I’m a prime example of that. There’s nothing more American than Disney. Charita Carter and Carmen Smith are two African American women [who have been at Disney for decades]. And they need to get their flowers. Because these people have been fighting for this story for a long time, through all their efforts, we now have something we can look forward to. When we talk about unsung heroes, to me, those two women are the biggest unsung heroes.”

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is set to open at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom park on June 28th.

Cover photo: ‘Princess & the Frog’ Cast Reunites To Celebrate Opening of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Disney/ (l to r) Keith David, Anika Noni Rose, Jenifer Lewis, & Michael-Leon Wooley, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Preview, June 2024/Photo Credit: WDWMagic.com


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