The reaction to the Tiana ride shows an issue Disney fans have with change

The backlash at the first video of Tiana's Bayou Adventure illustrates a problem Disney fans have with change!
Tiana's Bayou Adventure Opens This Summer at Walt Disney World © 2024 Disney. All Rights Reserved
Tiana's Bayou Adventure Opens This Summer at Walt Disney World © 2024 Disney. All Rights Reserved /

Disney is getting some backlash on the first video for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure with many complaining the replacement for Splash Mountain doesn’t look good. Which may once more show that some Disney fans may be overestimating the connection many guests have to the parks. 

It’s always something when Disney changes a ride, especially one as long-lasting and iconic as Splash Mountain. Frankly, the fact the ride lasted 35 years without a makeover is astonishing as that’s an eternity for a Disney attraction to go unchanged. There’s also how Splash Mountain has always been affected by the connections to Song of the South, a movie Disney prefers to imagine never existed. 

The ride videos showcase the amazingly advanced AA for the characters and the fun music while keeping to the Splash Mountain track, culminating in that famous drop. The complaints center on a seeming lack of story and an original tale rather than the movie’s plot with Dr. Facilier in there. 

Granted, gauging reactions off the Internet and YouTube (a comment section filled with hyperbole) is tricky but fan reception seems mixed at best. Of course, it should be remembered that a video is different from being on the ride itself. There have been scores of rides I wasn’t sure of just seeing a video of it online but once actually riding the attraction, I was wowed by how it felt. 

It’s easy to slam the new Tiana ride without the feeling of being in the logs about the ride, hearing the music and experiencing the big drop. Maybe it’s not as epic as folks wanted and many still think Splash should be off-limits to changes but it’s something fresh for the ride. 

The issue is some Disney fans may not take too well to freshness, no matter how it’s needed. 

Why change is needed for Disney attractions

I get the anger fans to feel about a Disney attraction changing. I still miss the classic EPCOT of Horizons, World of Motion and never forgot the horrific 1999 Journey Into Imagination makeover. We’ve seen more than a few stumbles from Disney in this regard, especially when compared to how great the Asian parks pull off stuff. Thus, being a bit wary that Disney will offer some cheap transformation is only natural.

Yet some Disney fans take the very idea of altering a ride, even if it’s a much-needed technological update as practically sacrilege. Recall the outrage at Disney characters added to It’s a Small World despite Mary Blair openly saying she was fine with it. Or when Maelstrom at Epcot’s Norway was changed to a Frozen ride. It shows the passion of the fans which is good and Disney should remember that. 

But fans should also remember how Disney parks were being changed and altered as soon as they opened and mostly in good ways. The early Jungle Cruise was dull until Walt had the Imagineers craft the gags. It’s continued onward as updating rides for the changing times is as needed as to keep fans intrigued. 

You can’t keep Disney rides unchanged forever. I miss the old Star Tours yet the lower lines in its later days show how folks were getting a bit bored by the same ride all the time. Having it now a random selection of scenes so no two rides are the same is far better. The mild upgrades are good but a few rides need more than that. 

Sometimes, it’s for the changing culture; like it or not, having Pirates pushing some backward sensibilities on women was a tougher sell today. Other times, it’s for the technology as WDW’s Haunted Mansion desperately needed its 2007 makeover to become a better ride. Yet the fact many fans take these changes so personally is something beyond Disney’s control. 

Why Disney fans need to accept changes for the better. 

There’s a line repeated by Imagineers over the years that sums up some issues with Disney park fandoms: “We don’t design rides for the folks who go to the parks every other week but the ones who do it once in a lifetime.”

That’s a great point, as it’s easy for us Disney fanatics to forget not everyone has the same connection to the parks. For some, it’s a fun time but not the key experience to their lives, just another vacation like Universal or some national park. So they’re not going to ride the Tiana ride nitpicking details and constantly comparing it to Splash Mountain. Heck, some guests may not have ridden Splash Mountain at all, so will go into this with fresh eyes. 

I’ve felt that as my niece and nephews never got to experience things like classic EPCOT dark rides or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, only knowing them by photos and videos. So they don’t have that connection to the past I would and while I wish they’d been able to experience them, I don’t judge them for not getting the appeal. 

Too many fans may not have that attitude and constantly judging Disney by its past. Granted, you can argue attractions seemed fun then but let's never underestimate how nostalgia can cloud one's memory and make them see things in a much better light then they really were. That includes how things should always stay the same when evolution is the key to survival.

As David Koeing once said, “Everyone knows Disney is a business. They just don’t like it when it acts that way.” Disney hasn’t survived this long keeping everything stale but adapting to the times. 1980s slow-moving dark rides wouldn’t appeal to the 21st century youth like a roller coaster based on a hit Marvel movie would. Yet many see changes as pretty personal. 

It comes down to how changing the rides brings back memories, and folks hate being reminded that the past is gone. It’s the same visiting a place that was once your beloved family restaurant or old home long torn down. For many guests, Splash Mountain is a reminder of magical times at Disneyland or Disney World and don’t want that gone as it means so much to them.

Yet Walt himself always understood that Disneyland would always be changing, and the same was true with other parks. In many cases, the changes can be accepted, like Frozen Ever After and more popular than before. Yes, we’ve had duds (the horrors of the “Enchanted Tiki Room” with Iago come to mind), yet Disney’s track record on a makeover is generally good and they didn't just jump into this without some planning.

Again, it’s understandable fans think the new Splash Mountain pales next to the original, but that it comes from people not even riding it yet is a bit much. Disney isn’t trying to “desecrate” your memories, as you’ll always have those no matter what. They’re just doing what they’ve always done, freshening up the parks for a new wave of guests experiencing them for the first time. 

Maybe when the ride actually opens, the worries will be justified yet denying an open mind to the chances of a fun ride just because you’re clinging too hard to memories of the past isn’t the best way to honor a classic Disney attraction.