As most folks already know by now, both Disneyland Park in California, as well as Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, have plans in place for retheming their own versions of the long-time Disney classic Splash Mountain ride into a new attraction themed after The Princess and the Frog—Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Set to open in 2024, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will be pretty comparable between both Parks, although an expansion in the works for Disneyland’s New Orleans Square—an annexing area from the currently existing Critter Country—has provided the potential to further increase The Princess and the Frog presence. Already a new shop known as Eudora’s Chic Boutique Featuring Tiana’s Gourmet Goods has opened—named for the titular protagonist’s dressmaker mother. And further plans are to even include a restaurant based on the one Tiana opens at the end of the film—Tiana’s Palace Restaurant.
Folks are already buzzing by this news, eagerly awaiting further word and all the latest details about which existing restaurant will be re-themed as this new venue. While there’s so much excitement over at Disneyland, visitors to Walt Disney World Resort have no such future prospects, at least not for the foreseeable future. But the concept has been teased in the past—the idea of establishing an eatery themed after The Princess and the Frog on location within Walt Disney World. So, why couldn’t it be considered again, this time in more depth? There are at least four currently existing table service restaurants at Magic Kingdom Park that would offer an optimal basis and could even premier in tandem with Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Here is my contemplated look into how Disney World could have its own version of Tiana’s Palace Restaurant by re-theming one of three existing restaurants on Main Street, U.S.A. or reimaging an overlooked eatery that’s close to the future attraction.
From Bella Notte to the Bayou
Unlike Disneyland, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park does not boast a New Orleans Square. So, the best consideration for a hometown American establishment—in this case one featuring home-cooked comforts direct from New Orleans—would most likely have to be set on Main Street, U.S.A. One rather controversial consideration for establishing Tiana’s Palace at this location would be to revamp the well-known classic Tony’s Town Square. But I repeat, this would be a very controversial move to make. Even though Tony’s has a long history of garnering mixed reviews from diners, it is still a Disney World classic. And many loyal fans feel it just shouldn’t be tampered with, despite what any of the haters say. It already has a well-working Lady and the Tramp theme going for it, and that shouldn’t be scrapped by any means.
What’s more, to redo Tony’s as Tiana’s would result in a full-fledged menu transformation. Some of Tony’s critics may see this as an opportunity for improvement. Still, it seems a bit too much to scrap universally renowned Italian comforts in favor of Creole and Cajun options that may not hold the same appeal. In other words, it would be too much of a gamble in the long run. Sure, there is the argument to be made that Pinocchio Village Haus could still serve as the Magic Kingdom’s go-to for those seeking Italian cuisine, but it’s just not on the same level and does not hold the same appeal. It would be a downgrade really—your only Italian option being a quick-service pizza-based meal as opposed to that full-service sit-down Bella Notte charm.
Bringing Mardi Gras to The Plaza
Perhaps establishing a Disney World equivalent of Tiana’s Palace Restaurant wouldn’t need to involve switching out an already beloved Disney theme or overhauling an entire menu. If The Plaza Restaurant were revamped into such, for example, there would be absolutely no sacrifice involved. Just imagine the possibilities. With its existing décor, a reworking wouldn’t be too hard to accomplish, and there are many opportunities for adding in little nods to the film. Plus, the fact that the location is further up the Main Street corridor than Tony’s could even fit into the idea that you are ascending up the path, moving away from an earlier classic to one of the newer ones.
Unlike Tony’s Town Square, the menu at The Plaza Restaurant is a little less regionally distinguishable. Given its broader American collage of cuisine, an introduction of more specified localized flavors, such as those of traditional New Orleans inspiration, could work fairly well.
The only question remaining in whether or not to go the full re-theming route for a place like The Plaza is whether or not doing so would detract from the idea of it serving as the Disney World equivalent of Disneyland’s beloved Carnation Café. But as other Walt Disney Company decisions have shown us, there is no rule that two similar exiting entities need to remain as such. Consider when Disney made the decision to redo Disneyland’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror into a Guardians of the Galaxy theme while preserving Disney World’s original, for example.
From Crystal Palace to Tiana’s Palace
Could Tiana’s Palace follow suit as an all-you-can-eat buffet? While the details surrounding Disneyland’s version only imply the cuisine offerings, there is no reason to think that their restaurant would be fashioned as a buffet. But again, there are no set rules that both establishments would necessarily have to be carbon copies of one another. So why not consider the potential for redoing the Crystal Palace into Tiana’s Palace? They’d both be palatial establishments after all.
It may actually be both safe and ideal to introduce New Orleans-focused options into a buffet setting, while also keeping with profuse traditional American cuisine offerings. That way there is no sacrifice in scrapping one menu over another, and it would keep all Guests happy with plenty of options to pick and choose from.
The regal greenhouse motif that’s already prevalent in the Crystal Palace setting could almost remain untouched, with only minimal tweaking to give it a more 1920s New Orleans early American feel. They could even incorporate those bucolic bayou callouts into the mix. It could be done rather creatively, and I get excited just thinking about it.
There is, however, that once again controversial consideration of ditching an already established and beloved Disney character theme in favor of a different one. I am, of course, referring to the Winnie the Pooh and Friends character dining aspect. But unlike the aforementioned issues that would arise in tossing out the Lady and the Tramp theme at Tony’s—the only place at Disney World where it has a truly defined presence, Winnie the Pooh and Pals can be found at numerous other venues. They’ve made appearances in parades, over at the United Kingdom Pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase, and in numerous other spots throughout Walt Disney World Resort. What’s more, if and when 1900 Park Fare reopens at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (and assuming all character appearances will continue accordingly) they will still have a buffet Meet and Greet presence. Therefore, it really isn’t much of a sacrifice to switch up the character experience here with those from The Princess and the Frog.
A Diamond in the Rough Dining Idea
If we consider, for a moment, moving the possible restaurant location a little closer to the actual Tiana’s Bayou Adventure attraction, there’s a fourth option to keep in mind. I am referring to none other than the Diamond Horseshoe, which straddles the limits of Liberty Square and Frontierland.
If I’m being brutally honest, I think of the Diamond Horseshoe as the restaurant that’s forever having an identity crisis. It’s been reimagined so many times before, going from a wild west-themed dinner show experience with live entertainment to a counter-service operation. And now it more or less serves primarily as an overflow of Liberty Square Tavern and even features the very same menu. So perhaps it could do with another reimagining in the way of Disney World’s brand-new version of Tiana’s Palace Restaurant.
There is perhaps more opportunity for a full overhaul here than at any other existing Magic Kingdom Park establishment. As I said, changing up the menu to showcase New Orleans-style cuisine is no object, given the fact that the Diamond Horseshoe isn’t even currently offering a menu independent of the Liberty Tree’s.
Of course, a lot of redecorating would need to be done internally as well, in order to capture the setting and motif presented in The Princess and the Frog. But one very unique idea would be to keep the now under-utilized stage (if you don’t count the player piano) and incorporate some sort of trumpet-playing Louis component.
Beyond the Park
Tiana’s Palace would, of course, be best if it were introduced onsite at Magic Kingdom Park. However, there are some other considerations for bringing the restaurant into fruition at Walt Disney World Resort in some form. Disney does have two sister Moderate Resorts fashioned with a New Orleans style, after all—Port Orleans—Riverside and Port Orleans—French Quarter. Between the two of them, they share quite a few dining establishments on their adjoining property that could easily be phased in a Princess and the Frog motif. But I personally feel doing so would be too redundant at this point. So, if it’s going to happen anywhere, it would be best to keep with Magic Kingdom Park in this case.
There are so many brilliant, creative minds forever actively at work within the Walt Disney Company, and I am completely confident that they can find a way to bring Tiana’s Palace Restaurant to Walt Disney World Resort. It’s not a matter of “if” they can but “when” they can, and I am certain that they will, eventually.