Disney shares a new look at the art that inspired Tiana’s Bayou Adventure

Walt Disney Imagineering is turning to a New Orleans artist to create art that will help inspire the look of Tiana Baio’s adventure coming to the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland in 2024.

From Senior Vice President of Creative Development Carmen Smith:

We’re taking a trip to the charming city of New Orleans to take another look at Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, an all-new adventure inspired by Walt Disney Animation Studios’ The Princess and the Frog. We’re excited to share a unique dimension developing around Tiana’s next chapter at Disney Parks, and one that I’m especially proud to share during World Princess Week: a painting inspiring our Imagineers with the fresh perspective of a New Orleans artist Sharika Mahdi.

As we announced at ESSENCE Fest, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is coming to Magic Kingdom Park in Florida and Disneyland Park in California in late 2024. Guests are joined by a group of friends—new and familiar—as they prepare for their first Mardi Gras performance. Like the story unfolding in the attraction, our team’s own journey is enriched with a little magic and a little help from our friends. To ensure that this experience authentically reflects the real-life inspiration of Tiana’s story, Imagineers consulted and collaborated with numerous academics, musicians and artists in the New Orleans region.

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Walt Disney Imagineering visits YAYA
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When our Walt Disney Imagineering project team first looked for local inspiration, we were drawn to the work of an incredibly talented artist, Sharika Mahdi. Sharika brought a unique and authentic perspective to the project, capturing the essence of New Orleans through a series of original artwork commissioned by our team. “I make a big deal out of everything and celebrate everything,” Sharika notes of the region that inspires her artwork, “I want to show that that’s what it’s all about, being a part of New Orleans and being a part of the culture.”

Sharika was introduced to Walt Disney Imagineering through the esteemed YAYA (Young Aspirations Young Artists) youth arts program, an organization that empowers creative youth in New Orleans through visual arts training combined with entrepreneurship and life skills training. A YAYA graduate, Sharika’s unique composition and bold color techniques caught our team’s attention. The series we commissioned will serve as a source of inspiration for the Imagineers responsible for bringing Tiana’s story to life.

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On a recent visit to New Orleans, I joined Charita Carter, executive producer at Walt Disney Imagineering, to visit Sharika. It was here that we were given a tour of her studio and a first look at the second artwork commissioned in this series: a jazz club scene with an ensemble of friendly amphibians (the first piece in the series was shared during World Princess Week last year). It’s a delightful picture that lovingly illustrates the joy and vibrancy of this musical city.

During World Princess Week, we reflect on the beloved canon of Disney heroines and the brave and compassionate imprint they leave on our storytelling legacy. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is based on the story of Princess Tiana, a character whose pride and perseverance remind us of a universal truth: within us lies the potential to make our dreams come true.

As an African-American woman pursuing her own creative ambitions, Sharika connects with Tiana on this very meaningful level. Similar to how Tiana has reached so much through her culinary gifts, Sharika adds that she has “always wanted to reach more people and inspire more people with [her] art.”

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Sharika Mahdi holds a painting (left); Charita Carter and Sharika Mahdi (right)

This beautiful collaboration between Walt Disney Imagineering and Sharika Mahdi is sure to reach and inspire all Disney Parks guests who experience Tiana’s Bayou Adventure once it opens in late 2024. Thank you for joining us on this journey , as we celebrate World Princess Week all week long.

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