July 21, 2024

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Inside a Writer’s First Ride on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Disney World

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I suppose I qualify as a Disney Adult, the pejorative term for grown-ups who visit Disney theme parks without children in tow.

Disney has 12 theme parks and two water parks around the world, and I’ve been to all of them. I was at Walt Disney World in Florida when the theme park reopened in July 2020 after closing for four months during the coronavirus pandemic. And I was at Disneyland in California in 2022, when Mickey Mouse was allowed to share hugs again after a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus. I also hung out at the Turkey Leg Stand in Disneyland’s Frontierland for an entire afternoon.

And this month, when Disney World began testing its newest ride, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, I was on it.

But I didn’t do any of those things as a dewy-eyed Disney fan. I go to the company’s parks because, as a reporter who covers the entertainment business, it’s part of my job.

Early in my career, in the late 1990s, I covered “hard news,” including cops and courts in Philadelphia. That posting was a picnic compared with my current one. Disney does not respond well, to put it mildly, when articles puncture its Happiest Place on Earth mythmaking. I once tried to get information out of a Toy Story Mania ride operator — I wanted to know how Disneyland employees felt about new safety procedures — and a corporate communications officer appeared out of nowhere and curtly put an end to the conversation.

As of 2021, the Walt Disney Company had a 500-person global media relations team. There is just one of me. Still, I aim to cover all the big news.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure caught my eye as a potential story in 2020. That summer, as protests for racial justice swept the United States, Disney said it would close Splash Mountain, a popular and problematic log flume ride based on the 1946 Disney film “Song of the South,” and would replace it with…

Brooks Barnes

2024-06-19 17:31:34

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