The Crusader Newspaper Group

New Orleans’ music is on the menu at Walt Disney World

THE ENTRANCE TO Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. 

As we end Black Music Month, I would like to showcase some of the music of jazz icon Terence Blanchard and Grammy-winning artist P.J. Morton, who sings on the queue, or line, leading up to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, which opened on June 28 at Walt Disney World Resort.

Ahead of the opening, Morton and the talented Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Princess Tiana, teamed up to create a brand-new song for the highly-anticipated attraction.

All these greats have come together previously to bring fans music used in “The Princess and The Frog” film and, as well, they bring all their talents to the new log-flume ride.

And for good measure, although it’s not music, I’ll bring into this article, based on a press junket to which the Chicago Crusader was invited—New Orleans’ artist Varion Laurent’s vibrant artwork.

Varion Laurent Painted Collage
VARION LAURENT PAINTED the ride’s climax, a lively jazz party celebrating Mardi Gras, top photo. Terence Blanchard poses in front of statue of Mickey Mouse. 

In a breakout session during the junket held June 9 through June 11, Morton discussed how he became involved in the project.

“I got a cryptic call about an upcoming project, and I was excited and honored to help with a new take on Tiana and her story. I wrote three songs and eventually got ‘Special Spice’.”

Blanchard, who is known for among other things the musician for many of Spike Lee’s films, noted his involvement with “The Princess and The Frog.”

He said: “My journey started with the film, and it was an amazing experience back then. I was excited about Disney doing the story about a young Black female princess.”

IN 2023, P.J. MORTON talked with Imagineer and Executive Creative Director of Music John Dennis about the historic Disney collaboration and arrangements of his original song and songs from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “The Princess and The Frog.” P.J. Morton, Princess Tiana, Anika Noni Rose and Terence Blanchard.

He explained about the lead up to the music for the film. “It was something unheard of. I saw the level of detail that they put into the characters. They had different eyes, lips and noses. They [Disney] wanted to be accurate but respectful. They didn’t want to go overboard.

“That in itself wanted to make me work hard. I knew that this was going to be a legacy project. Something that our kids and grandkids should experience.

“They asked me if there were any tunes that I wanted to do. [New Orleans’ trumpeter] Alvin Alcorn had come to my elementary school to play, and I wanted to give back by doing his song, so his family could get the royalties.”

THE VOICE CAST of The Princess and The Frog
THE VOICE CAST of “The Princess and The Frog” film take a ride on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Jenifer Lewis as Mama Odie, front row; Keith David as Dr. Facilier and Michael-Leon Wooley as Louis, second row left to right; and Jim Cummings as Ray, Jennifer Cody as Charlotte La Bouff, third row; Bruno Campos as Prince Naveen and Anika Noni Rose as Princess Tiana. 

Regarding the music for the ride’s queue, Blanchard added: “I’m a modern jazz musician. I got a chance to play the music that I grew up loving.”

He added that the most emotional part was years ago when [the late] Leah Chase sang, “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans;” there wasn’t a dry eye in the studio; and when you hear it in the queue line, there is so much history and so much emotion.

“And I knew New Orleans. This was important to me because [at one time] I was not New Orleans enough for New Orleans, and I was too New Orleans outside of New Orleans. It’s New Orleans and it’s still me and Disney.”

When asked about the city being known for its food and with this ride folks being exposed to the city’s music, Morton said: “The food is talked about more. The music is in the background. It’s like the air in New Orleans, and Disney understood that the music is important. It’s synonymous with the city.”

Blanchard chimed in: “New Orleans’ music is infectious and about bringing people together and having a good time. We are not caricatures of our past. The thing that we are trying to do is to be who we are and allow our DNA to guide us in creating the music.

“We’ve seen people trying to mimic our history, and it doesn’t bring that authentic kind of sharing and communal nature. Since its inception, New Orleans’ music has been about trying to convey a feeling and emotion beyond words.

“And it’s also about bringing people together and having a shared experience.”

Blanchard continued: “This is a place where dreams are made. You have the movie and now this physical ride, and then the new movie coming up. These things are important in pushing our culture forward in a time when we really need it—when folks are trying to divide us among racial lines.”

Morton added profoundly, “This legacy isn’t a movement; it will live on and plant seeds.”

Another New Orleans’ artist Varion Laurent did a rendering of the Tiana scene and discussed how he lost all his art during Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s emotional. I lost all my work in Katrina, and I had zero identity as an artist. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper,” quoting the words from the film’s popular song.

He returned to his alma mater Xavier University and became director of student media. He explained that he was invited to a meeting, and it was a deep dive on creating a piece that was culturally specific.

ANIKA NONI ROSE performs Special Spice, accompanied by P.J. Morton. 

“When I got back to creating again, I was connected to the old pieces, but I started to create new things. I get this offer to do this piece, and I couldn’t have asked for this dream to come true in the manner that it did.

“This is a piece of artwork that shows the celebration at the end of the ride that Princess Tiana has thrown to celebrate Mardi Gras and her community.”

All in all, the principals involved in the wonderful music associated with Tiana’s Bayou Adventure did a great job in bringing everything to life.

Thanks to Disney’s Jennifer Port for her guidance during this press junket.

To see this exciting, awe-inspiring, culturally important and magnificent ride, visit

Take a look at Jenifer Lewis performing “Dig A Little Deeper,” accompanied by Terence Blanchard, on American Idol.

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