Princess Tiana, Disney’s first Black animated princess, is finally getting her own sector in Walt Disney World. The highly anticipated attraction, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, along with Tiana’s General Store, debuts on June 28 at Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland in Orlando, Fla. on June 28.

Jenifer Lewis, who starred in the film The Princess and the Frog in 2009 as Mama Odie, spoke fondly of seeing memories working on the film 15 years ago. She remembers what it took for her to make the character appealing to children, despite her seemingly spooky demeanor. 

“I love Mama Odie so much,” she told us. “My mother used to have Moms Mabley albums, and I learned my comic timing from her. The way she lowered her body and spoke. She was just amazing and my mother had all her albums, so I just learned her timing. And when they asked me if I could play an old woman at the audition– because I had auditioned for Tiana’s mother, Eudora, who is supposed to be very sweet. And I’m not sweet, my voice is not sweet.”

She continued, “But when I did Mama Odie…I’m from St. Louis, which is like the cousin of New Orleans–and so mixing my own dialect and giving her that soprano worked in my favor, I was very conscious of giving her that southern drawl and also making her a lot of fun, so the children would not be afraid of her. I wanted her to be warm and endearing. And the outcome was just magic.”

The most fascinating part of this all has been seeing her character transition from an animated film to the animatronic in the ride form.

Lewis is part of two Disney attractions, with her first being in Disneyland. But she says Tiana holds a special place. “Cars was special. I loved working on Flo. When I first heard my voice on Radiator Springs Racers, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m at Disneyland. My voice is in Disneyland! And it’s here forever,” she remembered fondly. “But with Mama Odie, when I first saw the animatronic…seeing her was one thing, especially because she looks a little more human than the other characters. But when I heard my voice come out of her, it was pure bliss.”

Also available for purchase in Tiana’s General Store is a line of food seasonings by the famed New Orleans eatery, Dooky Chase Restaurant. The line of four seasonings is available for sale for the first time ever outside of the family’s legendary restaurant. Leah Chase’s cookbook is also available for purchase. Ms. Chase served as the inspiration behind the Tiana character due to her love of food, family, and community. Her family was also involved in the curation of the attraction, along with other staples in music, art, and culinary in New Orleans.

The movie, the ride, everything here at Disney, we believe in making sure the stories are really thought through from start to end,” said Sivonne Davis, Vice President of Marketing Strategy at Walt Disney World. “And so, this particular story of Princess Tiana picks up where the film left off from 15 years ago no,” she said. “It tells the story of Princess Tiana and her entrepreneurship as a Black woman who is focused on bringing forth her dreams, but also making sure to share her dreams with others. It’s a reflection of celebration of that work, but also encouraging others, in my opinion, to celebrate the wins, but to continue to dream. And so for me, that’s actually one of the stories that I most connect to is being able to enjoy the moment, but also continue to think about the next few moments ahead of us.”