Photo Credit: Paul Morse
Disney Celebrates New Princess Tiana Attraction With Visit To NOLA's Dooky Chase's
If you didn’t know, Disney’s ‘The Princess and the Frog’ was inspired by iconic matriarch and chef, the late Leah Chase, of Dooky Chase’s in New Orleans. As Walt Disney World kicks off its annual World Princess Week, and in preparation of the new Princess and the Frog attraction coming to both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, some of the Disney team took a trip to New Orleans to sit down with Mrs. Chase’s daughter— Stella Chase Reese— to discuss the impact of Princess Tiana.
Mrs. Chase loved art, and Disney tapped into that when creating the visuals for the upcoming attraction. The new ride will take place after the final kiss as Naveen and Louis join Tiana on her latest adventure, hosting a one-of-a-kind Mardi Gras celebration where everyone is welcome – during which some original music inspired by songs from the film will bring guests into the story, according to Disney. Tiana is leading the way, and fans will be able to encounter old friends and make new ones along the way as well!
Disney’s Imagineers spent a significant time studying the culture of New Orleans to ensure the attraction tells an authentic story of ‘The Big Easy.’ From the food, music, art and architecture to the diversity of its people and their traditions, there is much from which to draw inspiration. The team has done virtual research trips through Zoom, and this was their first of many in-person research trips to come and get the story right.
The group spoke with Stella Chase Reese, at Dooky Chase’s restaurant, about the impact the movie had on her mother, and the family restaurant as a whole— even twelve years later.
“When you tell your family’s story, it keeps places like Dooky Chase’s alive,” Reese said in the recorded interview. “When you see people coming in and wanting to say, ‘we want to see Princess Tiana,’ and of course we would put a Princess and the Frog picture on the table, and they would have the honor of going in the kitchen and saying hello to my mother, Mrs. Chase. Today, we still have people coming in and taking pictures with the art displays, and that’s the joy we get as the Chase family.”
In the round table discussion between Reese, Carmen Smith (Creative Executive, Vice President, Inclusive Strategies for Walt Disney Imagineering); Charita Carter (Senior Producer for Walt Disney Imagineering); and Marlon West (VFX Supervisor for Walt Disney Animation Studios)— the group talked about the correlation between New Orleans’ Mardi Gras culture and how it was translated into the move. Also, how it was important for young Black and brown children to see this on screen.
“You came to New Orleans because New Orleans is a place of music and food, and you so wonderfully put that out in the movie, music and food,” Reese said. “It goes with what my mother Mrs. Chase used to say, ‘we all have something in common, we all love to eat, and we all love good music.’ So, the two coming together, brings joy and happiness to all.”
To celebrate the contributions of New Orleans to the movie, and the Disney brand, Disney announced a $50,000 donation to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA).
NOCCA is a regional, pre-professional arts training center that offers students intensive instruction in culinary arts, dance, media arts, classical instrumental music, jazz instrumental music, classical vocal music, drama, musical theater, theater design, visual arts and creative writing.