Chase Family Receives Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Surprise

Chase Family Receives Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Surprise

What do Princess Tiana and Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans have in common? Well, a lot more than you might think — and not just because both stories start down in New Orleans. 

Legendary chef Leah Chase, former owner and operator of Dooky Chase’s, had a vision to give back to her community in ways that she knew best, good cooking and making an inclusive space for all. Through her creativity and determination, she transformed what once was a sandwich shop in Tremé into one of the first African American fine dining establishments in the country in Dooky Chase’s. It was this story that served as one of the inspirations for the character of Princess Tiana in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “The Princess and the Frog,” and later in the development of the upcoming attraction by Walt Disney Imagineering – Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

Dooky Chase's restaurant in New Orleans, LA - Leah Chase was one of the inspirations for Princess Tiana in the Walt Disney Animation Studios’ film “The Princess and the Frog”

The story begins in 1941 when Dooky Chase’s Restaurant opened its doors for the first time as a family-run po’boy stand. Founded by Emily and Dooky Chase Sr., the store was opened with the intention of providing good food to the New Orleans community, but later became so much more. In 1946, Leah married Dooky Chase Jr., and saw the up-and-coming restaurant as a playground for innovation. Starting out as a cook, Leah slowly infused her family’s famous Creole recipes into the menu and helped grow the po’boy stand into the famous sit-down restaurant it is today. With her influence, Dooky Chase’s has attracted the likes of all who visit New Orleans including celebrities and politicians like Beyoncé, former President George W. Bush and former President Barack Obama.

Chef Leah Chase passed away in 2019, but her and her family’s legacy continue to live on, including through the development of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. If you listen closely in the attraction’s queue, you may hear one of Leah’s daughters, Leah Chase Jr., cover the Louis Armstrong song, “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?”.

Leah’s other daughter and my good friend, Stella Chase Reese, has been a key contact for Walt Disney Imagineering throughout our research for the attraction. In 2021, Charita Carter, Ted Robledo and I sat down with her to discuss the importance of bringing New Orleans’ culture to life and continuing to tell her mother’s – and Tiana’s – story. Since then, we have made it our commitment to honor the Chase family and the city of New Orleans in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

Recently during a trip to California, we gave Stella and her daughter, Myla Reese Poree, a sneak peek of the progress at Walt Disney Imagineering Campus and we’re thrilled to share the continuation of Tiana’s story being told in a new way. When Stella saw some of the Audio-Animatronics figures, she said, “My mom would be ecstatic…to see Disney take her talents and her values and use them in Tiana.”

@disneyparks Continuing the legacy of Leah Chase 🥺✨ #Disney #DisneyParks #DisneyWorld #Disneyland #TianasBayouAdventure #Imagineering #Tiana #NewOrleans #Chef ♬ original sound – Disney Parks

Later during that trip, Stella and Myla got to see Leah Sr.’s influence at Disneyland park through the quick service restaurant Tiana’s Palace and retail shop Eudora’s Chic Boutique featuring Tiana’s Gourmet Secrets. Stella said that seeing her mother’s legacy live on in so many different places was “a joy because it’s a way for my mother to continue to give back.”

Once Stella and Myla arrived back home, we knew how much of a priority it was to bring the rest of their family along for the completion of this journey. During a recent Chase family meeting at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, we surprised the entire family with invites to Walt Disney World Resort this summer be some of the first to ride Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The Chase family have accompanied us throughout the development of the attraction, and we are so grateful that they will be able to see this project come to fruition with us.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will take guests on a musical adventure picking up after the events of the film, “The Princess and the Frog.” Guests will join Princess Tiana and jazz-loving alligator Louis on an adventure through the bayou as they prepare to host a one-of-a-kind celebration during Mardi Gras season where everyone is welcome! Along the way, guests will encounter familiar faces, make new friends, and travel through the bayou as they are brought into the next chapter of Tiana’s story.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will also feature original music and some familiar tunes from the beloved movie, a sweeping, colorful mural adorning the queue, brand-new critters along for the journey, and so much more!

We look forward to sharing more details about all of these updates in the coming months, and can’t wait to welcome you to this updated area and attraction later this year – it’s almost time to let the good times roll!