Keith David, voice of Dr. Facilier in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ The Princess and the Frog, poses with Tiana and Naveen against the picturesque backdrop of the magical bayou.

D23 Members Celebrate 15 Years of The Princess and the Frog Down in New Orleans!

By Peyton Liebler

Fifteen years ago, audiences were first introduced to Tiana—a determined young woman who embarked on an unlikely adventure through the enchanted bayous of Louisiana and charmed streets of New Orleans. All these years later, this story continues to inspire and captivate fans worldwide, driving everyone to “dig a little deeper” and discover how their dreams can come true. Celebrating this milestone anniversary, D23: The Official Disney Fan Club welcomed fans to New Orleans, spotlighting the wonder and heart of the city that inspired so much of this beloved animated feature. From soulful music to effervescent foods, this anniversary celebration really let the good times roll!

Starting the day “Down in New Orleans,” guests were welcomed to The Princess and the Frog: 15th Anniversary Screening Celebration at the AMC Elmwood Palace 20. This joyful kickoff allowed guests to relive all the excitement and imagination of the film on the big screen. Guests also received some special gifts to commemorate their screening experience, including a Disney+ Prize Pack which featured a tote bag and Mickey Ears; a D23 Magnet featuring Louis the Alligator; vouchers for popcorn and a fountain drink; and, for guests with “The Big Easy” ticket, the amazing Tiana’s Cookbook featuring recipes of some fan-favorite dishes, courtesy our friends at Disney Publishing!

During a special pre-show presentation, D23 Members enjoyed learning 5 Facts About The Princess and the Frog , and it wrapped up with a special appearance from the man behind the villainous Dr. Facilier—Keith David! David shared some memories and reflections from making the film; how the city of New Orleans inspired his performance; and what it means to him all these years later. But the memories didn’t stop there, as the audience was surprised with yet another special appearance from the incredible Jim Cummings—voice of Ray the Firefly! David and Cummings then shared a few more memories from bringing Facilier and Ray to life before they introduced the film for the audience.

After the film, guests were able to explore the city at their leisure, including a curated list of locations from the Walt Disney Archives! This list featured areas that provided inspiration and informed the rich settings of The Princess and the Frog. Guests could check out the mansions along the St. Charles line in the Garden District, which informed the grandiose La Bouff mansion. If they jumped on the streetcar, they could follow in the footsteps of Tiana as she made her morning commute at the start of the film. And the bravest of guests could leer through areas that inspired Dr. Facilier’s haunts, including locations like Jackson Square—where he turned a few dastardly tricks on the citizens of the city. 

Later, the evening star was shining bright, so D23 Members made a wish and held on tight… there was magic and music in the air that night! Guests with “The Big Easy” ticket gathered at The New Orleans Jazz Museum for the “Dreams Do Come True” Grand Finale!

The night’s festivities featured a plethora of programming central to The Princess and the Frog, allowing guests to make the most of their wondrous night in New Orleans. This included live jazz from local group The Crescent City All-Stars, with a special finale performance by the amazing Keith David as he lent his vocal stylings and made us all part of the shadowy realm with Dr. Facilier’s iconic villain anthem, “Friends on the Other Side.” His deliciously devilish rendition evoked the inviting charm and wit of Dr. Facilier... We hope all in the audience were satisfied! But if they ain’t, don’t blame us… you can blame our friends on the other side!

As the evening continued, guests could “gumbo” with both the head chef herself and the prince of Maldonia: Tiana and Naveen! This perfect pair greeted attendees, posing for pictures and autographing everything from menus to cookbooks. It was a sensational sight to see as D23 Members donned their “big easy” best, dazzling the royal duo with outfits that would have impressed Tiana’s mother and expert seamstress, Eudora. It’s always a pleasure to see how our members come dressed in the most imaginative and tasteful of garb.

Speaking of tasteful, this Crescent City grand finale would not be complete if we didn’t have some amazing local foods to dine on as the evening progressed! This celebration tasted as good as it looked—with guests sampling from an array of locally inspired cuisine, featuring creole classics like Mini Muffulettas, Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee, and of course some freshly made man-catching Beignets!

Much like the delectable dishes of this event, the flavor kept flowing with two special presentations guests were able to enjoy throughout the evening. The first was a presentation on the highly anticipated Tiana’s Bayou Adventure making its way to Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort this year! This deep dive into the attraction’s development showcased the incredible research and collaboration between Walt Disney Imagineering and the City of New Orleans, as they venture to create an experience that spotlights the real-life magic of the city in the most authentic way possible. Guests will soon be able experience the best of what New Orleans has to offer with artwork, design elements, music, and enchantment sourced directly from “The Big Easy”!

And to add to an already mouth-watering menu of inspiration, D23 Members also enjoyed a presentation from Rebecca Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives. This richly detailed presentation elaborated on a decades-long history between The Walt Disney Company and the City of New Orleans. From Walt Disney himself to fan-favorite films, attractions, and stories, guests were treated to a comprehensive chronicle of just how much the magic of Disney owes to the cultures and luminous settings of the city. Cline ventured through the past, present, and future, going back to Walt’s trips to New Orleans (inspiring the lustrous New Orleans Square at Disneyland), and all the way through to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure coming to Disney Parks in 2024.

As their evening continued, D23 Members were invited to enjoy all the amazing experiences and exhibits that the New Orleans Jazz Museum has to offer. The museum is a treasure-trove of history and culture, recounting the conception of jazz in New Orleans and its impact on the world over. You’ve heard of Louis Armstrong? Mister Sidney Bechet? All those icons and their instruments live on in the exemplary exhibits of this museum. Adding to an already impressive lineup, the exhibits here also served as inspiration for Walt Disney Imagineering as they developed musical and historical aspects for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Talk about jazzing up an already-enchanted experience!

To conclude the evening, D23 was excited to let in the light of the fireflies for an extra-special finale moment! Jim Cummings took the stage and set the night aglow performing Ray’s two very special songs: the romantic “Ma Belle Evangeline” and the Cajun confab “Gonna Take You There”! It was a sight to behold, as the smiles from D23 Members lit up the night—just like Ray and his whole firefly family.

This event was an absolute pleasure to bring to life for the greatest fans on earth. It’s always an incredible time when we get to celebrate a fantastical story like The Princess and The Frog, itself rooted in an equally fantastical place like New Orleans. As Tiana’s father instilled upon her, “Never lose sight of what’s really important”—and it’s experiences like this that speak volumes to how much these stories can inspire us to dig just a little deeper... discovering what we really need. And no matter how far we have already come, it’s always important to remember that “we’ve climbed the mountain, we’ve crossed the river and we’re almost there...”

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