Meet the First Black Woman Executive Creative Producer of Walt Disney Imagineering Behind Tiana’s Bayou
With her latest project, Walt Disney’s Charita Carter leans into her passion every day to reimagine an iconic Black story for future generations to enjoy.
According to Forbes, this creative boss is celebrating her 26th year at Walt Disney – now as the first African American woman to hold the crown of executive creative producer of Walt Disney Imagineering.
“I have learned that I have staying power,” Carter told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“What I mean by that is I have been able to keep my eye on the goals I have set for myself, which shapes my approach to all challenges that I face.”
In tandem with Carter’s trailblazing accomplishment, a destination she found through continuous support and innovative passion, the mastermind is now leading the highly anticipated transformation of the beloved Splash Mountain into a Princess and the Frog attraction.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, opening at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort in 2024, picks up right where the film left off, taking guests on a journey inspired by the beloved story and characters from the hit animated movie The Princess and the Frog.
Since the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure attraction was announced in 2020, Disney Parks has revealed a new scene in which guests can join “Princess Tiana and jazz-loving alligator Louis during Mardi Gras season as they prepare to host a one-of-a-kind celebration for the people of New Orleans,” per Disney Parks blog.
With glowing fireflies floating over the bayou, the joyful sounds of Louisiana-born zydeco music introduces the adorable duo to a band full of charming critters, including an otter, a rabbit, a racoon, a beaver, and a turtle.
In executing this scenic attraction, Carter and her team of Imagineers have been hard at work capturing the authentic spirit of the princess.
“From the food, music, art and architecture of New Orleans to the diversity of its people and their traditions, there is so much from which to draw inspiration and we have done several research trips to get the story right,” Carter recalls about her visits to The Big Easy.
“We want Tiana’s Bayou Adventure to feel like you’ve stepped right into Tiana’s story. Even though Tiana is a character in a story, her culture and the place she comes from are real. We want this attraction to be a love letter to New Orleans, so it’s important that we approach this story in an authentic way by working with a diverse team and local experts,” she added.
Growing up watching The Wonderful World of Disney on TV Sunday nights with her family in Southern California, Carter’s lasting memories are filled with family time and encouragement.
“I had seen all of the animated films of the princesses of the day, but I do not remember gravitating toward them,” Carter says. “I was taught by my family that I could do or be anything I wanted to be, and I was taught to be independent. However, to this day I am a hopeless romantic and perhaps the Disney princesses had a little to do with that.”
A young Carter learned very early to superimpose herself onto the characters she liked, despite the lack of Black representation on screen.
“It was all I knew and served as a constant reminder that I was very unique,” Carter says.
The upcoming attraction strives to bring people of different backgrounds together through recreating the timeless Princess Tiana story.
“I was so thrilled that Disney had a Black princess who was uniquely different beyond her ethnicity, and she was so relatable,” Carter says. “I also understood the implication and the impact Tiana would have on the young, and young at heart for the African American community.”
While living with budding passion, Carter’s latest responsibility is just part of her full-circle journey.
“I believe that bringing Tiana to the parks is one more opportunity to have a role model that all can relate to, who looks like me,” Carter tOLD black enterprise.
“In some ways, I feel the story of Tiana is one more tool I have, to be known as a Black woman and to help shape people’s initial perception of me and females like me,” she added.
Today, Carter brings a history of serving as an accountant in her current company to finance manager for the creative division, by not only taking the initiative but impressing creative leadership with her talents.
“And my ability to earn the trust of the teams I lead,” Carter says. “My secret sauce is to lead from a place of passion and love. My aim is always to create an environment where the people I am leading can thrive, and that requires looking for the treasure within, like leadership initially did with me. Finally, genuine passion combined with world-class talent is a recipe for Disney Magic.”
From brainstorming and development to refining and installation, Carter’s boss moves have landed her in a position to become a role model
“You have to take ownership of your vision and there’s a reason you have that vision,” Carter advises.
“You owe yourself to be courageous and lean into it because you don’t know what impact that will have on the world. The key is to overcome fear and be bold rather than to never have stepped out at all.”