About a year ago, Sarah wrote about Disney’s plan to introduce its first black princess in the animated fairy tale The Princess and the Frog.
The story has literally been back to the drawing board several times since its conception, due to allegations of racism.
Disney executives are right to heed the outcries: Their overtly animated racism dates back to the 1940s. The lead bird in 1941’s Dumbo was named Jim Crow, and sang: “I’d be done see’n about everything/when I see an elephant fly!” The Siamese Twin cats from Lady and the Tramp were only a slight step above the portrayal of the Japanese in American propaganda during World War II. The Merchant from Aladdin called his Middle Eastern homeland a place “where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face.” And I don’t even want to talk about King Louie, the African-American voiced monkey from The Jungle Book.
In the original storyboard for The Princess and the Frog, the princess was to be called Maddy, and her character was subservient to a spoiled, white Southern debutante. Critics said the echoes of slavery were too close to home, and that Maddy sounded way too much like “Mammy.”
The heroine was finally reborn as Tiana. She lives in the French Quarter during the Jazz Age, and will apparently live happily ever after with a man of Middle-Eastern descent. Tiana is voiced by Dreamgirls Anika Noni Rose.
The movie isn’t slated for release until Christmas 2009, so the animators have a lot of time left to work. After Disney’s marred racial past, it would be really nice if they could get this one right.
Here’s the first look at Disney’s first black princess. What do you think?