This Christmas, Disney returns to its beloved 2D animation with a little fairy-tale entitled, The Princess and the Frog. A lot of buzz has been surrounding the main character’s ethnicity, because for the first time, this Disney princess… is black.
Princess Tiana (voiced by Ankia Noni Rose) lives in the French Quarter in beautiful New Orleans, Louisiana. While the plot is still vague at this point, the story has gotten several disapproving comments. As Charlotte Observer columnist William Blackburn explains:
“This princess’ story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community. And then they throw in the voodoo theme [the fairy-godmother character is a voodoo priestess] and an alligator sidekick. When you put New Orleans, alligators and voodoo together, there’s no beauty there.”
Controversy surrounding the movie include issues with the original title (The Frog Princess-insinuating black women are ugly perhaps?), the Princess’ original name (Maddy-not ‘ethnic’ enough perhaps?), as well as the setting of New Orleans-a region where the lives of many black families (and white families) were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Additional complaints include: the use of voodoo magic and an alligator sidekick, making the film seem somewhat (if unintentionally) racist and pointed.
But let’s be honest here. It’s an animated movie, people. It is not a social cry or a political statement. It’s about a princess and her talking animal friends. Sounds like every other movie Disney has ever spit out. Still thinking The Princess and the Frog is racial? Well, consider the following racial assumptions made in other Disney animated features over the years:
- In Aladdin, Princess Jasmine has an Anglocized name that doesn’t originate from Saudi Arabia.
- In Mulan, the title character has a pet dragon, which could be offensive to the Chinese people.
- Magic or the occult is used in several (almost all) films including: The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Sword and the Stone, Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty…So why is voodoo considered a taboo for The Frog Princess? If it’s a complaint about religious practices, it might be valid.
Regardless of social issues with the film, it’s nice to see Disney go back to basics on their latest endeavor. Best yet: this marks the first Disney musical since Hercules! I can’t wait to see inanimate objects and animals singing about love and magic. For some beautifully drawn artwork from the film, check out these stills:
Do you think The Princess and the Frog will make racist statements? Is Disney right in changing the original title and character name to better please black audiences?