With the racial politics of America seemingly undergoing a complete upheaval, it would make sense that Disney’s attempt to feature their first Black movie princess would be met with resounding approval – that is until the public took a look at her love interest!
Starring Anika Noni Rose, Disney’s upcoming holiday film, “The Princess and the Frog,” will be the studio first attempt to feature a Black princess in the lead. Since “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” dropped 72 years ago, ALL of Disney’s princesses have been White. While the studio is willing to take the “controversial” step with it’s female lead, it appears that they are maintaining the status quo with her leading man, Prince Naveen.
For while Princess Tiana and many in the cartoon cast are black – the prince is not. Voiced by a Brazilian actor, his character’s features are definitely more Anglo than African causing many critics to complain that Disney has missed a huge opportunity for a fairytale ending for a black prince and princess. For many, the message is the studio’s continued push for diversity. But others think that the animated heavyweight lacked the courage to make an all-Black romance film.
Disney has insisted its choice of a black princess was part of a policy to give characters as much diversity as possible. Over the past twenty years, Disney has integrated some color into their animated classics featuring a native Indian princess in “Pocahontas” and the Middle-Eastern flavor of Jasmine in “Aladdin.”
The 49th animated film from Disney has been awash in controversy since plans were announced in 2006. Originally titled “The Frog Princess,” its heroine was to be a chambermaid called Maddy working for a spoiled white debutante in 1920s New Orleans. But those plans were scrapped when the storyline sparked a backlash from critics who claimed it reinforced prejudice and demeaned black people. The princess’s original name was perceived by some to be a stereotypical ‘slave name’ and she was also a maid working for a wealthy white boss, which was criticized as being racially insensitive. Even the Bayou setting for the film was questioned as it had overtones of voodoo and slavery.
Cyberfans and critics are not happy with Disney’s casting decision.
One disappointed fan wrote: “I think it’s sad that he is white because its saying that Black love isn’t good enough and that Black men could never be princes. Disney had the perfect chance to make its first Black prince, but instead it decided to go the controversial route.” Said another: “I am very disappointed and I wished Disney had made the prince Black, (and the ironic thing is the prince in the movie is White but the evil voodoo villain is voiced by a Black actor and is Black).”
Rose has insisted that people should look beyond the color of the character. “Not only is she the first black princess, she’s the first American princess. We’ve never had an American princess,” said Rose. “The scope and the significance is larger than people even realize,” she added.
The film also features the voice of media mogul Oprah Winfrey as Tiana’s mother, Eudora. “The Princess and the Frog” is scheduled for release in December.