Disney’s First Black Princess Takes Shape

Boy does this early shot from The Princess and the Frog make me smile. We’ve known for a while that Disney was at work on an animated film with their first black princess, but it’s another thing to see her in the flesh. And it’s nice to see them revive their fine tradition of hand animation (just four years ago they said they were permanently abandoning the technique) for this kind of first.

Of course, the road here has not been without a certain amount of controversy (Disney has been pretty responsive). And lots of questions still remain. Will voodoo be presented in a realistic or stereotypical light? Will the characters find the right balance between overly PC sterility and obnoxious caricature? How will it deal with the racial issues of the time (1920s)? This is a tough one both because it hasn’t been done before and because there are so many eyes on it.

Still, you have to applaud the Mouse House for taking the risk. After all, when you’re designing new characters, the easy road is to stick with what works culturally. We know white characters work. And it sure seems like Disney hasn’t exactly been comfortable with black characters. (I mean how else could you explain Lion King spending an entire film in Africa without ever encountering a person?) Under Disney’s new stewardship (read Pixar), that’s changing. Who better than the folks who gave us the Incredibles’ fabulous Frozone?

Considering Princess and the Frog is set in New Orleans, I hope Disney does it right. Those folks deserve it. I mentioned that Disney is returning to its old animation technique for this film. One could read that as the studio saying: “we wish we had given you a black princess sooner.” If that’s their frame of mind, I imagine things will turn out all right.

Find more Princess and the Frog at Wikipedia and FirstShowing.

9 Responses to “Disney’s First Black Princess Takes Shape”

  1. 1 Justin Ruckman

    Dang this is exciting. The story looks to have a lot of potential, and Disney making hand-drawn musical fairy tails again means all is right in the world.

  2. 2 Jason

    Totally. I’m a little wary of the return to the musical style (I always find they start singing right when things are about to get interesting) but, with Pixar behind it, there’s all the potential in the world.

  3. 3 Shauna

    I’m very excited for someone my younger sibling can relate to. It was very hard growing up seeing Cinderella and Snow White and realizing that we did not have any similar features. I’m not sure I understand this, but is she supposedly a frog? Because that is not very inspiring. If I’m wrong can someone tell me.

  4. 4 Jason

    Shauna, I’m not sure anyone outside Disney knows the details of the story yet. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the frog figures, though! Let’s hope for something clever.

  5. 5 Hoshino Ai

    I am absolutely ecstatic about The Princess And The Frog coming out! ^_^ I have such high hopes for it and I know she’ll be a great inspiration to not only Black American girls here in America, but to young Black girls everywhere. Thank you Disney for finally catching up to the 21st century and realizing that heroines and heroes come in all colors. ^_~v

  6. 6 samuel a. jackson

    im not gonna like this movie at all. im debating even watching it.
    i just dont think its a good idea to have a black princess during the time period the movie is suppose to be in. they should have made it during a more current time, where there is less problems with racial issues.

  7. 7 Kimberly W.

    It’s about time that Disney realize that so many girls of color have been waiting to see a princess that looks like them. I just hope it’s a positive film that reflects on the beauty and intelligence of a black princess.

  8. 8 Anne

    I agree with samuel a. jackson. I want to see a Disney movie with a black princess, but why back in the ’20s? I hope the film does reflect the intelligence and beauty of a black princess. I still don’t know if I’m going to watch the movie anymore.

  1. 1 There will also be a singing crocadile | MetaFilter

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