Submitted by jadeselby on 8 January 2010 - 10:19pm
I’m really excited to hear that the creators of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid have come together once again to create another classic Disney film. The Princess and The Frog is Disney’s latest animated musical, set in the 1920s in the great city of New Orleans. It has bucked the latest trend of 3D CGI stories, such as James Cameron’s Avatar, with a return to traditional 2D hand drawn characters and an ultimate fairytale plot.
The film is predicted to make millions at the box office and capture the hearts of children and adults alike, as the comical fairytale scenerio features a beautiful girl named Tiana, frog prince Naveen who is desperate to be human again, and a fateful kiss that leads them both on a hilarious adventure through Louisiana.
Disney has not made a Broadway-style musical like it in a decade and as for visual effects, hand-drawing is not the film’s only sentimental property. John Musker, who co-directed and co-wrote the film with Ron Clements told The Times that Disney hopes to charm the children and create a sense of nostaliga for adults, with rich vibrant colours that produce the perfect experience Disney fans expect.
But it seems that the colour of the film’s protagonist, African American Princess Tiana is raising eyebrows. The black princess is the first to grace Disneyland and has sparked a number of debates. The significance is that over the years Disney has been a company faced with accusations of racial discrimination and ethnic insensitivity. One common belief of critics is that all black or dark characters in Disney’s screenplays are cast as villians, due to racist prejudices. The Disney studio has become such a popular and powerful part of American culture that some people would even go as far as calling it evil. But are people just over reading into innocent childrens’ entertainment?
The Princess and the Frog, was released throughout the US last weekend and is facing bitter political scrutiny. Critics have pointed out Disney’s supposed racist agenda and have revealed several racist plot details, which were cut before the final draft of the film was complete.
According to many rumours, Tiana’s original name was Maddy, which critics said was too similar to Mammy, once a common term for a black female slave in a white household. In the early stages Maddy was also allegedly a chambermaid, as opposed to the striving restaurateur of the final cut. Another factor sparking controversy is that Tiana has been given a lighter skinned prince. A decision which some critics have speculated to mean that Disney doesn’t think a black man is worthy of the title of prince.
As reported by The Times, screenwriter Rob Edwards insists this is unfair. Apparently the creators have never had racist intentions and have spent three years scrutinising and amending their work to avoid any backlash. It might also be hard for Disney’s critics to maintain that the movie is insensitive to blacks, when the Caucasian characters of the bunch don’t come off very well. There is for instance a fat white man with more money than sense and his spoilt daughter, supposedly based on no other than Ms Paris Hilton.
New Orleans is a controversial setting, but Disney has been clever in placing the story in the late 1920s. A time when the music and the magic could have taken place before the Depression and unequeal society the African American princess would have lived in. Edwards admits that he avoided any explicit references to the racism of the era and told The Telegraph: “One of the reasons the city is so great, why jazz was developed there, is the influence of diversity. That’s why we thought our princess should be an African-American.”
You might ask yourself: why has it taken Disney so long to create a black character? Some critics believe it is a sheer opportune moment to cash in on the rise of a successful black American women. Michelle Obama being a prime example. However, this allegation seems implausible, as the the film’s production started three years before the US elected their first black President.
After 86 years Disney is at a turning point. As a huge fan of Disney films I’m biased to believe that these criticisms are just a case of overanlaysis, but plenty of people agree. Bonnie Greer for Times Online has said “Today, little African American girls, in fact little girls period, are much too savvy to be bowled over by the colour of the princess’ skin.”
It is afterall a childrens film and surely it’s positive that the conglomerate is taking the multicultural faces of the world into consideration. America now has its first black President, so why not create the first Disney animated black character.
The Princess and The Frog opens in the UK on February 5.