It was announced last month that Disney will be releasing The Frog Princess in 2009. If you haven’t been paying attention to this sort of thing, you may be thinking, “Oh, another Disney princess. Ho hum.” But this was notable news because for the first time in Disney history, the film will feature an African-American princess.
You’ve sort of got to love a company that can make an announcement about something that’s going to happen two years out and still manage to spark a controversy. I mean, that does take a certain measure of talent.
And at first blush, you’d think this would be something to celebrate, period. It’s about time, no? Save for Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan, Disney princesses have given us a sea of whiteness in a multi-colored world, and a black heroine is long past due.
But the course of true movie popularity never did run smooth, even for a giant like Disney. A recent article about the film points out what is (already!) being perceived as shortcomings about the upcoming picture:
Disney unveiled Maddy at its annual shareholders’ meeting in March, even summoning Randy Newman’s Dirty Dozen Brass Band for a performance. [...]
Information about “The Frog Princess,” including a list of characters put forth in a voice-actor casting call, quickly spread across the Internet.
It appears that the prince in the story is not black, which has raised dissatisfaction. There are also people criticizing the creation of yet another cartoon princess whose story, they contend, undermines a modern message of individual empowerment.
Hey, I love the Disney princesses as much as the next mom (which is to say… I have a daughter who idolized them for many years), but here’s a little secret in case you haven’t noticed: The princesses aren’t exactly one-woman islands. No matter how much of a feminist spin Disney tries to put on these stories, in the end there’s always a prince. (Even for Mulan, which bugged me more than any of the others.) My point is, I think the time to complain to Disney about the ubiquitousness of the prince in these stories is long past. We all know there’s going to be a prince involved. Remind your daughters that they don’t need a man to be complete, and move on.
The fact that the princess is black and the prince is not, however, is another matter entirely. While I’m all for relationships that are blind to skin color—even in an animated film—wouldn’t you think that when Disney finally features a black princess they might allow for a black prince, as well?
Did Disney miss the boat on this one, do you think?