Disney’s ‘Princess and the Frog’ Pre-Controversy Controversy Fun

Written on June 3, 2009 at 10:43 am, by Amelia

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article about Disney’s upcoming movie, The Princess and the Frog.  It will be Disney’s first ever animated film to feature an African American princess.  A big deal, to say the least.

The Princess and the Frog courtesy of Disney

Walt Disney Pictures

Naturally, the film is being viewed under a social microscope, and not necessarily for the better.

Everything from the film’s locale (New Orleans) to its characters’ screen-time percentage as frogs has been called out as racially problematic.  Hoo boy.

Critics have used examples from Dumbo and The Jungle Book (both available on DVD) to fuel racism charges.  According to Disney in the article:

The company responds that criticism of such well-worn examples — particularly of films from the ’60s and earlier — applies a 21st-century morality to movies made in sharply different times.

Yes, I thought that was worthy of bolding.  Probably because it sounds exactly like the logic we apply to Song of the South. Disney, don’t play favorites!

I haven’t seen The Princess and the Frog though I sure do plan to when it comes out.  I am awfully interested in how all of this develops, and not just as a casual observer.

What do y’all think of the criticsm?  Can Disney do right with ethnic characters?  Does criticism just come with the territory?  Is a cooling of the jets called for?  Do tell!

Update (9/18/09): Here’s an excellent article on, essentially, the trouble Disney may be getting itself into in trying to please too many critics with The Princess and the Frog and how that mirrors the path of Song of the South.  Enjoy!

15 Comments to Disney’s ‘Princess and the Frog’ Pre-Controversy Controversy Fun

  1. I heard about this film a few years ago, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release since then. Disney can have princesses who are Asian (Mulan), Middle Eastern (Jasmine), and, of course, white (like most of the others), but not African-American? Ridiculous!

    I think people are just looking for something to complain about. The true purpose of Disney is to provide entertainment for young children, and little girls everywhere will love a princess story no matter what color the princess happens to be. They won’t analyze the racial stereotypes that might appear in the film.

    Perhaps the movie will not be completely accurate, culturally. But if we wanted our animated films to be stereotype-free, politically correct, and historically and culturally accurate, then Mulan and Aladdin should have been made as foreign films with subtitles and completely re-mastered plots.

    I think criticism must inevitably come with the territory. Anytime anyone veers outside of what is traditionally expected of them, people will ask questions and make complaints. Disney is no exception, and I do think people should ask those questions and be aware of potential issues with the film. But I also think we should look at the film for what it is–entertainment for children.

  2. David says:

    I’m curious to see if it’ll be any good. And if they use thick Creole accents for some or all of the characters.

  3. Jodi says:

    I think the final quote from the African American, former Disney animator is rather poignant:

    “Overly sensitive people see racial or ethnic slights in every image,” wrote Floyd Norman, whose credits span from “Sleeping Beauty” to “Mulan,” in a 2007 essay on the Web site Jim Hill Media. “And in their zeal to sanitize and pasteurize everything, they’ve taken all the fun out of cartoon making.”

  4. Frank says:

    I’m so discouraged by the hyper-critical attitude that is prevalent in our society today. I think a great deal of this hyper-criticism is partially due to the fact our mainstream media sources – once a paper on the front porch every morning and the local news at night – is now a 24 hour 7 days a week machine of information and overanalyzation…

    Dozens of cable news channels and dozens upon dozens of internet blogs and websites which are not so much interested in fact as in promoting and persuading public opinion dominate our social consciousness. This film is a perfect example – after the initial news broke about it everyone was all smiles with few complaints. But almost overnight the topic of Disney’s new film grew stale and all chaos ensued as media outlets were practically forced to pick apart everything and anything about the movie to the smallest detail…scouring every inch seemingly from the animation to the characters names and cultural backgrounds to the setting and every issue in between searching for anything that would incite conversation and controversy – NEW NEWS – which further fuels the media machine because our short attention spans cannot dare to be without new news for very long. We’re constantly searching for something to rant about…something to rave about. Sigh…but I digress.

    The Princess and the Frog appears to be a delightful film and the central theme of the movie which is about Princess Kiana finding balance in love and career is a very essential component in life will help young girls further their aspirations – so that’s what I’m focusing on and that’s what I want my daughter to take from the film as well.

  5. Lain says:

    I’m definitely with y’all on this one.

    I know some people will say anything just to get some press, but to accuse Disney of racism by placing the New Orleans is really one of the most preposterous claims I’ve heard in a while. Africa was and continues to be the site of some of the most horrendous atrocities inflicted upon Africans, enslaved or otherwise. Does that mean the Lion King is racist? No, because that would be a silly thing to say.

  6. I have to agree, from what i’ve seen so far I think I will enjoy this movie as i have others from Disney. As a black author and illustrator, they inspired me while growing up to write and illustrate my first book which has an black elf princess. Eventhought all of the Disney princesses were white when I was growing up, I still love them and was always captivated by them as kids will be about The Princess and the Frog. Wizarding World Press will be releasing “Imagia and the Magic Pearls” in november of this year so I’ve been following the Disney saga closely.

  7. TaliaG says:

    The sad thing about this is you know Disney has some of it’s employees jumping on these blogs to put on this isn’t wonderful that Disney is doing something for Blacks. The reality is this is embarrassing. From the voice acting to the actual character design – Disney is once again re-enforcing what they think of Blacks as nothing more than subservient ignoramuses to be laughed at. It is unfortunate that Oprah who prides herself as an intelligent woman – allowed herself to be talked into this. But what can you say, Disney’s own lack of race relations is only evidenced by the fact that this is not one black executive with any creative say working at the company.

  8. Jeanette H says:

    I think its about time!! my Family has always loved disney. When my daughters were younger Mulan, pocahontas and Jasmine were the princesses they wanted to dress & relate to. They are older and cant wait to see the movie. We cant go back in time but only move forward. It is a slow and continious move forward for minorities. Disney is and will always be about Family and an escape from reality. Their are much more shows on Disney now that have many different ethnicities of kids. Its great to see. My Family is excited to see princess Tiana & hope this is a start to more princesses & Heroines of color. Lets keep moving forward, okay to look back as to not forget the past and why we always need positive change.

  9. Keita says:

    i have tried to not to buy anything related to disney since my six year old twins were born. My daughter does not care that this is the first black princess and so we will go see this movie in December. I am still saddened that the prince isn’t black but this battle within me is not theirs, so I think it is time to relent and enjoy this movie like I enjoyed the ones from my childhood.

  10. superman says:

    This upcoming movie is disgusting, why is Disney responding to the White House ’s pressure to brainwash people with multi cultural relationships? What if most Americans are tired to hear about it, especially with all the propaganda on TV since 2008 in commercials, shjows and movies? Isn’t there already the message everywhere we need to indoctrinate our little kids about this? Why do we need now to show a black prince going with a White princess or vice versa when we never did this? it will definietly irritate most of America which is conservative (not necessarily racist btw). Remember America voted Obama to fix the recession (where we see no result) not to promote his interracial agenda. Disney’s producers and artists are not even black it looks all too condescendent. Disney wont even call it ‘the black princess’. They have to hide the black theme under a frog. How misleading and hypocrit

  11. April says:

    I, like Keita, HATE that the prince is not black. I love Disney movies and have always watched them. Why, now, would they take a movie with the first “black” princess, and promote multiculturalism? Why did they not promote multiculturalism and adhere to their multicultural policy when the princess was white by giving her a black prince? MONEY! It is the root of ALL evil! I look forward to seeing the movie the Princess and the frog. But, I dare not look at it as the first “black” princess or black Disney fairy tale! It is not “BLACK” until it promotes the pride, power, and beauty of the “black” home I grew up in. The love my parents and aunts and uncles shared and fought for through years of racism and disapproval. When they want it to be a “black” fairy tale, they will take the time to look at successful black love and promote it; otherwise it is just another Disney classic that children will love and enjoy. Or will they?

  12. […] with dreams that manage to suit both. She’s Disney’s first black princess — far too long in coming, but filling the roles here of princess and hero. Race is never explicitly addressed in the film, […]

  13. David says:

    April or Keita, can you tell me why you say the prince isn’t black? He certainly looks blacker than either President Obama or Tiger Woods, and everybody thinks they’re black.

  14. gail thomas says:

    this movie was very disrespectful towards blacks on how they were potrayed as low class in many ways shapes and forms also wrongly rated for children…

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