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.
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!