Back to the Drawing Board for Disney’s First Black Princess
Posted on Jul 17, 2008
Disney’s popular animated films have been criticized for creating 2-D characters from various non-Western (or non-white Western) cultures, so the Mouse House made an attempt to clear its name by creating a “black princess” character who ... works as a chambermaid for a bratty white Southern debutante in 1920s New Orleans. And that’s not the half of it: The first version of “The Princess and the Frog” featured a heroine named Maddie who, as The Independent put it, was to be “helped by a voodoo priestess fairy godmother to win the heart of a white prince, after he rescued her from the clutches of a voodoo magician.” Oops.
Now, after some storyline tweaking, the story looks a bit different. Enter Princess Tiana.
Disney’s original storyboard is believed to have been torn up after criticism that the lead character was a clichéd subservient role with echoes of slavery, and whose name sounded too much like “Mammy” - a unwelcome reminder of America’s Deep South before the civil rights movement swept away segregation.
The heroine has been recast as Tiana, a 19-year-old in a country that has never had a monarchy. She is now slated to live “happily ever after” with a handsome fellow who is not black - with leaks suggesting that he will be of Middle Eastern heritage and called Naveen. The race of the villain in the cartoon is reported to have also been revised.
The film studio began making changes a year ago, first to its title, The Frog Princess, which some had interpreted as a slur. Amendments to the plot followed.
AP photo / Judi Bottoni
Randy Newman on piano and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band play a song from the Walt Disney Co.‘s animated musical (v. 1.0), “The Frog Princess,” pictured on a screen in New Orleans in 2007.