Emotions have never run amok with such intensity in black communities, both in the United States and across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom. For the first time in the history of Walt Disney, an animated musical fairy tale set in the legendary birthplace of jazz, New Orleans, and featuring the studio’s first black princess will be released in 2009.
Once upon a time, there was a poor African-American girl, Maddy, who lived amid the charming elegance and grandeur of the fabled French Quarter of New Orleans, and worked for a rich land owner … The new african-american fairy tale, “the Frog Princess”, may not be released until the necessary changes have been made …
After the, Lion King, an animated musical which reduced Africa to a vast arid zoo, overflowing its boundaries with wildlife hanging on the edge, Walt Disney is out with its first black princess. A new and strong marketing statement to seduce a niche market is in full force.
But not so fast. The fairy tale has become the house of horrors for the hollywood production company. The black community sees the main character depicted in a stereotypical role, a strong reminder of the old, annoying and frustrating images of poor black maids at the beck and call of rich white masters in the “negro” southern states of the United States.
Steve Pope, Editor in Chief of The Voice, a British weekly, explains that black people have dreams and would like to see them well presented. He also thinks that this is a very sensitive issue and should therefore be dealt with carefully.
Walt Disney at the heart of controversy
The discontentment which was made manifest in England crossed the atlantic to the other side, the United States. Joan Gosier, a mother of
two, talked about the effect the animated fairy tale had on her children in the South Florida Times. “I was excited that there was going to be a black princess. When my two daughters, who love Disney films, saw her picture and asked me who she was, I told them it was Maddy, the Frog Princess, and they frowned. […] My 3-year-old said, ‘I don’t want to be a frog,’ and tears welled up in her eyes. The more I tried to explain to them, the more disgusted their faces were looking … I knew at that point, psychologically, this was harmful.”
Thanks to her blog as well as many other petitions sent to the producers, Joan Gosier’s wishes were granted. To cool down boiling tensions before the release of the “Frog princess”, Disney made the necessary changes. First of all the popular slave name, Maddy, was changed to Tiana. Next to undergo a face lift was the title of the animated movie itself, The Frog Princess. The Frog Princess which hinted on a history reminiscent of the colonial french, nick named “frog eaters” or “froggies” was renamed The Princess and the Frog.
A heritage smeared in embarrassment
This is not the first time Disney has faced this type of hostility. With a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) founder, the production company is burdened with an embarrassing past. In 1933, The Three Little Pigs caused a stir when the sly wolf was decorated in an “Israelite” disguise. More recently, in 1993, the release of Alladin raised a controversy when Middle Easterners accused the film of negative propaganda.
After eliminating the film’s racial undertones, does the Princess and the frog promise a happy ending ?