A year or so ago there was much fanfare over the new Disney film The Princess and The Frog: An American Fairy Tale. This Disney film would become the first to ever have a black princess.
When Disney announced it was casting its first black princess for its latest animation film, the African-American heroine was hailed as a positive role model for little girls and an ambitious marketing ploy, not to mention an attempt to ward off the allegations of racism that have lurked since the heyday of Walt Disney Productions in the 1940s and 1950s.
But now the film studio finds itself fending off a chorus of accusations of racial stereotyping in its forthcoming big-budget cartoon, The Princess and The Frog: An American Fairy Tale, which marks a return to hand-drawn animation.
A musical set in 1920s New Orleans, the film was supposed to feature Maddy, a black chambermaid working for a spoilt, white Southern debutante. Maddy 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.
But there were issues about this film from some in the black community. Some black folks took issue with her name. Her name was originally Maddy. Some folks thought it was too close to the name Mammy. Huh, you say? Yeah I know. As the article states:
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.
I saw nothing wrong with the name Maddy. For some it’s short for Madison or Madeline. Oh well. So the name has been changed to Tiana. Wait a minute. You mean no one has complained that Tiana sounds too much like Tijuana? The movie title has changed too. It was originally titled The Frog Princess. Some were offended by that title. Well now according to The Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia the movie is called The Princess & The Frog.
I remember reading about this movie when word got out that Disney was doing a movie about its first black princess. But the comments from some black folks were unbelievable. Comments about the name of the main character, the main character being a chambermaid (the movie takes place during the 1920’s, not 2007) and the fact that her prince wasn’t black (god forbid a black woman fall in love with a man who ain’t black, despite the fact that there are more interracial marriages between black men and white women than vice versa). Anyway I’m glad to see that they’re continuing with the film despite the complaints. After all this Disney might not create another film starring black folks, animated or non-animated, since we are some hard to please folks.
Check out this previous article about the movie from 2007, Princess Maddy repairs Disney’s racist reputation.