I’m really excited to hear that the creators of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid have come together once again to create another classic Disney film. The Princess and The Frog is Disney’s latest animated musical, set in the 1920s in the great city of New Orleans. It has bucked the latest trend of 3D CGI stories, such as James Cameron’s Avatar, with a return to traditional 2D hand drawn characters and an ultimate fairytale plot. 
 
The film is predicted to make millions at the box office and capture the hearts of children and adults alike, as the comical fairytale scenerio features a beautiful girl named Tiana, frog prince Naveen who is desperate to be human again, and a fateful kiss that leads them both on a hilarious adventure through Louisiana.
 
Disney has not made a Broadway-style musical like it in a decade and as for visual effects, hand-drawing is not the film’s only sentimental property. John Musker, who co-directed and co-wrote the film with Ron Clements told The Times that Disney hopes to charm the children and create a sense of nostaliga for adults, with rich vibrant colours that produce the perfect experience Disney fans expect.
 
But it seems that the colour of the film’s protagonist, African American Princess Tiana is raising eyebrows. The black princess is the first to grace Disneyland and has sparked a number of debates. The significance is that over the years Disney has been a company faced with accusations of racial discrimination and ethnic insensitivity. One common belief of critics is that all black or dark characters in Disney’s screenplays are cast as villians, due to racist prejudices. The Disney studio has become such a popular and powerful part of American culture that some people would even go as far as calling it evil. But are people just over reading into innocent childrens’ entertainment?
 
The Princess and the Frog, was released throughout the US last weekend and is facing bitter political scrutiny. Critics have pointed out Disney’s supposed racist agenda and have revealed several racist plot details, which were cut before the final draft of the film was complete.
 
According to many rumours, Tiana’s original name was Maddy, which critics said was too similar to Mammy, once a common term for a black female slave in a white household. In the early stages Maddy was also allegedly a chambermaid, as opposed to the striving restaurateur of the final cut. Another factor sparking controversy is that Tiana has been given a lighter skinned prince. A decision which some critics have speculated to mean that Disney doesn’t think a black man is worthy of the title of prince.
 
As reported by The Times, screenwriter Rob Edwards insists this is unfair. Apparently the creators have never had racist intentions and have spent three years scrutinising and amending their work to avoid any backlash. It might also be hard for Disney’s critics to maintain that the movie is insensitive to blacks, when the Caucasian characters of the bunch don’t come off very well. There is for instance a fat white man with more money than sense and his spoilt daughter, supposedly based on no other than Ms Paris Hilton.
 
New Orleans is a controversial setting, but Disney has been clever in placing the story in the late 1920s. A time when the music and the magic could have taken place before the Depression and unequeal society the African American princess would have lived in. Edwards admits that he avoided any explicit references to the racism of the era and told The Telegraph: “One of the reasons the city is so great, why jazz was developed there, is the influence of diversity. That’s why we thought our princess should be an African-American.”
 
You might ask yourself: why has it taken Disney so long to create a black character? Some critics believe it is a sheer opportune moment to cash in on the rise of a successful black American women. Michelle Obama being a prime example. However, this allegation seems implausible, as the the film’s production started three years before the US elected their first black President.
 
After 86 years Disney is at a turning point. As a huge fan of Disney films I’m biased to believe that these criticisms are just a case of overanlaysis, but plenty of people agree. Bonnie Greer for Times Online has said “Today, little African American girls, in fact little girls period, are much too savvy to be bowled over by the colour of the princess’ skin.” 
 
It is afterall a childrens film and surely it’s positive that the conglomerate is taking the multicultural faces of the world into consideration. America now has its first black President, so why not create the first Disney animated black character.
 
 
The Princess and The Frog opens in the UK on February 5.
 
 

Comments

I'm one of the people who have called Disney evil for many reasons from Lemmings to Walt Disney himself. Disney would be nothing without Pixar, but when Pixar decided they didn't want to do Disney films anymore, they were simply bought out. As for the new characters, I think it's just a sign of "moving with the times". Different people are behind Disney now anyway.

Disney would be nothing without Pixar? Pixar has only been around for really the last fifteen years, but Disney has been the global leader in entertainment for the last fifty years... there was no CGI behind the Lion King, Micky Mouse or Bambi. :) 

Perhaps the word "nothing" was too strong, but Disney wasn't bringing out any major hits (animation wise) at the time - Pixar was creating them.

 Even before WWII, Disney was working her magic into youngsters. 

Before Woolworths HQ was bombed during the Battle of Britain, Woolworths had secure rights, internationally, to print Donald Duck cartoons and many more about other characters.

The magic of Disney never saw its peek through Pixar, which is meer animation. I think you will find that the way the story dictates to screen boils down to salary of animators.

So everyone is a fan of disney.

I'll support my viewpoint with things here and here.

 ...excellent analysis of the film. When I went to the Disney Animation Studios in Florida last year, the whole emphasis was on the 2D element of the film. It seems ironic that John Lasseter, a key figure in this project and also the man who introduced the world to 3D animation through Pixar is turning Disney back towards traditional routes.

The race element of the film is just the sign of the times. You can't set a film in 1920's New Orleans and have a white lead character. Obviously, like you said Jade, with the whole Obama saga and race being high on the agenda in America, I think many people are going to read too much into what is essentially, a retelling of a classic fairytale.

I can't see what you're basing your argument on Becci about Disney being nothing without Pixar. Yes they've had a string of box-office bombs recently (I seem to remember 'Treasure Planet' losing about $100million at the box office) but at the end of the day, times change. Much of Disney's efforts have gone into Touchstone Pictures, which have released a few minor films like Pearl Harbour and the Pirates of the Carribean series. I also seem to recall a little known film called High School Musical that Disney released without the guidance of Pixar. It's just obvious that Disney has moved away from traditional animation. When there is no demand for a product do you seriously expect Disney to keep churning out animated films when the audience haved moved on? 

I think it is a positive step that they are giving 2D animation another go. It'll add more emphasis to the storytelling. Apart from Toy Story and The Incredibles, I don't think Pixar have done anything particularly brilliant anyway. And even they aren't classic children's tales.

 Since the emergence of CGI, films, on the whole, have become quite dull and predictable because we now know, anything is possible on the big screen. Pirates of the Caribbean bored me to death by the end of the second film (first and only time I have fallen asleep at the cinema). The constant assault of bright and vivid CGI just got on my nerves. CGI ruined Star Wars, it ruined Terminator and it even ruined Die Hard. As awesome as seeing a flying car utterly destroy a helicopter is, you no longer wonder... "How did they do that!?". You can make an entire film with green screen and a few computer geeks now, it seems. 

And going back to the old, traditional methods couldn't have been timed better. If I am not mistaken, 'retro', is in, right? Good stuff.

Disclaimer: Before anybody tries to use the Transformers films against me, I am aware there is no plot of which to speak of, but it is essentially robots beating the shit out of each other, what else do you need to know? Long live Michael Bay!

Fascinating. Thanks for drawing my attention to it. Now, if anyone would like to take Molly (8) to see it, I might be willing to finance a small tub of popcorn.  

Weird how it's only being released February in the UK, several of my friends have already seen it here in Lux and in France - and that was several weeks ago. It's got very favourable reviews from them all I might add! The US release date was the 11 of December. Why is it taking so long to get to the UK?

I've noticed that, strangely enough, films seem to release in the US and eastern Europe at the same time, then move to central and most of western Europe and then finally to the UK and Ireland. Maybe this is something to do with the hugely 'Americanised' culture that seems to flourish in eastern Europe, or an attempt to hype up the film as much a possible before it hits the UK.

... has anyone heard of Studio Ghibli (you may know them from Spirited Away  - the only animé to have won an Oscar - or Howl's Moving Castle)? Their hand-drawn animations are absolutely phenomenal. I got Laputa: Castle in the Sky for Christmas and it's such a beautiful film. I think they still hand draw all their stuff, too...

And, on the topic of animé, has anyone seen Akira...? So, so, good...

The Princess and The Frog