From Snow White in 1937 and Cinderella in 1950 to The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas in recent decades, moviemaker Disney has introduced generations of young audiences (and their parents) to a long line of mostly white princesses. The Princess and the Frog, Disney’s newest animated film, brings us Tiana. But this princess is like none who have come before her: For the first time in its storied history of animated films, Disney’s heroine is African American.
Before the merchandising blitz accompanying the movie makes Tiana a household name, it’s worth noting that Tiana’s appearance is a bit historic. Disney has created some of the most memorable racist stereotypes ever to hit the big screen. From The Song of the South’s Uncle Remus and the black crows in Dumbo to somewhat subtle yet equally offensive characterizations, Disney has been roundly criticized for racial insensitivity. This time, it consulted influential black Americans, such as Oprah Winfrey, in the making of the film.
To many young African American girls, the debut of Princess Tiana won’t be such a big deal; after all, they are fully aware of the real world—where Malia and Sasha Obama live in the White House. In fact, little girls are less likely to notice people’s color distinctions, according to child educational psychologists. But to African American moms with young daughters, the buzz is a different matter. And girls of all races are catching princess fever, with little thought of race.
- Disney Draws Its First African-American Princess
This article focuses on the long line of Disney princesses, now led by an African American, Tiana, in the upcoming The Princess and the Frog. (Source: BBC News, November 24, 2009)
- For Disney’s New Princess, Short Courtiers Swarm
This article examines how the Tiana phenomenon is being received in terms of merchandising and image. (Source: NPR, November 24, 2009)
- Disney’s First African-American Princess Is Historic, but for Whom?
This article notes that it is not so much the young African American girls—but rather, older women, especially moms, who are most appreciative of the new Disney princess. (Source: Associated Press, November 11, 2009)
- Her Prince Has Come. Critics, Too.
This article points out some criticisms of the new Disney princess, who is African American (and of the prince, who is not). (Source: New York Times, May 29, 2009)