Photo: Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Efforts to affect change are never without controversy, even when they come from the purest, most magical land. In December, Walt Disney animation is returning to its hand-drawn roots to introduce someone little girls have never met before: an African-American princess. The Princess and the Frog revolves around Princess Tianna, a 1920s New Orleans waitress and aspiring restaurant owner who is persuaded to kiss a frog in order to turn him back into a human (Oprah voices the princess's mother). But in this rendition of the classic fairy tale, the amphibian doesn't become a prince. Instead, the princess becomes a frog.
The depiction of Princess Tianna is a landmark decision for The Mouse. There have been white, Asian, Native American and Arab heroines, so it seems the time for an African-American princess is long overdue. "[Princess Tianna] delivers affirmation to little girls who look like this girl," says Anika Noni Rose, who voices the barrier-breaking princess. "She delivers a sense of partnership between other little girls who have friends and family members who look like Tianna. I think in the world of fantasy, and I'm not just talking about Disney, the dark character has always been associated with evil—the black hat is the bad cowboy—and this is the flip. It's wonderful to see something different, and it will be effective on many fronts to many children, and consequently to many adults years from now."