The Frog Princess – Open Letter to Disney

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

Somewhere in the course of growing up, I learned that Disney was the devil. It wasn’t always that way. I gave the same rapt attention to Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Cinderella, Aladdin, and the Rescuers as did any other child growing up.

Hell, I think I had “The Work Song” from Cinderella stuck in my head while I was at work.

[Side Note: Do you remember that song? The lyrics were something like:

Cinderella/Cinderella/All they say is Cinderella/make the fire/fix the breakfast/wash the dishes/do the mopping/ and the stitching and the shopping/they always keep her hopping. She’s going around in circles / till she’s very very dizzy / still they holler /keep her busy /Cinderelly!

Anyway…]

As most of us are, I am quite familiar with Disney’s animated characters. When I got a bit older, my parents spoke to me about the issues they had with Walt Disney. The general whiteness of the Disney Princesses was topic of discussion. Just like the discussions that were had about Barbie being a tool to advance Aryan standards of beauty, the image of Disney was also called into question.

[Second Side Note: Yes, I realize how time period and societal norms impacted what Disney produces. However, the fact of the matter remains that the Disney Studio has only produced a handful of non-anglo human based characters: Mowgoli from The Jungle Book, Aladdin & Jasmin from Aladdin, Pocahontas of Pocahontas, Mulan of Mulan, and Lilo from Lilo and Stitch. Notice a trend?]

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought Disney was a bit whitewashed in their reputation. Studio heads at Disney have recently announced a new animated tale set to take place in America during the Jazz Age. The new film, entitled The Frog Princess, has been called “An American Fairy Tale” and features Maddy, the first African-American princess.

While I am enthusiastic about the new release, I must admit that I am a bit concerned about how the movie will pan out. The costumes and animation look amazing. I must say I am quite partial of the Jazz Age, and Maddy’s pre-production sketches seem to capture the era quite well. Check out the images here.

However, I can’t help but be plagued by the images of jive talking frogs and crazy voodoo priests. Could this be a modern version of Snow White and the Sebben Dwarves? Okay, maybe not that bad…

[Side note 3 – I am also interested to see how they are going run with the Voodoo priest portrayal in modern day America, which has grown increasingly more concerned with Christianity in general. I feel an angry conservative Christian protest coming on. I know that they sure as hell didn’t mention Islam in Aladdin – and that was released way before 9/11 shifted how we think about Islam.]

Maybe, maybe not. I suppose all things will be seen once the film is closer to production. I know one thing is for sure: I am pulling for Jennifer Hudson to get the voice role. I love Alicia Keys…but maybe she should have started doing voices for Shark Tales.