By James Morgan


I will start this post off by saying that I have not seen Disney’s new animated feature film “The Princess and the Frog” and therefore must also say that this writing is not meant in any way to be a review of the film because obviously at the time of this writing I am in no way qualified to review it.

Instead what I would like to discuss in this article is the political, social, and racial discussion surrounding this film even prior to its release and hopefully bring some clarity to the discourse at hand. If one simply sat down and read a portion of the thousands of different blogs and thread discussions on the internet or if one simply googled the films title one would find a wide variety of opinions most of which along the line of “finally Disney has created a Black Princess”.

My question is “Why is the Black community waiting for Disney to do something we should do ourselves?” Time and time again I have read comments from people claiming to be African American parents (mothers in particular) who say that although they have some quarrels with the film still feel that racial progress is being made and that Disney’s latest animated feature is a sign of that. As a matter of fact the comment that prompted me to write this article was one that stated “Finally I can tell my daughter that she is a Princess, just as good as any white one, and she will have an image to connect to.” Upon reading this comment and the many others like it I became perplexed, but not at all surprised, as this discussion has been going on, even in my classes at Howard University’s John H. Johnson School of Communications.

The African race were the first to establish royal titles and positions, why then must we wait for a fictional account from Disney in order to make ourselves feel validated? There is a small but growing contingency of filmmakers and artists who are creating cartoons targeted at children of African descent but can be enjoyed by a child of any racial background.

This year I became a fan of Kirikou, originally a Francophone animated film that has made it’s way stateside via DVD release and Youtube. All over the world Africans are re-inscribing cultural ways of meaning and our own historiographies without any interpreters nor are we waiting on Walt Disney’s estate to do it. Why then has this films gained so much of a following, even before it has been released? I understand that Disney films have a certain cultural value in the United States, however the true use of symbolism in the film, even based off of what little bit I have seen is, enough to make at least one eyebrow raise, even if that eyebrow has to be my own. A topic, which has been less talked about with regards to this film, is the fact that Princess Tiana’s suitor in this film, Prince Naveen, is not Black like she is. Granted the film is mainly set in New Orleans which has a high concentration of people who don’t racially identify along the lines the rest of the United States would recognize, (Creoles for instance) however according to a recent article entitled Parents: Disney’s ‘Princess’ is a hop toward progress from CNN’s website by Breeanna Hare notes Ms. Kimberly Coleman, a blogger who runs the Mom In the City Blog (http://mominthecity.com/wp/) asked an unnamed Disney executive about Prince Naveen’s racial makeup who responded in a very generic way but never exactly answered the question of the Prince’s racial identity. This is part of where the real discussion should begin.

Even if Prince Naveen were meant be a Black man he is still very much lighter than his love interest is in the film, which in the racially tense environment this film has been produced has raised some eyebrows. In 2009 one would have difficulty identifying feature length, major motion pictures that showed a Black love story, be it animated or other wise. Why is it that in the era of Barack Obama and the supposed racial paradise that America is allegedly in, does Disney decide to create not only it’s first Black princess but also decide that they will pair her with a racially ambiguous Prince when part of the draw of the film is it’s portrayal of the African American woman? I admittedly do not know the answer; I will leave that question to be answered by my readers and those who see the film.

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