Disney Gets Cut No Slack With First Ever “Black Princess” Animated Film

October 5, 2015

Disney's first animated film with a black princess has become embroiled in a row over racial stereotyping.

Disney's first black princess, Princess Tiana in The Princess and The Frog, will be voiced by Anika Noni Rose
Princess Tiana, the heroine of The Princess and The Frog, will be voiced by Anika Noni Rose

Originally called The Frog Princess, its heroine was to be a chambermaid called Maddy working for a spoilt white debutante in 1920s New Orleans.

But it sparked a backlash from critics who claimed it reinforced prejudice and demeaned black people.

As a result the title of the musical, which has yet to be released, was changed to The Princess and The Frog and the princess will now be called Tiana.

Among the concerns were the New Orleans setting, the portrayal of voodoo and the overtones of slavery.

One of the film's staunchest critics was William Blackburn, a columnist for the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina.

“Disney should be ashamed of what it is trying to pass off as its first black princess,” he said.”Despite all its resources and experience, it has failed to create a black princess to rival its predecessors.

“For one, this princess' story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community. And then they throw in the voodoo theme and an alligator sidekick. When you put New Orleans, alligators and voodoo together, there's no beauty there.”

He added that Maddy sounded too similar to Mammy, a name synonymous with the segregated Deep South.

Rodney Hinds, features editor of The Voice newspaper, said: “We are talking about a big company who has had to go back to the drawing board. It's disappointing… Some of the stereotyping of people from our community is still rigid in people's minds. We have our own dreams and stories like everyone else, and we want them to be portrayed positively.”

Following the rewrite the heroine has been recast as Tiana who is destined to live happily ever after with a dashing character expected to be of Middle Eastern heritage. The race of the villain is also reported to have been revised.

A spokesman for Disney said: “The story takes place in the charming elegance and grandeur of New Orleans' fabled French Quarter during the Jazz Age… Princess Tiana will be a heroine in the great tradition of Disney's rich animated fairy tale legacy, and all other characters and aspects of the story will be treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity.”