Friday, March 09, 2007

Disney: Too Little, Too Late?

Regular readers of this blog (hello!) know of my aversion to the whole Disney princess marketing machine. I oppose it on many many grounds. You can imagine that I was completely floored yesterday when my sweet husband dropped this bombshell on me:
Sweet Dub: Hey! You'renevergonnabelieveit: Disney is finally coming out with a black princess!
Mama Blah: Oh my GOD [metaphorically dropping a huge bag of groceries, including several dozen eggs on the floor in my shock]! What? When?
Sweet Dub: Yeah, apparently it's in development and it should be out sometime in 2008.
Mama Blah: Wow. [hoping against hope: please let it not be bad, please let it not be bad] So what's the storyline? What's the setting?
Sweet Dub: It's called the Frog Princess, and it's set in New Orleans. And the princess is black black -- not a light-skinned girl.*
I haven't been able to find any images online**, so I can't comment on that. But here's the official release and another release, same day, talking about Disney's support for New Orleans and the Gulf region. Disney loves black people! How could I have been so wrong all these years?
Until this morning, I had no idea that there was a petition going around about Disney's lack of a black princess. I admit that I have mixed feelings about the whole princess thing - I think it's fun for little kids to play dress-up and all that, but I hesitate to endorse the message that life is all about sparkly things and pretty dresses. At the same time, some little girls just really love that shit, and if they do, at least they should have some damn representation. Now, Disney has yet to come up with a Latina princess, which I think is also a huge mistake from an economic standpoint if nothing else. But there at least there is a Dora princess story and accompanying doll.
And for those who wonder, "Why does everything have to be so politically correct? They're just kids!": Please. Don't play that. With the huge part media plays in how we see ourselves - when you have statistics that show that one-third of girls in third grade have been on a diet - don't try and tell me that this is just one more thing for us to be hypersensitive about. There's a reason we're hypersensitive. And there's no reason we should just lie down and be passive consumers.
I'll leave you with this plot summary from, which suggests that it's probably not going to hit theaters for a few years anyway:
"The Frog Princess - This currently in development fairy tale is being closely watched for it is said to represent Disney's first 2D-animated feature since 2004's Home on the Range. Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) are writing and directing what is said to be a musical set in 1920s New Orleans. A casting call has revealed the lead characters to be Maddy, a 19-year-old chambermaid; Charlotte La Bouff, a spoiled 18-year-old southern debutante; villain Dr. Duvalier, a voodoo magician; and Mama Odie, a 200-year-old voodoo priest. In a departure from the norm, three of the four (not Charlotte) are African American. Though Alan Menken was originally pegged to handle the film's music, Pixar veteran Randy Newman is now said to hold this command. No release date has been set, but traditionally animated films have traditionally taken about four years from first news to reaching the big screen, making this unlikely to show up until 2010."

* Not that there's anything wrong with being light-skinned. Hoo, let's not even go there.

** Updated to add: here's an image, courtesy of blog reader Emma (hi, Emma!). I'm a little taken aback by the headdress thing, but I'll reserve judgment until I see it in context.


Cee in SF said...

I'm against that which feeds the Disney machine - pc or not. It will be nice to see some diversity, though. God knows I'll watch the movie.

Emma said...

Sure you've probably seen this by now

I love Disney princesses, but have a vague feeling they ruined my idea of what adult romance was like...

Lisa Blah Blah said...

cee: yes, I have very mixed feelings about this. I feel certain that Viva will want to see it, since she is already aware of differences in color and will be thrilled to see a female animated character who is brown like she is. I just don't want to support that Disney crap.

emma: Thanks for the link! I think Disney has planted many unrealistic ideas about life in people's heads, intentionally or not. But then, so have many other media outlets, right?

Evorgleb said...

Yeh I just blogged about this over at Highbrid Nation, check it out if you get a chance. Anyway, it really is about time Disney gave little girls a black princess to look up to. Its long overdue. I also think its great that the film will take place in New Orleans. I'll definately have to take my neice to the Frog Princess.

E. said...

I hate Disney for many reasons. (I was just giving my "why I hate Disney" rant to my students the other day; they are always shocked to hear that not everyone loves Disney.) Fucked up race and gender representations are among my top reasons. I appreciate the nod to diversity, though I'll definitely have to see the movie before I can judge. Once it's out on DVD.

Lisa Blah Blah said...

Yeah, I think I'm going to wait to catch it on DVD. Unless Viva gets wind of it -- one of her aunties will probably want to take her.

But then I'll want to see it , so at least I can critique in an informed fashion. Damn Disney.