The fairest princess of them all?

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Disclosure: I received free tickets to see this film.

Princess and the frog Sorry, I had to borrow that headline from a review in The Times. It was too good to ignore.

Sunday we dragged ourselves into London to see an advance screening of The Princess and the Frog, Disney's newest 2D animation film that caused a mountain of controversy and speculation during its three years in the making.

Why? It's Disney's first black princess fairytale. African Americans have been waiting for this for 86 years. Oprah was consulted. The internet ranted. Disney took all into consideration.

The result? A sweet animated feature length film in retro hand drawn 2D animation about a young girl (Tiana) in New Orleans working hard to fulfil her lifelong dream of opening a restaurant. Thinking it will help her cause, she kisses a frog – who is really Prince Naveen that the witch doctor has turned into an amphibian. Upon kissing her Prince, Tiana turns into a frog, and they spend the rest of the film trying to turn back into humans. The two fall in love (surprise, surprise) and well you have to watch the film to find out the rest. There are some other delightful characters, including a jazz-loving alligator called Louis and Ray the lovesick firefly.

The stars seems be aligning in favour of The Princess and the Frog being a big hit (current fascination with the American first family is just one reason). But I don't remember any other Disney princess film getting into the "dark" side as much as this one. Some younger children (under 4s) might find the voodoo New Orleans underworld of witch doctors and all knowing seers a bit scary. For all the lengths Disney went to make this as neutral as possible, I can't help but think the Christian right which is so prevalent in the US will find some fault. Or maybe they'll think hard work and love will prevail over evil, which is the main message of the film.

So, anyway, we saw the film in London on the weekend. We capped the day off touring the sites and the Christmas lights. My nearly 8-year-old was at a loose end when we got home (read: a pain in the bum) and I asked her to write a couple pages about what she thought about the film, which the chip off the ole block that she is, she happily did. Here's a few bits:

It was very good. The main bit was when Tinea (she meant Tiana) kissed the frog which was really a prince and turned into a frog because the prince was under a spell He kissed Tiana because to break the spell he had to kiss a princess. Tinea was a waitress but she was going to a dressing up party…

She went on and on like this. Does my daughter mention that Tiana is black? No! Not once. This does not even register in her 8-year-old mind. Or in her 4-year-old and 5-year-old sister's. It was just a cute film about a prince and a princess and a frog.

The Princess and The Frog will be released in the UK on 29 January.

Are you planning to see it?

Update: The Princess and the Frog is now available on Blu-ray, special features include:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Making Of A Princess
  • Conjuring The Villain
  • The Return To Hand – Drawn Animation
  • The Disney Legacy
  • Disney’s Newest Princess
  • Princess Portraits Game
  • Audio Commentary By Filmmaker
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16 Comments

  1. 01/01/2010 / 21:47

    Liz — you always have a few opinions!

  2. 17/12/2009 / 03:39

    So sad my kids are too old for this. I’ll have to wait for it to come out on dvd to see it.

  3. 16/12/2009 / 19:11

    I can’t believe we were in the same cinema at the same time. We’re destined never to meet.
    I have quite a few opinions about the movie (surprise, surprise!) which I’ll be posting up tomorrow. But the kids LOVED it x

  4. 16/12/2009 / 19:01

    Michelloui — My mother was so moved that her grandaughters to no note of skin colour that she was near tears on the phone when I told her.
    Lorraine — yes, there sure are.

  5. 16/12/2009 / 15:40

    In this day and age, ethnicity shouldn’t be relevant but some people will always grumble I suppose!

  6. 16/12/2009 / 13:10

    Excellent reviews–both! Im pleased to see a black princess, sad that there is such hype because that illustrates what a big deal it is (Im sad that it is still a big deal and that we aren’t further down the equality road), but I think the gold nugget from your review is that your daughter didnt even think about colour. Just how its supposed to be.

  7. 16/12/2009 / 10:38

    Caitlan — the frog bit is cute though! I think that being a frog (green) in the movie could also reprents Tinea’s initial dream of owning a restaurant as a means to make money (in the US money is green). It could also mean envy. Maybe I’m over analysing!
    CanCan — Not sure the reasoning behind a dark side for kids, I would like them much better if it didn’t exist.
    Natalie — I agree that we project our ideas on to our children, things like prejudice are learned traits. Which is why I was so pleased that she didn’t even notice.

  8. 16/12/2009 / 08:42

    Mine are too young for this and have no clue about the existence of Disney. I think that this film represents one of those situations where there are going to be people that find fault with the film no matter what. I enjoyed Disney films as a child (I’m a particular fan of Robin Hood) but I think it’s a measure of how much of a stretch it is for Disney to have a black princess when it took a few years to make (never mind the many years to get here), plenty of controversy, and consultations with the likes of Oprah! I’m black and of course it would be great and ‘normal’ to see more black folk in films but I do cringe at all the drama around it. I think as adults there is definitely an element of projecting our own ideas on stuff. I was like your daughter – I noticed things like they were princesses not how many black and white people there were! I’d say that the race factor is more for adults…not children. I couldn’t help but laugh at the whole black person in a fairy tale…with voodoo. I’d better put myself on high alert for my mother phoning me up once she reads about it!

  9. 16/12/2009 / 08:15

    I haven’t seen this one, but most of the Disney cartoons do have that dark element…Ursula the Sea Witch in the Little Mermaid, Jaffar the evil sorcerer in Aladdin, Scar the bad skinny lion on Lion King…spooky stuff for little kids!

  10. 16/12/2009 / 08:12

    I haven’t seen it yet and it sounds like a fun movie but it’s a bit of a shame that the first black Disney princess spends most of the film being a frog. Oh well!
    Tinea, LOL. Tell your daughter to always dry between her toes and wear flip-flops in public showers.

  11. 16/12/2009 / 07:59

    Laura – have fun!
    Iota — yup the American hard work ethic comes through very strongly.
    Melita – I think boys will like it too. Prince Naveen is pretty cool!
    Lindsey — it depends, my daughters were not scared. The potentially scary bits are big shadows. Keep in mind that this is all cartoons. Some kids may just think it’s funny.
    Geeky — I love they have a brown skinned princess! Finally!

  12. 15/12/2009 / 19:59

    Thanks for the review, and your daughters too
    ! I think it might be too scary for my daughter, she is scared of the little mermaid and sleeping beauty! She wants to see it though and is delighted that there is a a new brown skinned princess who looks like her friends, since she has told me “Mum, you know only princess Jasmine has brown skin, and her skin is light brown” (about 50% of the kids in her class are Indian, African American or mixed race, and they talk a lot about differences and similarities between people at school)

  13. 15/12/2009 / 18:35

    I was wondering when the release date was set for the UK… I wanted to take my princess-obsessed 3 -year-old, but maybe I should wait awhile longer if it could be too scary?
    Great review though, and i loved the bit from your daughter!

  14. 15/12/2009 / 16:53

    Haven’t seen it yet. But I want to go. The colour thing works for me because I’m black. I would have loved this when I was younger. Seeing a reflection of yourself, back in the day, was rare and certainly never on Disney.( that I can remember).
    I enjoyed the stories but it is important to see all different races/cultures. We don’t have to always talk about race for it to be an issue.
    Now to bribe my boys to go see it 😉

  15. 15/12/2009 / 16:16

    Yes, I’m sure daughter will want to see it. I didn’t know that ‘hard work’ was part of the princess deal, though. I thought they wafted around and looked beautiful. What is Disney thinking?

  16. 15/12/2009 / 13:56

    My 5 year old loves the book – so we will be going to see this one!