I have been on my soapbox for two years concerning the Disney movie to be opened in December 2009 formerly called The Frog Princess, now called The Princess and the Frog.  This isn't a sour grapes issue, it's a wake up call and we are just not getting it.  I was talking to a friend yesterday, who mentioned that she and her husband saw the trailer on one of the DVDs they'd just purchased and how delighted she was to see them coming out with the movie.  So I asked her:  Did you realize that the African American princess turns into a FROG for most of the movie?  The smile immediately left her face, (by the way, she is a biology teacher) because she understood the significance.  The significance is that in this country, we as a people were not considered to be human during and even post slavery.  At some point, I believe, we were deemed to be  three quarters human.

Yet another person -- who I was interviewing for an article and had business ties with Disney -- had asked me if I'd seen the movie trailer yet and told me I wasn't going to like it.
  He was another minority -- not African American -- and found it to be insulting.  Here's the thing: they will be counting on lack of information and controversy to carry this movie to it's revenue goals.  Most won't know the Princess turns into a frog until they are sitting in the movie ( can't get your money back after fifteen minutes, most of which is filled with trailers for other movies),  Others will go to see the movie so that they can tell African Americans to lighten up, they didn't see a problem with the movie.  Controversy is the number one marketing strategy in this country.  Below are my previous blogs on this subject,  I will be very interested in the comments and hope there will be some dialogue:

As I observe the racially motivated insults recently, such as First Lady Michelle Obama (insulted by a SC GOPer) and the President insulted by some government employee forwarding an image of all the Presidents that depict President Obama as a pair of eyes open in a dark room, I wonder.  I have written about the matter of this Disney film a couple of years ago, when it was nothing more than a thought.  Even wrote a letter to them in hopes that they would get this right, by not giving us what they want us to have, but giving us what we want: A great and positive image of a real princess of color and African descent.  To the credit of a couple of the Disney board members, a couple of them asked to be involved in the development of the film but were refused by the two men creating the film.  I was discussing my thoughts with my  business partner, who has twins, one of whom is a little girl. He'd taken them to the movies where a trailer of The Princess and the Frog was shown.  His little girl asked him: Why would the princess have to turn into a frog?  My partner was not at all happy with what he saw either.
I had a chance opportunity to speak with an insider who wanted my take on the upcoming movie.  He had been given a clip to check out and expressed concern in its content.  As a result, in February 2009 I wrote a followup commentary, which includes the original posting.  I have included it here and will simply say this: Is it truly a positive thing for us to have our princess become an animal creature, given the history in this country about how we have been viewed as 3/4 human?  Is there a reason why they could not portray the prince as a black young man?  I am not willing to accept good as enough, when better was always an option.


I wanted a story that would make my niece smile.  A story that she could relate to,  a story about what really defines her, a fantastic journey upon which she knew she was a passenger.  So I  researched and wrote her a story.  What gives me absolute joy is that smile I see, I hear every time I read that story to her.  On March 16, 2007, I wrote the following on my Blog:
Disney has announced that they are finally going to have a black princess.  Hmmm....  Makes perfect marketing sense, given that all money is green and this is yet an untapped market.  Problem is...the image of this black princess is not dissimilar to what is done by doll manufacturers.  Take an Anglo featured doll and color it brown.  Further , there is nothing to relate this image to the history or culture of the African American population, unlike Pocahontas or Mulan, which are at least  [very] loosely based on the history of the cultures they represent.  I can hear the jokes already:  A frog princess; if we kiss her will she turn white?  and on and on...

Maybe a bit of bias on my part, since as I promised my niece,  for whomI took the time to do research and write a really good story about an African princess, yet I cannot get an audience with the powers within the animation industry to pitch it.  I am disappointed.  Disney has a great opportunity here.  Instead of going the usual route of giving the African American market what you want us to have, instead of what we really want -- which is traditionally what happens --  then get mad if we complain about the way we are represented.  I am one who believes that if better is an option, good is not enough.

Today, nearly two years later, I read in the online version of USA Today  (http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2009-02-15-disney-black-princess-tiana_N.htm)  that Disney was releasing  their line of toys for the Princess and the Frog although the movie is not scheduled to hit the theatrers until  December 2009. I suspect the Disney corporation wanted to leverage the current interest in the Obama family and all things "tween."  I  contacted  Lisa Skriloff,, president of Multicultural Marketing Resources (http://www.multicultural.com/), who the article quoted as saying: "It's [a black princess doll] very significant," says Lisa Skriloff, president of Multicultural Marketing Resources. "It's like a stamp of approval for one of the most outstanding family (entertainment) companies to say this is important."   She was kind enough to respond and honest enough to let me know that she wasn't completely aware of the point of view of the African American market when it comes to this subject.  She was gracious enough to invite me to her website and open the door of dialogue. 

While there are formidable names associated with this animated feature, with Disney casting Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lewis and  Anika Noni Rose, it still does not measure up to my expectations.  I am just not so excited about the end product.  I am not a fan of being given what they -- who are empowered to provide big screen imagery -- want you to have versus what has been asked for.  I think that Mothers of color will take their daughters to see the film, their daughters will clap in delight to see a darker version of the Disney princess line on the big screen, yet  the mother will feel a vague sense of disappointment and not really understand why. 

Two years ago, I was hugely disenchanted when the producers of this project chose to create this film without a lot of input from those it is targeted toward.the producers even refused volunteered assistance from two Disney board members.   For the record and according to a knowledged source, the Asian market was not thrilled with the Mulan feature film either, as it was not a true depiction of who they are, or even remotely depicts their true history and culture. They saw a part of the film and confirmed my expectation of what this film would turn out to be.  Yes, this is fantasy, yes these are commercial films, but when you have limited opportunity to be defined on the big screen, you just want a certain degree of truth woven into the tapestry of the story told.  While there were some name, title and image modifications since 2007, it is what it is: a sanitized version of the same story, just in living color and voices that they still believe define us.  .

I am a realist.  My point if view is not enough to derail the Disney train; they have made it clear that they could care less about what I think.  The film will be profitable, will likely carry some degree of controversy, if for no other reason than because controversy sells in this country.  Most will decide that good is enough, even when better was an option, because  that is how we often do.  We accept the mediocre as the best we can get, assuming nothing else will be offered.  I am however, still hopeful that I will realize the dream I have for what an animated feature of and for African America will look like.  And I smile.