Disney unveils its first African American princess, Tiana. The Princess and the Frog is set for release on December 11, 2009. The animated film takes place in New Orleans and is a retelling of the classic tale The Frog Prince. The voice of Princess Tiana is performed by Anika Noni Rose who is known for her Broadway career as well as her appearance in Dreamgirls. Other cast members include Oprah Winfrey, Bruno Campos, Jenifer Lewis, Terrence Howard, Randy Newman and John Goodman.
The film is meeting with high praise from critics as well as those who saw the film in its limited November 25, 2009 release. E Online gave the film an A. Anika Noni Rose was interviewed and was asked her views on being Disney’s first African American princess. She stated, “It’s amazing. We walk around being black everyday and no one ever talks about it. So I suggest you follow your instincts and let it be nothing to be talked about.”
Though that is a nice sentiment, the truth is that for many the introduction of an African American Disney Princess is a celebrated first. It shows that young African American girls will finally have the idyllic Disney Princess with skin color that matches their own. Speaking about the impact and effect that Princess Tiana will have on young girls Anika Noni Rose stated, “It will quietly affirm to young brown skin children that they’re special in this world.” She also spoke about it being a bigger deal to those who grew up without those types of role models or images, and that it speaks to the importance of being image affirmed.
Jenifer Lewis who is the voice of Mama Odie stated, “It is historical, in the sense that now there is President Obama and Tiana.” Jenifer Lewis stated that it is a new day, there’s hope, and there’s change.”
Co-director John Musker stated that the story of the Princess and the Frog is universal and knows no color.