The Princess and the Frog

The story of the animated fairytale The Princess and The Frog is timelessly simple. A traditional fairy tale set in New Orleans in the 1920s, it follows two friends growing up with different dreams. The beautiful African-American Tiana is working two jobs as a waitress and saving up to buy a restaraunt in honour of her late father. The southern belle Charlotte, born into a privileged family, wants to marry a prince. Along comes Prince Naveen of Maldonia, lazy, feckless and in search of a wealthy bride. A voodoo trickster turns first Naveen and then Tiana into frogs - in order to become human again and find true love, they must underake a journey through the bayou (a marshy wetland)...

Cynics might say the movie industry understands that every little girl, regardless of her colour, represents a new marketing opportunity. But The Princess and the Frog is in fact an historic milestone not only does it introduce the first African-American princess in a movie made by Disney, but it also marks the return of traditional hand-drawn animation, which gives the movie a truly lovely look. And, although legendary animation directors Ron Clements and John Musker start and end the film with pretty princesses in dresses, the middle of the film is bursting with comedy talking animals and a rather modern tale.

If Disney has been accused of patronising its heroines before, it makes amends here. Tiana is hard-headed and focussed - independent and business-savvy, she isn't hanging around waiting for a prince to look after her. And her relationship with her mother, Eudora feels real is enough to help flesh out these 2D characters. 

The Princess and the Frog has been analysed more than most children's cartoons but given its critical and commercial success it shouldn't be long until we see more animated movies involving black characters too. Perhaps Disney's "Princess Division" (which includes nine characters in total and which generates $4 billion a year) will even introduce another African-American princess to the fold - not as a marketing opportunity, but as a more honest representation of the world we live in.

Images

  • The Princess and the frog
  • Kirikou and The Sorceress
  • La Belle et La Bette
  • Ponyo

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