Because the film was set to center around Disney’s first black princess, The Princess and the Frog was under close scrutiny from African-American media outlets from the time that the concept materials were revealed in 2007. Disney changed several key elements to the film after receiving numerous complaints of racial insensitivity.
Besides retitling the picture (it was originally titled The Frog Princess) to avoid the implication that the first African-American Disney princess was somehow ugly or animal, the lead character’s name changed from Maddy to Tiana, since Maddy sounded too much like “Mammy”. A subplot about her working as a maid was also dropped in order to avoid negative stereotypes.
Critics also protested some of the character choices that ended up in the final film, such as the choice to have the black heroine’s love interest be a non-black prince, and the use of a black male voodoo witchdoctor as the film’s villain. Also questioned was the film’s setting of New Orleans, which had been heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, resulting in the expulsion of a large number of mostly black residents. Critics claimed the choice of New Orleans as the setting for a Disney film with a black heroine was an affront to the Katrina victims’ plight.
Most of this has come up before but perhaps some things will be new info for you!
I remember most of these (incredibly valid) critiques. I also remember the oposition saying that we were being ‘too picky’ and we should be ‘happy’ with whatever we got.
I love Tiana and I love TP&TF but the film was full of problematic shit, not even to touch on the fact that the heroine spent 95% of the film as an anthropomorphic frog or that her adorable (and white) best friend seems to be more popular than she is… or the fact that they followed up this film with yet ANOTHER ambiguously Anglo princess. Or the weird pacing, too many extra characters, filler, cultural conceits and misrepresentation, a soundtrack that is DEFINITELY an acquired taste (which it took me a long time to develop)…
And this is a movie I LOVE… but I’m able to critique its many, many faults. Ultimately, I love Tiana and her story. I just realize the many varied ways it could have possibly been BETTER. And I never had a problem with Tiana and Naveen being an interracial couple… I do wish they had some reasoning for it other than they were too scared to make two black leads or two scared to pair her with someone who wasn’t just ambiguously brown. Seriously, were IS Maldonia? Naveen’s name is a Hindi name (I think), but his dress and accent are a strange hodgepodge of cultural stereotypes.
And, to even have a prince from a fictional foreign country brings about the question why the entire story couldn’t have just been set in a multicultural fantasy setting, instead of romanticizing a time and place that wasn’t nearly as harmonious as the film depicted.
I just wish Disney had the guts to pull riskier moves. Hell, they adapted The Hunchback of Notre Dame for goodness sakes… They are capable of better and I demand that that’s what they give us.