Movies

Disney Princess Starts Racial Storm

Many have long anticipated the arrival of Disney’s first black princess. Will the company flub it? Princess Tiana will debut in December’s The Princess and the Frog, but critics are already debating her depiction. Decisions to set the film in New Orleans amidst a backdrop of voodoo and jazz, pair Tiana with a non-black prince, give her relatively light skin, and apparently have her character appear as a frog for a majority of the film (among others) have drawn criticism. “Because of Disney’s history of stereotyping,” says a Harvard child psychologist, “people are really excited to see how Disney will handle her language, her culture, her physical attributes,” adding “People think that kids don’t catch subtle messages about race and gender in movies, but it’s quite the opposite.” The debate is being driven almost entirely by a one-minute trailer and merchandise for the film. Few have seen the actual movie, though Oprah has: She was asked for input on its racial aspects.