The lack : Tiana. remains one of ‘s most-beloved, yet often underrated, animated pictures, and it is notable for its introduction of the first B
We’re all aware that Splash Mountain attraction at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will be given a themed facelift, but did you also know that ‘s design had to be changed by the team working on another Disney film due to fan backlash? Or that the underperformed at the box office, perhaps due to a declining interest in 2D animation?
All of this will be explained, as we explore ‘s 49th animated classic. Come on, we’re “almost there!”
What is The about?
The was released in 2009 and was a return to the classic formula after an underwhelming performance by the mouse’s 2008 animated feature, Bolt.
The Anika ), a hardworking chef in 1926 who dreams of opening her own restaurant. This goal gets turned upside down when she meets the charming yet arrogant (Bruno Campos), who has managed to get himself transformed into a frog by the evil Dr. Facilier (Keith David), also known as “The Shadow Man.” follows Tiana (
When Tiana kisses the frog in a moment of blind hope for funding her dream restaurant, she herself transforms into a slimy frog instead. Together, she and Naveen must restore themselves while meeting a cavalcade of colorful characters like (Jenifer Lewis), a trumpet-playing alligator Louis, and a named Ray (Jim Cummings).
As you may have guessed, the by E.D Baker. It’s also a musical and features a collection of awesome songs by Toy Story composer Randy Newman, most notably; “Almost There” and ‘Friends on the Other Side.” is a loose translation of the Brothers’ Grimm fairy tale “The ,” though it’s closer in tone and plot to “The
Reception for The Princess and the Frog
Why was The historic?
Marvel’s Black Panther was a landmark moment for the Walt lack . (The first princess of color was Jasmine in 1992’s , though her speaking voice was performed by a white voice actor.) Company, but they’d actually started to promote more representation way back in 2009 with The . Tiana may not be the first of color, but she is the first B
Tiana is performed by a woman of color in both voice and , while the rest of the cast is equally diverse. The main cast including , Tiana, and Dr. Facilier are all POC, while its actually the supporting cast who are mainly white, a balance that many in 2009 found to be a refreshing change of pace.
The a that allowed Black people to see themselves as three dimensional characters may seem obvious and basic, but it was widely praised at the time as a new, inclusive way of making family movies. presents a cast of Black characters who — while not exactly realistic — are not considered to be outdated stereotypes based on “Uncle Tom” or “Jim Crow.” Creating a and
However, that didn’t stop The from attracting its fair share of controversy.
Before it even released there were questions raised about why the , a place where many Black people were displaced to after the effects of Hurricane Katrina. was set in
Some also took issue with Tiana’s original role and name — “Maddy” who was a maid to a white family — calling this initial portrayal offensive and stereotypical. Then, some took issue with the fact that Essence reported the public retort was, “What’s wrong with portraying multi-racial love?” wasn’t clearly Black himself, to which
Dr. Facilier’s central use of voodoo equally turned some heads with potential racial implications, though this was ultimately largely accepted, as it’s pretty common for films to have some form of magic in them in one way or another.
What was not widely accepted, however, was Tiana’s portrayal in a different .
Tiana in Ralph Breaks the Internet
The with 2018’s Ralph Breaks the Internet, the sequel to Wreck it Ralph. again became controversial just under 10 years after its release
Tiana famously appears alongside every other Disney princess to give Vanellope some needed wisdom, and ultimately to save Ralph during the finale. Many took umbrage with Tiana’s design in the sneak preview clip that was released ahead of the film, suggesting that her skin tone was lighter and that her facial features were changed to be more typically white, a practice dubbed “whitewashing”
In response, Walt redesigned the princess in order to make her appearance closer to her depiction in the . The design team reportedly even bought on original to approve the design. Check out this tweet from social group Color of Change from back in 2018; Studios
The creation of Princess Tiana, @Disney's first Black princess marked a defining moment for how Black women and girls are presented in media, specifically in animated movies. We're glad @DisneyAnimation has committed to restoring Tiana to her original form to ensure authenticity. pic.twitter.com/O4LpuiQZSs
— ColorOfChange (@ColorOfChange) September 20, 2018
Princess and the Frog and Splash Mountain
However, as any fan will know, the current mixed opinions of the film that have recently emerged aren’t actually based on the silver screen, but rather the Parks.
The Black Lives Matter movement that began years ago has surged in 2020, causing many to come forward and speak up about former works that have been deemed problematic or offensive. In recent years, discussions of diversity, representation, and racism have led to streaming services like Disney+ not offering certain content altogether, or providing content warnings to advise of potential stereotypical depictions or white actors voicing characters of color.
The 1946 dual live action-animated film suggesting that the company doesn’t stand by the . Song of the South is also famous because it is the basis for Splash Mountain’s theming, though the ride notably removes all human characters and focuses its attention on the Br’er animals. of the South was one of the films in this firing line, as it is often deemed to be outdated and problematic by a large and vocal populous. It didn’t help that has never even released the on VHS — let alone Plus —
This culminated this spring in a widely circulated petition calling for to be rethemed to be about Tiana and .
Fans quickly became divided on the idea of a retheming, and a petition to save gained significant traction, though it was ultimately fruitless as at the would indeed receive a makeover, putting the first B announced that at the forefront of an attraction for the first time.
The Legacy of The
The has continued to make an impact long after its 2009 debut. But a question that often gets raised is, “Why didn’t The do better?”
Now, it by no means tanked at the box office, but a worldwide gross of $267,000,000 on a budget of just under half of that isn’t exactly the return that you’d expect from a typical , especially when considering the additional cost of marketing which often doubles the ‘s overall budget.
Some put this down to systemic racism, though the mind-blowing success of the predominantly Black cast and crew’d Black Panther has bought this argument into question. Others suggest that a different form of prejudice took place: one against 2D animation.
The remains ‘s last 2D Princess …for now
Though 2011’s Winnie the Pooh carries the torch as the most recent 2D animated feature, The is notable for being the last 2D . Since then, we’ve seen the likes of Tangled, Frozen, and Moana soar into the world of computer generated animation, though seemingly at the cost of bidding farewell to the style that made Walt so beloved in the first place.
Whether or not another 2D ever sees the light of day remains to be seen, though many maintain that The ‘s underwhelming box office performance is to blame, as it spooked the Mouse into going with the more mainstream approach of key competitor Dreamworks.
Of course, the runaway success of Frozen likely did nothing to detract from its opinion that 3D is the way to go, and it’s become the company’s MO ever since.
The Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes
Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes currently give the a 73 and 85 (out of 100), respectively. While neither site are by any means the definitive scoring system for movies, it suggests that The was mostly well-received by critics.
The is often hailed by fans as an underrated classic for its and impressive diversity. Where many find it falls down, however, is what is perceived to be an overly complicated story and stuffed cast of characters that often makes it feel busy and unfocused.
Regardless of these criticisms, The is a charming and historic in the vault and one many believe deserves more attention for its own merits, as opposed to its numerous controversies.
What do you think of The? Let us know in the comments below.