With WALL-E‘s Oscar win for Best Animated Feature in the bag, a big-screen Hannah Montana production (featuring the questionably lovable Miley Cyrus) on the brink of a release, and a third film in the works for the fan-favorite Toy Story, it’s clear that Disney is determined to ride out this economic downturn without interference.
At the company’s annual shareholders meeting held earlier this month, the attendees responded with so much acclaim to the viewing of an unfinished scene from the 2D-animated musical The Princess and the Frog, that Disney decided to move up it’s release date by two weeks to December 11, with exclusive openings November 25 in New York and Los Angeles.
The film has already garnered much attention as it stars the first black princess in Disney history. And that’s no mistake. Dreamgirls star Anika Noni Rose, who voices Princess Tiana, told Access Hollywood last month at the unveiling of the characters doll: “We made sure that she has a nice curl in her hair. She’s a little browner than I am; that’s because my natural skin color could be misconstrued as anything, and they wanted to make sure that she really looked like a brown girl. She’s got a nice little round nose and she’s got full lips.”
But there may not be a happy ending to this fairytale. The storyline sparked backlash when the films initial announcement of production was made. Originally called The Frog Princess, Tiana-who was first named Maddy, but had her moniker changed because of its supposed similarities to a stereotypical slave name-was to be a chambermaid working for a wealthy white debutante in 1920s New Orleans.
Now, the film has incited controversy again as recently-released photos from Disney show the heroic prince, amongst an almost all-black cartoon cast, as anything but. The skin of Prince Naveen of Maldonia, who is voiced by a Brazilian actor, is significantly lighter than that of his one true love. While some say the relationship is a reflection of America as a melting-pot, critics believe it to be reinforcing prejudice.