Princess and the Frog is a newly added addition to the historic Disney collection of princess movies. But what’s the history behind the making of The Princess and the Frog? Why did it take so long to make an African American princess? These are a few questions that arise when developing an analysis of the movie.
To start off, we’ll talk about the history of making the animated film. The film came out in 2009 and is about a young African American girl (Tiana) who has dreams to start a restaurant with her father. Her father dies in WWI, but the commitment for building a restaurant is even stronger in the now young woman. The young woman is best friends with a white woman (Charlotte) who’s family is very wealthy. Tiana’s mother is the seamstress to Charlotte, and Tiana and her mother live in a shack on the lower end of New Orleans. The rest of the movie is about Tiana kissing a prince frog and then turning into a frog herself. On the adventures the two go on to undo the curse put on the prince frog, they encounter jazz and the blues, live in a bayou, eat gumbo, and blah blah blah they end up fixing everything and Tiana gets her restaurant.
The first question I would like to answer is the one about how long it took to make an African American princess movie. It seems silly to have a white black-haired character, two white blonde-haired characters, one white brunette character, one Asian, one Middle-Eastern, one Ginger, and one Native-American and not an African American! Disney started making it’s animated princess movies in 1937 with Snow White. During that time World War II was going on followed by the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement. Not making an African American princess until 2009, about 50 or so years after the movement took place with rights granted African Americans seems like a long time. This is a prime example of how society today still has racial issues. Just like Tyson mentioned “[i]t’s just gone ‘underground'” (Tyson 367). Racism is a problem a lot of Americans don’t like to consider still goes on. Disney could have feared that making an African American princess earlier would have raised too many conflicts. Even when the movie was first introduced as an idea it caused controversies. Why did the place in the film have to be in New Orleans? Why does Charlotte have to be the wealthy one? Why does Tiana’s mother have to be a seamstress of Charlotte? Having Charlotte be the wealthy one shows she is in a higher class, one that has authority over others. A term we used in class that defines this well is hegemony, a dominance over other groups in a society. Charlotte’s family, being white, feels they have a dominant position over Tiana’s family. It also brings about this type of “white privilege”. Having Tiana’s mother be the seamstress could be seen as a derogatory thing. As for the location of the film, New Orleans is a hub for many African American ideologies. It’s the birthplace of jazz and many important and famous black artists like Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong, Sydney Bechet, and so many more! It has seen its past with slavery, and has even a present (and past) voodoo interest.
This all also ties in with the literature canon. Yes, this is a film and not a written piece of art but the concept still applies. The canon before the film was made was still in the past, in a place that wasn’t accepting of African American art. It was hard to make such a big step in a society that still discriminates. Obviously, this was overcome, but it took many years to finally have the confidence Disney needed, and support, to make a disney movie. The social construction of race is a theory based on what should be categorized for race. However, history shows something different. History shows that it still exists among many different ethnicity’s through biological and physical aspects.