Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Real Deal Review of Disney's New Princess

I recently watched a commentary of Disney's new movie, The Princess and the Frog on Direct TV's The Reel Channel. The Siskel and Ebert-like critics gave the movie a "Skip It" and "Rent It," as if to insinuate that it would be a waste of time to go see the movie in theaters, sighting that the movie was too busy and didn't know what it wanted to accomplish. Who are these jokers anyway?

I not only went to see it in theater opening weekend but braved a Pink Carpet pre-event( sponsored by The Mocha Moms Inc.) filled with hundreds of mini tapioca, mocha and deep fudge-colored mini Tianas and their parents supporting Disney's first African American princess. This movie was long overdue, and in my opinion, it was done in grand style.

Rewind to 2007. My family visited the happiest place on earth, Disney World in Orlando, FL. Trip of a lifetime, right? The pictures are from my daughter's trip to the Bippity Boppity Boutique where she was to recieve a makeover. Notice that she was attended to by not one, not two, but three "Fairy Godmothers" before they called on the African American godmother to help attach the tiara with blond tendrils into my daughter's medium brown cornrowed hairstyle. I sat in horror as the brushed, and added gel to her already semi-permanent hairstyle. Since when did a tiara come with hair?

What I now realize is that it was the job of each cast members (workers) at Disney's boutique to make our darling daughters conform to the image of a Disney Princess. It was only made worse when I made her stuff her 6T body into a 4T cinderella costume we had from home that made her look more like Princess Sheniquah than Cinderella Princess images will certainely have to change with the creation of Princess Tiana. She's smart, fiercely independent and dedicated, and more importantly coco brown. She was bold enough to challenge the status quo of Disney princesses before her who had to depend on the honor and bravery of their prince to save them and make their dreams come. In my opinion it was a bold move to keep it real, revamping the old Jimminy Cricket addage, "When you wish upon a star . . ." to Tiana's mantra "you have to meet that wish half way with hard work of your own."

How long have we waited for this image for our daughters. I will be 40 years old this year and remembered visiting Disney World at age nine. I saw all the movies of the ivory pricess singing in a shrill voicee, "I am wishing for the one I love to find me. . ." My mother still has the prized collection of LP's 331/2 of each story book album. I,too, have tried to conform to beauty standards that weren't meant for me by wearing a robe on my head to resemble sraight long hair and buying into a fairy tales of a perfect prince that comes ready-made and searches the world to find and solve all my problems.

Not to knock Disney who have tried to diversify their programming on its various cable channels with shows such as That's So Raven, its spin-off, Cory in Da House and The Proud Family that had an almost exclusive African American cast. My personal favorite Disney's animated show Filmore about a Middle School saftey patrol along the lines of a Joe Friday. None of these shows are on anymore and few run in syndication. I can't even buy a Filmore DVD. It'like these images just fade away with nothing to fill the void.

To make The Princesses and The Frog authentic Disney hired AA animators to work on the film. It was done in old style animation to have the feel of classic Disney movies the likes of Snow White, and Cinderella. They even used music or the musicale to help tell the story. New Orleans provided a colorful and vibrant backdrop for the movie, and in my opinion a fair representation of the culture there. The movie flowed and had a strong moral throughout of trusting your heart.

Like the historic nomination and election of President Barack Obama, African Americans became interested in this movie because it hightlighted the FIRST African American princess in hopes that it would open the door for my features and programming of more persons of color. We are critics as as well, and just any image won' do. We supported this movie in droves because it was a solid representation of us.We have to guard what our kids see and the images that are fed to us about us. I wish I could clue those movie critics in on what they take for granted. That not all children see themselves reflected in the media as smart, fun-loving, innovative and inquisive as children are designed to be. This was so much more than a plot line, a twist of voodoo and cliche songs. This was a legacy. Many in my generation and the one before mine have wished for this day, and we know what happens when you wish upon a star.

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