Friday, March 16, 2007

Disney introduces its first black princess

From the AP via CNN courtesy of AlterNet:

The Walt Disney Co. has started production on an animated musical fairy tale called "The Frog Princess," which will be set in New Orleans and feature the Walt Disney Studio's first black princess.

The company unveiled the plans at its annual shareholders' meeting in New Orleans.

John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Disney and the Disney-owned unit Pixar Animation Studios, said the movie would return to the classic hand-drawn animation process, instead of using computer animation that has become the industry standard. He called the film "an American fairy tale."

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Well, this is clearly a landmark event of sorts. For the first time, Disney is putting an African-American woman into the Snow White position. I do not recall the mega-entertainment corporation ever portraying a black woman in such a positive way. It's also good that the Big Easy is getting some much needed plugging; I mean, it really is something of a fairy tale town, anyway, so this is entirely appropriate. I'm also stoked about the old-school style of animation. I haven't made a point to see any Disney animated feature since I was a kid, but this is probably going to be an exception.

However, despite all my gushing about the upcoming Frog Princess, and the racial barrier it's crossing, here is the inevitable punchline:

Disney said its new animated princess -- Maddy -- will be added to its collection of animated princesses used at the company's theme parks and on consumer products.

No surprise there, of course, but it certainly does put such racial good-will into a different light. That is, in addition to revealing what is probably MouseCo's true motivation in going black with its princess franchise, profit rather than diversity, this last sentence also shows that being a Disney gal just ain't what it used to be. In other words, Maddy's ultimately going to be just another consumer product.

Surely, this is not what we mean when we say "multicultural."