Disney's First Black Princess and Near-White Suitor

Anika Noni Rose as the animated Princess Tiana

Disney's The Princess and the Frog won't be released until December 11, but there's already drama.  Princess Tiana, played by Dreamgirls' Anika Noni Rose, is a young girl living in New Orleans' French Quarter during the Jazz Age.  Of course, she has to kiss a frog on the lips in order to break the spell and presto a prince from a faraway land.  However, some folks are having issues with the man behind the presto.  The prince/frog is played by Brazilian-born actor Bruno Campos and despite Brazil's Angola-infused Africanisms, folks are not happy with Campos because he simply looks white.   People, people, relax.  Disney greenlit an African-American story with an African-American girl whose name is Princess.  We should be celebrating and planning a road trip down to New Orleans for the premiere.

Truth is, Disney has to appeal to everyone.  They're not promoting this animated comedic feature as a straight-to-video package; they're expecting to make some numbers at the box office.  Now unless it's a Tyler Perry event, black-on-traditionally black romance doesn't break records at the box office.  You've got to throw a white or "near-white" somebody in there to guarantee race-wide appeal a.k.a financial return.  Hey, even Tyler Perry casts lighter-skinned brothers in his box office successes and I don't hear anyone throwing daggers at that possible arrested development.


Don't get me wrong; it would have been nice if the faraway land for the prince was Tunisia or Cameroon, or Bahia.  I suspect that if the film had gone into development after Obama's inauguration the prince may look different.  Then again, Disney isn't interested in politics.  They're interested in family values.  Maybe there's nothing "valuable" about black-on-black romance, you know, to Disney.  What are your thoughts?

Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.

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