After years of Ariels, Belles (my personal fave; she reads books – duh!) and Snow Whites, Disney announced that they would have an African American Princess. Originally to be called Maddy, a name that had me more psyched than should have been as I imagined all of the Maddy gear that I could and would be purchasing, Disney later changed the princess’s name to Tiana due to Maddy sounding too close to a chambermaid (or some such nonsense)*. The Princess Tiana was a name that I initially scoffed at but later came to like.
The Bee and I FINALLY went to see the movie this past week and while it was cute and had it’s moments, it lacked the charm of the other cartoons up to and including my new personal favorite, Pixar’s Up**. Aside from the fact that there was the first Black Princess, I found that Disney relied on their cookie cutter formula, as well as a page from Dreamworks, to tell the story of a beloved heroine faced with a problem that needs to be solved in three days and or at the stroke of midnight. Think I’m full of haterade? Check this out:
Dr. Facilier as the villain guy out to rule everyone: see Ursula from The Little Mermaid, Scar from The Lion King or Milificent (awesome name!) from Sleeping Beauty.
Prince Naveen as the selfish prince who learns his lesson the hard way: See the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. Didn’t the Beast have to die before he got the message?
Lawrence, the fat guy who causes trouble, gets stepped all over on because he is not respected, and/or treated like crap: Lefou from Beauty and the Beast, the fat guy from Pocahontas (I can’t find his name) and please note the lazy animation. Laurence looked JUST like Lefou!
Tiana and Prince Naveen were frogs through out most of the movie. The Fist pumper (not Jersey shore fist pumper, but the ’68 Cuban Olympic track and field winner type pump) in me thinks is to show that minorities are not seen as humans in the Disney world. Because really, a frog, who secretes mucus. Shiver. Anyhoodle, this was borrowed from Shrek, in which only your true love can break the spell. As well as Snow White in which the prince had to kiss Snow White to wake her and break the spell, Sleeping Beauty (see Snow White), and Belle, who declared her love for the Beast to break his spell.
Mama Odie as the wise person who knows the answer but makes you work for it by not giving you the direct answer: See Rafiki from The Lion King.
The lovable, but goofy Baby Huey type character; huge a physically threatening bu really a sweetie: Louis the ‘gator. All he wanted to do was play his horn but the people were scared of his big butt. I saw this character before in the form of Donkey, who wanted to be a noble steed (Shrek), Heimlech from A Bug’s Life, who wanted to be a beautiful butterfly and Bruce from Finding Nemo.
Silly, but wise friend: The Cajun firefly Ray who channels Mater from Pixar’s Cars. He was adorable in his quest to unite with his love, a star whom he fondly called Evangeline. Ray also reminded me of Crush from Finding Nemo.
Crush: Oh, I saw the whole thing, dude! First, you were like, whoa! And
then we were like, WHOA! And then you were like, whoa.
Marlin: What are you talking about?
Crush: You, Mini-Man! Takin’ on the jellies. You got serious thrill issues,
Clueless, but well meaning friend, Charlotte La Bouff (although were Charlotte and Tiana really friends or was Tiana just her cook? AND is this another Rachée thing or is Disney trying to say that Tiana, as a BLACK woman trying to be successful, can’t have friends who are also Black due to her ambitions? Cause, yo, did you see those chicks trying to catch the bouquet at the end? Just saying.***): Flounder from The Little Mermaid. Admittedly this one IS a stretch.
And in remaining true to the Disney world the problems needing solving as well as the quest for true love needed to be solved/found in three days or before the stroke of midnight. This must be the same world that my niece inhabits in which everything costs the two dollars she always asks me for.
Disney didn’t make too big a deal of Tiana being Black; they left that to me (hiyo!). Here is one more thing to ponder: Why couldn’t her prince also be African American. Could it be due to the subplot romance with Charlotte LeBouf, a white blonde chick in New Orleans? Could it be due to marketing? The idea of a black prince on the bed on little Susie may be a bit too much to take in? Another me thing?****
That voodoo mess! I am in NO ways a religious woman but dang! The friends from the other side, the use of dark magic, voodoo dolls – no matter how cute they were banging on drums-. even Mama Odie was enough to make me say a small prayer before heading home with The Bee. I was surprised that she was able to sleep last night what with the shadows crawling all through the grave yard!
The songs were not as memorable as the ditties from Aladdin (Prince Ali! Fabulous he! Ali Ababwa/ Genuflect, show some respect/Down on one knee!), Beauty in the Beast (All of them! I kid not when I say I used to sing my heart out to this soundtrack!) or The Lion King, (Hakuna Matata it means no worries!). The songs from Princess Frog…yawn! Except for the beautiful voice of Anika Noni Rose I can barely remember any of the songs. There was one Gospel sounding one that took place in the swamp with Mama Odie and the song that the firefly and his clan sang that had me nod my head a bit but even the villain’s song sucked. I call shenanigans Randy Newman!
The Bee enjoyed it and I am glad that I found a gift card to pay for it (shame on you AMC for charging 7.00 for a child’s movie ticket!). Of course it will be added to the collection once it comes out because even the cynic in me can appreciate a movie in which a dream can come true when you wish and work hard, a kiss can make it all better and Oprah makes a voice.
Looking for a slightly less slimy frog,
*Sorry for the run on sentence!
**Technically this was CGI but for the sake of this discussion I’m calling it a kid’s movie.
***Just channeled the discussion I had in my book club. It was a good one!