The "Princess and the Frog" controversy is actually several layers of complaints about an animated movie by a few different groups. The Disney Corporation never expected any "Princess and the Frog" controversy when they released the movie. On the contrary, the Disney folks thought that a black princess would break down barriers and bring the company praise. While some people did find positive things to say about the movie, there was enough "Princess and the Frog" controversy to cause Disney to make changes to the film before it opened. Even then, the "Princess and the Frog" controversy did not die down.
The first element of the "Princess and the Frog" controversy started early with the initial title of the movie. When Disney announced that they were going to have a hand-drawn movie with a black princess, they also announced that the movie would be called "The Frog Princess." Critics instantly jumped on this as an indication that Disney thought that the black princess was as ugly as a frog. In response, Disney changed the title to "The Princess and the Frog."
After the movie title controversy cleared, Disney was faced with another piece of controversy when people started to object to the black princess's name and her occupation. Her original name was Maddy and she was supposed to be a maid to a white family in New Orleans. The name bothered people because it is not the kind of name people would associate with a black princess, so Disney agreed to change the name to the more regal-sounding Tiana. Somehow, Disney did not see the original maid occupation as demeaning, but after it was pointed out to them the Disney animators changed her from a maid to a cook.
The prince caused some problems for people as well. Some groups were expecting a black prince to go with the black princess, but that is not how the movie turned out. The prince is a Middle Eastern sounding guy named Prince Naveen. Disney thought that an interracial love story would be a contemporary plot device, but Disney quickly realized that they are not going to win no matter what they do, so they left the Prince as a Middle Eastern man and shunned those that wanted a black prince.
In the long list of things that Disney could not seem to understand when it came to the "Princess and the Frog" controversy was setting the movie in New Orleans. The government's treatment of the black population of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was still stinging when this movie was announced. Of all the places that Disney could choose as a setting for its first black princess story, it just had to be the place recently associated with a bad case of racial tension.
But Disney plowed through all of that and finally released the movie to what they still thought would be a triumphant reception. In the end, the reception was less than triumphant by conservative Christians in the United States. The use of voodoo in the movie in association with a love story really bothered the religious people to the point where many groups called for a boycott of the movie.
The Walt Disney Corporation made an honest effort when it set out to create the "Princess and the Frog." The controversy along the way showed that Disney can sometimes be insensitive to several groups at the same time, but with a worldwide gross of over $267 million, Disney is laughing all the way to the bank.
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