Will Sheppard: Blackness Within the Princess and the Frog

Disney’s 2009 The Princess and the Frog, directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, featured a bunch of hollywoods stars including, Anika Rose, Keith David, Bruno Campos, and Jenifer Lewis along with many others. The film provides plenty of New Orleans themed music along with choreography to go along with it. This was Disney’s first film to feature a black princess and for the most part, it did not disappoint. The main negative to this film would be that it is missing the appeal, that is the appeal to young black girls. Other princess films appeal to young white girls and give the sense of that magic, but this film doesn’t necessarily do that in my opinion because of the fact that she was a frog for a majority of the movie. Most people were expecting to see the Princess and the Frog, but they got two frogs instead. It was a different twist on the movie, but it didn’t ruin the movie. 

We begin the film with Tiana and her friend Charlotte being read a story about the princess and the frog. They are in Charlotte’s mansion of a home because Tiana’s mother is a dressmaker for the family. While reading the fairytale we see two different perspectives from both children. With the young, rich white girl Charlotte, we see her completely invested and taken away by the story as she dreams of this. With Tiana, we see her disgusted by the kissing of the frog and much less interested in the whole concept of being a princess in the first place. One thing that the creators put in place here is a cultural difference. Being half black and half white, I feel as if I am obligated to say in the least offensive way possible that Charlotte being intrigued by kissing the frog is a whiter thing than it is black. We then go to the next scene and see the living situation of Tiana. She lives with her mom and dad in a small house in a residentially black and poorer area of New Orleans. She and her father have dreams of one day opening up their own restaurant and creating a better life for themselves. So, the viewer has shifted fro seeing a white family with everything they could ever ask for, to a black family who is just trying to get by and that has bigger hopes and aspirations. Already it’s been 10 minutes into the film and we’ve already seen racial and cultural differences.  

As we approach the first song of the film, we see Tiana working hard at two jobs and saving up enough money to get her restaurant. We learn of her father no longer being alive, which is a little stereotypical to me, but she is still working to accomplish the dream they both had. Tiana and her mother go inside the beat up old property of where her restaurant would be and then she breaks out into her first song of the film. The song “Almost There” has a big impact and basically tells her story. It is a song about how she has no time for other fun activities because she has to keep grinding because she is almost there and almost has what she’s been dreaming of since she was a kid. The line in the song that basically summed up her journey and her attitude was, “There’s been trials and tribulations. I know I’ve had my share, but I’ve climbed the mountain and crossed the river and I’m almost there.” It explains that she has been through a lot, but she has not given up and she is so close. I think this mindset can be related to a lot of black women in the world today. Black women have the same attitude of not giving up and going through rough patches just to get what they want. Being a black woman, they already have it rough because they are a minority racially and they are a woman, so there are multiple barriers to break, which is what Tiana is trying to do. The choreography of this scene is a cartoon version of an already cartoon movie, where it features her restaurant all done up how she dreamed of. 

Fast forward a few minutes and then Prince Naveen is finally arriving in New Orleans in search of a wife. Not too long after his arrival he and his butler are persuaded by Dr. Facilier to see into their futures, but it comes with a price. The price is that the butler got turned into the prince, and the prince got turned into a frog. The song features an African, voodoo type of vibe. We see a variety of bright neon colors, and other african features. The frog prince finally meets Tiana where he finally convinces her to kiss him and she ends up turning into a frog as well. Together they go through a journey to try to get changed back into humans. They meet an alligator named Louis and a cajun firefly named Ray. For the next 45 minutes or so, we are in the bayou of Louisiana and we sit through multiple different songs by all different characters. All of the songs have one thing in common, and that is the moral of the song. All these songs have meaning in them. The song that probably has the most meaning in it is the song by Mama Odie, “Dig A Little Deeper.” It is a song about how Tiana and Naveen need to find out what they really need and now just what they want. This is going to help solve all their problems in life. The moral of the song was that if they find out what they really need in their life, then it is gonna truly lead to their happiness. Since there are no huge dance numbers in this movie, the choreography is a little different. They use butterflies and fireflies to add different effects and they use a lot of bright colors to bring the song alive. In the end of the film, they both figure out that they need each other and that’s it and it turns them back into their human forms. Tiana gets her restaurant and husband, and they all live happily ever after, the end. 

The creators of the songs did a good job to add African American elements to the music. There is a very southern, just black feel to the songs. The cast is mainly full of black people, and black singers at that. So it brings a different feel to the whole movie. The songs are sung with soul and a certain richness. That is what makes this princess movie different from all the rest. It is relatable to the black community and it carries the richness of the black community. I still believe that Disney could have done better with the whole black princess aspect and they could have given her that black girl magic. Overall it was a solid film that introduced the world to its first black Disney princess, and there were a lot of elements that brought out the core of the black community.

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