American Morning

Tune in at 6am Eastern for all the news you need to start your day.
April 21st, 2009
10:41 AM ET

Disney's first black princess

CNN's Alina Cho reports on the first black princess to appear in a Disney animated film.
CNN's Alina Cho reports on the first black princess to appear in a Disney animated film.

Snow White was the first Disney princess to be featured on the big screen in 1937. Now, 72 years later Disney is introducing their latest princess - Tiana. She's the new "fairest of them all" and she's making history as Disney's first black princess.

"Finally, here is something that all little girls, especially young black girls, can embrace. And that is huge,” says Cori Murray of Essence Magazine.

Tiana's timing couldn't be better. The fairy tale princess comes on the heels of what some call a real-life fairy tale: The Obamas.

“This is the perfect one-two punch with Michelle Obama being the first African American first lady in the White House. She has really turned into this style icon. Now we have Princess Tiana. It's just a great time to be an African American woman because we are being showcased everywhere in great light,” says Murray.

While Tiana’s story shares some similarities with previous princesses she is a more modern princess. She has her own career; far different from cartoons of years past. Racial stereotypes used to be everywhere, even in some Disney productions.

But times have changed says marketing guru Linda Kaplan Thaler.

“It used to be that we would see people in black face, we would see minstrel shows we would see black people portrayed in subservient positions. And it is so wonderful that we have finally moved past these stereotypes.”

In recent years Disney has made of point of creating princesses who are more diverse. First there was Jasmine, Pocahontas, then Mulan, and now, Tiana.

Disney's marketing machine is in high gear. The doll was unveiled last month at the American International Toy Fair. The movie will be out by the end of the year.

It’s called "The Princess and the Frog." Set in New Orleans, Tiana is a waitress and a budding chef. She kisses a frog who, no surprise, turns out to be a prince.

Kaplan Thaler says that's where the story still needs some work.

"I think there are a lot of girls even at 5 and 6 years old who might scratch their head and go 'I don't know. I don't know if it's going to be solved by a prince. I don't know if a frog is going to do it.'"

Filed under: Entertainment • Pop Culture
soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. lisa

    @ are a man and will not understand why little girls white or black want to see someone on the big screen, tv or even a print ad....little girls want to relate to something....are you really calling this movie a defamation because the main perosn happens to have color....I'm so sad for you!!!! You were right about one thing, america is Multi – cultural, so everyone should get to see someone that looks like them on screen/tv!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 14, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  2. John

    Great...A black princess..thanks Disney I am sure Walt would approve of this overwhelming triumph for the black race! How about you just make good movies that focus on morals and values rather than remaking old ones sparking more divisions within multicultural America. Congratulations on the defamation of a timeless classic.

    December 13, 2009 at 12:55 am |
  3. Nancy

    After all these years finally. I grew up on disney movies and always wanted to see a princess that looks a little more like me.
    Thank you Disney.

    November 27, 2009 at 9:48 am |
  4. Whine not

    Everybody listen. This doll doesn't have to be about a race thing. Do you guys know that black people from other countries have said they don't like to be compared to african americans in our country because THEY say you all are a bunch of winey butts who use your skin color as excuses for every little problem and complaint. I was excited about this movie and hoped to see the doll but everyone is acting hippocritical. It's not good enough and this and that. To the person who said why does she have to be a waitress, and why can't she be a princess and stated there are no other princesses like that. Oh my gosh CINDERELLA was an abused servent!! I don't care. I'm still going to watch the movie. We should all only be worried that our girls are going to think a man is going to save them. That is why I loved Shrek the women in that kicked butt and Shrek. Now Shrek is green. Does that make everything even? Stop making this into a race issue and let our kids enjoy the fantasy. Just like all the other princesses who have been of every skin color.
    To Chille-yes it is over. Black people are way more racist than white. But I don't care. I'm watching the movie and not think about any negative black complaints because I know there are different nationalities in many Disney stories and this just happens to be another in the melting pot. I hope it's a good cartoon.

    October 1, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  5. Donna

    I really hope this movie is better than Cinderella 2. I was so dissapointed in the second Cinderella movie that I just wanted Disney to just redo it because I wanted the same magic the first Cinderella had, but it didnt. I can't wait to buy it for my girls. Is the doll coming out before Christmas this year?

    October 1, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  6. Andrea

    I'm so excited about this beautiful doll. Now you can say all girls have a princess doll that looks like them ....and to those how say this isn't the first african american princess. Brandy was a MOVIE that came out in the 90's but this princess WILL be part of a collection of Disney prinesses thank you very much!!

    September 24, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  7. Beth

    I think it's great that Disney has finally decided to add to it's rank a princess or rather an aspiring princess who is Black. I am the mother of a 3 year old daughter and since her birth I have not bought into much of the animated type merchandise. I definitely have not purchased her any Disney products other than WInnie The Pooh or Mickey Mouse books. This is a step forward for Disney to make sure that their already flooded cups continue to overflow.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  8. Netti

    To steve about the BET thing it was initially targeted for Afraican American viewers. You sound so ignorant think about it how many other African American owned networks do you know that play shows targeted to those viewers. You don't because there are none. Also FYI it's no longer and African American owned network anymore and yes I have noticed a big difference. Also to add to your ignorance these blogs are about the Disney movie...lets try and stay on topic here..if you don't have anything to say about the movie don't comment at all lets not throw low blows because Disney targets and attracts all races not just African American audiences..therefor to be quite honest BET was not made to attract Caucasians plain and simple.

    June 9, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  9. Netti

    I am sort of a youngster and I have never seen the movie Song of the South..but I read a comment that inspired me to write a comment. Once in high school my teacher told me that he didn't allow his son, three years old at the time, watch tv, especially not Disney cartoons because they are racist. I thought at first he was sort of crazy and over analyzed things because he was an english teacher, but after reading these comments and actually thinking about it he is absolutely correct. It's great that disney has started to make a movie staring a African American princess and its wonderful to see women of color get noticed, but when will there ever be an african american prince? Or is that just too much to ask to ask for. FYI for Disney when you portray African Americans in movies don't stereotype that is very ignorant and low not only are the characters monkeys, crows, hyenas, and etc, they represent ugly, vicious, animals. The connotation of the use of the animals represent derogatory association to African Americans and I hope that was not intentional. I mean in the movie they are viewed as bad which to me targeting children with things like make them grow up with these same prejudices.

    Disney get it together. Like i said before its great and all, but don't expect kudos or something because you finally included a minority character in a big movie and expect African Americans to be over joyed because its not that impressing. And I also read a few comments about Brandy being Cinderella that's the only movie ppl can say had a lot of African American characters compared to how many racist others and not just targeted at the African American race. So Disney don't exploit other's culture simply because you don't understand it, or think it would be a riot, or to just make a buck. Include more minority race movies.

    June 9, 2009 at 8:32 am |
  10. Mexico 101

    omg a black disney princess this is awesome maybe the net princess will be mexican this what ive been wishing for and now my dreams are coming true it's time that other races are in the spot light other then white people i cant wait to see the movie!

    May 8, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  11. white boy

    A Black princess i am really exited im a white kid and i think white people should really start treating with obama then this movie to all the blacks you guys really deserve this and go to hell all u people who dont like this movie and who doesnt like black people black people mexicans and other races should be treated with a lot more respect and i hope the next princess is a diffrent race the world nedd to get their act together and learn to get along! well i hope this movie is good.

    May 7, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  12. monicakrough

    Why are blacks so racist? I think it's great but I also think it's great there is a white prince. So we can one of each race in the movie, but I hear blacks are all up in arms about this. Why is it OK to have a black princess but not a white prince. Seems like blacks say they are not racist but put them in a crowd of all black people and see what happens.

    April 27, 2009 at 6:46 pm |
  13. Ritaj

    I don't think this is right time for a black princess. It's way late.
    Disney is behind the times. There should be multicolor princesses by now!
    And her color should not be important, that's why I like Belle: she's
    intelligent, she likes books, she could be green, blue or pink!

    In this matter, the US is way behind many countries. It still
    holds on to its racism. The color of an animation character should
    not be an issue.

    April 26, 2009 at 8:16 pm |
  14. concerned

    take your kids to the zoo.. let them read books. too much of this looks like.. 'now i can sit my children in front of the tv and let them relate to an animated character from a billion dollar industry and feel slightly better about it.. because the drawing is darker'

    April 22, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  15. AMac

    I can't remember, but someone said Disney was riding Obama's popularity coat tails. Really? Seriously, no really? Do some research before playing your O card (which is about as useful to you as the Joker). This movie has been in production for over 5 years. It was announced over two years ago that the princess would in fact be black. It was also announced after hurricane Kat, that it would take place in NOLA. This has nothing to do with Obama. Animated films take time to create, good ones anyway.

    And Disney doesn't need Mr. O's coat tails. They are rolling in it with or without the Obama bandwagon. Oh, and if you really want to be technical, of the human characters, there have only been six Disney Princess – by birth that is – Snow White, Ariel, Jasmine and Sleeping Beauty/Briar Rose/Aurora, Pocahontas (in fact an Indian Princess) and Megara (given to old Hercules as a gift from her pop King Creon). Cindy and Belle married up. Mulan, Esmeralda, and Jane (although Tarzan does not deserve to be counted).

    And to continue if you want to get truly ethnic...would you say we have two french women, a greek woman, a chinese woman, an english woman, a mer woman, an arabic woman, three german woman (if you use Grimm's roots), and a native american princess? I wonder if they hyphenate in "long long ago" land? French – Fairy Tale Princess, Greek – Fairy Tale Princess, Native – American – Fairy Tale that is a mouth full!

    April 22, 2009 at 12:27 am |
  16. Ms H

    Smarm masquerading as art.

    Why not tell the story of a real African Queen, especially the biblical story of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia?

    And Justin is correct: Song of the South began Disney's diversity efforts. I love the story: Brer Rabbit, etc.

    It was NOT racist. People need to quit calling things that use "colloquial" speech "racist." Is Toni Morrison's book "Tar Baby" racist – despite its use of heavy racial stereotypes of blacks?

    It's just a story.... not an indictment of an entire race of people. Anyone who reads "racism" into Song of the South must be a racist.

    April 21, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  17. Jeannie

    The first Black princess was Brandy in Cinderella.

    April 21, 2009 at 10:33 pm |

    Why not Asian Princess too

    April 21, 2009 at 7:27 pm |
  19. Milz in Madtown

    First off, I think that it's ridiculous to think that this is a major step. I think that it's just another stepping stone on the ladder. I mean, look at some of the other princesses we have had. Pocahontas was actually a princess for the Native Americans in her movie. Jasmine was a princess in whatever middle eastern country she was from. Mulan was a chinese princess and was bad-ass to boot. This new character, Tiana, is an ordinary girl in New Orleans. America will never have a princess, so she really doesn't fit that standard. Also, she could have been in a better situation. She could have led a struggle through the underground railroad. I really think that Disney struggled with this one, just trying to follow up Obama, and it wasn't a good way of doing so.

    April 21, 2009 at 6:06 pm |
  20. futuredoc

    I'am very excited about this movie. This movie is important for black women. There is a stereotype that we are ghettoe, low class, babby daddies havin hoochies. Its nice to see black women displayed with class and high feminiity. I like that the prince is not black to let black females know that they do have options. As everyone knows its not just girls who are going to see this movie.

    April 21, 2009 at 5:37 pm |
  21. Lisa in Shelton

    Touche on the dreamworks/Fiona, my bad; but the fact that Disney has decided to finally release a cartoon with a black princess doesn't prove they're hip – just opportunistic. Wanting healthy role models for our young ladies within the scope of a fantasy cartoon doesn't deserve criticism from small minds – it deserves more responsible entertainment from big studios.

    April 21, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  22. Andrea

    First off I'm black and I feel this is something good, but not something to get too much excited about. The way adults are acting because this is the first black princess only teaches kids more racism which I thought we were supposed to be trying to get past. I'm just tired of all the princess movies, I know that this is what little girls like to see but after awhile it just gets to be old. I do agree with some people on here that there needs to be more strong male roles in the Disney movies. There has been a few but these princess movies just stick out more.

    April 21, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  23. Nathan

    oh god, since when does a company who is predominately occupied by white employees have the gall to make a movie with a black princess...after the sacha and malia obama dolls come out perhaps?

    Kill this trend, it's not "hip" to be black, if I was black, i'd be sick of everyone treating me like i'm different because i'm black. Even Obama being elected isn't's HUNDREDS of years too late.

    There is something called quiet respect, and i think people need to be quietly respectful of the various cultures in the U.S.

    April 21, 2009 at 5:21 pm |
  24. Mister Two

    Why would people of African decent remove the hyphen and just be identified as American. It has never been an issue for "Irish-American, Native-American, Italian or Jewish Americans to proudly display their herritage but African Americans must once again try their best to conform by denying themselves even the smallest of awcknowlegements.... our race? Not Fair.....

    April 21, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  25. JGBNYC

    Why can't we leave the originals alone and create new characters.

    What's next Black klu Klux Klan???????????

    April 21, 2009 at 4:58 pm |
  26. Kim - Las Vegas

    Yawn.........who cares.

    April 21, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  27. sneece

    Disney – you used to be innovative and on the edge with a lot of things, but it isn't until after you've had major animated female roles filled by Arabian, Asian and Native American chicks that you decide to give the role to a black female. For some time, you completely avoided the human race as main characters. And it isn't until the Presidency is taken over by a black man (and his family) that this is released. If the rumor is true that this idea has been on hold for two years.....what does that all mean? And the fact that she is a waitress in New Orleans..really? Screaming Katrina sympathy much? Way to exploit a tragedy.

    I'm by no means putting down the idea, but honestly......should have happened A LONG TIME AGO. Your World of Tomorrow is a little late in the game.

    And seriously, how many times are you doing to spin out the "I'm a princess in need of a prince" story? For 72 years, this is the best you can come up with? And while the story may be original, the premise is not. Strong feminine roles, my patootie. Stick to talking and singing animals.....much more up your alley because apparently the real world is only a fantasy in the land of Disney.

    April 21, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  28. T

    I with "J" on this one...Walt is trying to come out the casket.

    April 21, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  29. karen

    I think it is wonderful that Disney has included my little girl in the world of fantasy and peace. It is going to be great to take her back there and she gets to see Trina(live), we have pictures with Cinderella, Snow White, and of course Minnie, but now she can take a picture with someone that look like her. Now what about my son, can we get a prince or a king that looks like him... Yes he has pictures with Goofy, Mickey, Donald and Wall-e but what about a handsome young prince.

    April 21, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  30. AMac

    Go to Ebay, you can get copies of Song of the South. They just have subtitles at the bottom. It is a fantastic movie and a real shame to miss out on it. I think it is funny that people want to wipe history under the rug. Show them the Disney concept and then explain to them the history/story behind it. Use the Disney film to talk to your kids.

    When they ask about the Hunch Back of Notre Dame – tell them how they all died and why. If they ask about Pocahontas, please explain to them that she was married at 14 and died from an Anglo Saxon disease while visiting Britian with her much older husband. Be honest. Kids are only as ignorant as you allow them to be.

    April 21, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
1 2