This blog originally appeared on AtlantaWomanMag.com.
n a recent trip to Toys R Us to do a bit of birthday shopping for my soon-to-be 3 year old, I spent time in one area - Disney princesses. My daughter absolutely adores anything to do with princesses - be it Sleeping Beauty/Aurora, the Little Mermaid, Jasmine, Belle, Cinderella, Snow White ... you get the idea. We're just now getting into these sorts of toys, and so it had never crossed my mind that there isn't one single African American "Princess" character. Granted, Jasmine is Middle Eastern, and Mulan and Pocahontas (who don't have dolls) Asian and Native American, respectively. But still, no doll that looks like the majority of the little girls in this country?
Surely if the nation can overwhelmingly elect an African American president, his daughters should expect a similar-looking Disney princess to be a part of their play dates. I'd certainly applaud the company if they modeled one on Michelle Obama, the chicest first lady to come along in years.
Come to find out, Disney does have just such a character in the works. The company announced in 2007 plans to introduce its first African American princess in a feature-length film set to debut in theaters at Christmas 2009. "The Frog Princess" (http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/princessandthefrog/), set in 1920s New Orleans, tells the story of a Princess Tania, and what I assume will be her search for a prince. Oprah Winfrey is even slated to voice one of the characters, according to imdb.com.
Controversy has swirled around the project. Disney changed a number of character details in response to accusations the story was playing to racial stereotypes. You can read people's comments about that here: http://www.whataboutourdaughters.com/2008/08/first-black-disney-princess-in-theaters-christmas-2009-trailer/
and here: http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/03/21/princess.emails/index.html?iref=newssearch
(The above link contains comments that don't reflect more recent script changes, such as the character's original name, Maddy.)
My daughter and I will certainly give the movie a chance when it comes out. And I'll definitely add a Princess Tania doll to my daughter's collection. If there's one thing Disney IS good at, it's taking my money!