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Official Trailer for The Princess and the Frog Released: A New Era for Disney, or More of the Same?

May 12, 2009

The trailer for Disney’s upcoming animated feature, The Princess and the Frog, premiered this weekend on television. You may know this as Disney’s first film starring an African-American princess. You can see the trailer here:

(comments after the jump)

The Princess and the Frog won’t be released until December 11, 2009, and it’s hard to tell from this trailer alone how feminist or racially progressive it will actually be. The most interesting news I’ve heard about this film is that Princess Tiana (our heroine) has a mother. Considering Disney’s history with mothers, that’s huge news in and of itself.

That being said, I’m not terribly hopeful about the messages this film will be sending. After all, it does mark a return to the Disney Princess franchise, which has always focused more on the surface-level beauty and attentiveness to men than on any explicitly feminist values, like independence, intelligence, and self-respect. It worries me that The Princess and the Frog may be wandering down that same road, but I’d like to imagine that the existence of a mother character suggests a less patriarchal franchise.

Moreover, the plot hints at possible racial stereotypes, which could undo any progressive work the film sets out to accomplish. From the New Orleans setting, to the prominent theme of voodoo, The Princess and the Frog will need to tread carefully so as not to wind up in racially problematic territory.

It’s unfair to judge this film harshly now, before it’s even been released. I am anxious to see it when it does open, and who knows — this really could be a brand-new era for Disney. But if Disney’s past track record is any indication, we might not want to get our hopes up just yet.

For more on Disney’s past issues in dealing with race and gender, check out this clip from a truly fascinating documentary, Mickey Mouse Monopoly:

5 Comments
  1. Emily permalink*
    May 12, 2009 12:01 pm

    I’m really curious to see this film. Thanks for putting this to our attention—I always thought that Disney princesses were not ideal role models for girls (it’s okay if you don’t have parents (but the evil stepmother and stepsisters)—a prince will save you!). Maybe we can expect a change, but that may be too hopeful for Disney.

  2. Alison permalink
    May 13, 2009 6:46 pm

    Thanks for pointing out this documentary, too! Looks really great.

    • Carrie permalink
      May 13, 2009 7:48 pm

      Oddly enough, we watched it in my high school psychology class. I highly recommend it, but be warned – it will ruin Disney’s image for you forever.

  3. mariazk permalink
    May 13, 2009 7:31 pm

    This should be interesting; especially the portrayal of the mother-daughter dynamics. Though, I agree with you; Disney loves putting fantasy before reality.

    How many times does a shoe or a frog lead you to a Prince!

  4. May 18, 2009 11:45 pm

    I always thought that Disney princesses were not ideal role models for girls .

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