When I was a little kid, it always bothered me that there were no cartoon characters that really looked like me.
Maybe that’s why I loved the Smurfs, the Snorks, and Fraggle Rock so much — the characters were monochrome or multicolored, so I had to rely on gender and personality traits to figure out who to identify with. (Smurfette, Casey Kelp, and Mokey Fraggle, in case you were wondering).
If I was a Seventies instead of an Eighties baby, I would have grown up loving Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats. And still, Valerie is the cartoon character I identify with the most. I caught up with her in my college days, when Cartoon Network would rerun Josie and the Pussycats (and don’t forget Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space) during the weekdays. The real life woman who was her singing voice was also named Patrice, and Valerie’s favorite color is purple.
You can see that I remember only the most important things in life.
I had even less luck finding a character to identify with on the big screen. I adored Disney cartoons, but there wasn’t a princess who looked like me. Until now. Bellas, meet Maddy, the first African-American animated princess in Disney history.
I can’t tell you how happy this news made me.
The Frog Princess, Disney’s return to traditional 2-D animation will be set in New Orleans in the Twenties jazz age.
The competition is heating up to play the title role. Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose have been mentioned, but personally, I’m rooting for Alicia Keys, who is lobbying hard for the role. Her already distinctive voice and gift for songwriting could make Maddy one of the coolest princesses ever. Here’s hoping she can master a Nawlins drawl.
The movie doesn’t even come out until 2009, but I’m already planning my unborn baby girl’s themed birthday party, and I already know that I’ll be buying nuff cute little teeshirts and merchandise for princess Dominique.
I know that there are inherent feminist issues with Disney princesses in general, their submissive nature and “Someday My Prince Will Come” passivity is a longstanding tradition. But despite the typically broad outline of the princess persona, Maddy is great news for the next generation of afrobellas.
Having a Disney Princess with an afro puff means great things for moms who have had to explain to their little curly haired angels that their hair is just as pretty as Becky’s or Emily’s. It also puts a brighter face on an animation studio that has faced accusations of racism in the past.
The concept of a black princess delights Floyd Norman, who was called “the lone Negro” in the Disney animation department during the studio’s Fifties and Sixties halcyon days. That fascinating interview proves the obvious — this is a long overdue move on Disney’s part.
Here’s hoping that they fill out the cast with truly talented and often overlooked actors and actresses (Alfre Woodard or Angela Bassett as Maddy’s Mom? Just a suggestion).
The Frog Princess makes me feel that excitement I used to feel, back when I went to see The Little Mermaid, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and and Beauty and the Beast in the theater.
I haven’t been to the theater to see a cartoon since Aladdin . And I can’t wait to see this movie!
Hooray, Maddy! You’re Afrobella of the Week!