Afrobella of the Week — Maddy, The Frog Princess

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.

Go-to Pixar composer Randy Newman has been tapped to score the film, which is perfect because he grew up in New Orleans and is already collaborating with local groups like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

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!

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Comments

  1. Looks really neat. Definitely long overdue for a leading African-American Disney character. But with characters like…

    Big Daddy La Bouff – Wealthy, Southern plantation landowner and father of Charlotte La Bouff.

    Dr. Duvalier – An African American Voodoo magician/fortune teller. The villain of the movie.

    Mama Odie – An elderly, 200-year-old Voodoo priestess/fairy god-mother.

    … I can hear the controversies already. Let’s see if Disney can pull this one off. I’m looking forward to checking it out.

  2. Oh! And I forgot to mention…

    Prince Harry – A gregarious, fun-loving European Prince, in his early twenties.

    A European Prince (Where I read elsewhere described as a “Carry Grant” type). So the first African-American princess might be paired up with a White prince. What do you think about that??

  3. I know, it’s weird because this is definitely set in a controversial era and place. The characters are the typical Disney stereotypes of hero and villain, but when set in this all-too-recent historical context… fingers crossed that Disney gets this right!

  4. FINALLY…BUT ACCORDING TO THE COMMENTS ABOVE, IS IT ALL TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?

  5. It might not work considering black folks see Disney as a tad too corny (ala Raven).

  6. Really? Black people think Disney is corny? Every black person I know loves and has a few Disney movies in their collection. Especially the old 2-D ones like the Lion King (my favortite), Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid (my second fave) etc. I still watch a little Disney channel to this day. Bella, have you seen “Push it to the Limit”? haha! That’s So Raven is a little silly but it’s tolerable in small amounts.

  7. My best friend bans all Disney stuff from her little girl. I think that is a bit too much, but I can understand about the lack of diverse characters in the Disney collection. I can also understand why maybe Disney was reluctant to take this on in the past because of the controversies and complaints about other ‘ethnic’ portrayals they have done (there was al ot of controversy about “Aladdin” “Pocohontas” and “Mulan”) and you know we would have something to say about everything from skin color to hair texture to who her prince would be. I was never a little girl who had a complex other that stuff, but I think the time is way overdue for our little princesses to see someone like them as a princess too.

  8. I’m excited about the movie and hopefully Disney will be able to get it right. As with any ethnic movie they come out with there will be tons of controversy but I’m still going to support the movie because if we don’t that will be their excuse for not trying in the future. Hmm… I really love Alicia Keys but I think Anika Noni Rose might be a better choice for the role. She just comes across as having that princess attitude plus her vocal range is amazing.

  9. This is so exciting! A nappy headed Disney Princess?! That’s fantastic! I stayed on “the Little Mermaid” when I was little. Now my future little girl will have her own Princess to look up to! And in New Orleans! That is a great setting. With the exception of the Gullah people in South Carolina, blacks in New Orleans have the most Africanisms in their culture. Hence the great music, the Mardi Gras Indians and Voodoo. I hope that they include all of this and I can’t wait till this comes out. I’ll be 23 by that time, but I’ll still rush out to see this!

    peace & blessings

  10. This is really nice, it’s about time that we have a black Disney cartoon and lil black girls can look up to. the only one i thought we was gonna have close to being black was Jazmine from Aladdin. but Disney comming up

  11. jerseybred says:

    I am happy we finally have a princess to call our own. AfroBella of the week, “Princess Maddy”. I love it.

  12. All I have to say is….HOOORAY for black girls everywhere!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. i think that the best part about the creation “the frog princess” is that thanks to the ubiquity of disney movies and marketing, little girls of ALL races and ethnicities will have a black princess to look up to. its about time that people in this society acclimate THEMSELVES to the inherent beauty of afrobella features, as opposed to the other way around. i also think it’s cool that disney is setting this movie during the 1920′s jazz era, my favorite decade for fashion (the headdress maddy is wearing in the first pic is killing me). i haven’t been to see a disney movie in a theatre since the hunchback of notre dame but i’d definitely go see this movie, and i’d take my little loved ones with me too!

  14. Hey Bella!

    OMG,she’s so beautiful!!! I cannot wait to see this. I was wondering when Disney would give us our props. I hope Maddy merchandise fly right off the shelves like the other characters do when a Disney film is released.

  15. LBellatrix says:

    I’m not a fan of Disney per se (I was much more geeked on Warner Brothers cartoons growing up) but I for one was really happy for Hawaiian girls when Lilo and Stitch came out. Plus it was a good movie.

    I’m glad that, after, oh, EIGHTY YEARS it finally occurred to Disney to have a black lead character that’s positive (as opposed to Uncle Remus in Song of the South).

    Now what I’m waiting for is white folks to start bitching because you know there are some that will be if they’re not already…I also wonder how many so-called “liberal whites” will add Maddy to their daughters’ collection of princesses. (I suspect there are some who won’t because they’re opposed to Disney in general, which I have no problem with.)

  16. blackviolet says:

    I’m so happy about this. Sure Disney has quite a task ahead of them, but this is a great step in the right direction. I grew up watching the movies and wondering why there wasn’t a black princess. Now, I watch my nieces (white) with their Disney princess costumes and feel upset for all the little black girls that didn’t have that luxury. But this news is fantasic!

  17. Glamourgirl says:

    All I know is that before I found out about this new Disney movie (which was a few weeks ago that it came to my attention), I had JUST been talking to a friend of mine about the fact that there isn’t a black Disney princess yet. We were listing all the princesses and I mentioned that “Jasmine” is the only ethnic one to date. (From “Aladdin” for those of you who don’t know) I said to her, “They now need to make a black princess” because then the circle will be complete, so to speak. Well, wouldn’t you know it, a few days later I’m on MSNBC.com and I see an article for a new Disney movie coming out with a black princess! I emailed my friend the article with a message saying, “WERE WE NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT THIS!!!” Needless to say, I’m pretty happy about it. I grew up with “Cinderella” and the others. I was glad to see “Jasmine” when she appeared. But this takes the cake! I, also, like someone posted previously, am happy for all dark skinned girls everywhere (and boys too for that matter, since i’m sure the prince will be black). They will now have a princess that they can relate to, and like you said Afrobella, decorate their rooms with. I applaud Disney and hope they come up with more ethnic characters in the future.

  18. Sorry Glamourgirl, but the prince is White. You can check out good discussion on both sides of the issue at IMDB Maddy: The Frog Princess The Prince is White!!! Discussion I really don’t have a problem with the Prince being White myself if I believed that Disney was truly trying to promote diversity and interracial relationships, but I think it’s more the case that Disney doesn’t want to have a Black male for whatever reason, be it business or something else.

  19. …little girls of ALL races and ethnicities will have a black princess to look up to. its about time that people in this society acclimate THEMSELVES to the inherent beauty of afrobella features, as opposed to the other way around.

    WORD. While I’m definitely one of the people complaining about Disney’s lack of non-stereotypical female characters in general, I’ll take any steps toward some sort of equalization over no steps.

    Here’s hoping she’s a well-drawn character who just happens to be a princess! Hey, Kim Possible is proof Disney’s not entirely incapable of writing strong women.

  20. Sorry, I edited the post many times and may be this is the reason for the repetition above.

    I stopped in your blog while searching for the new cartoon by Walt Disney and I wrote about some of your interesting comments/views about the cartoon in my blog.

    Sorry once again and I must say I enjoyed reading your posts.

  21. Hi Bella,

    I sent you a reply to your email, unfortantely it was returned with a spam message.

    Thank you for the sweet email.

    With regards to my post, it was about the frog princess carton and racism. I wrote about the petition letter sent to Disney requesting beautiful black princess and I mentioned this part of your post about the cartoon in which you said:

    “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”.

    Its touching and nice and and I loved it.

  22. natashamck says:

    This is one that my friends and I are really looking forward too… And it looks like Anika Noni Rose had won the coveted role of Maddy…

    http://www.eonline.com/gossip/planetgossip/detail/index.jsp?uuid=781c7854-fddc-4433-8b02-c295bc4899f1

  23. freshkinkycut says:

    Looks like they changed maddy’s name to Tiana and the name from The Frog Princess to The Princess and the Frog. AND they changed her from being a chambermaid for white people.

  24. I don’t see why we need to have racial role models to look up to. Seems to me that we shouldn’t be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character as someone once said.

    That being said, the characters in the Lion King musical are predominately african American. I don’t think that is terribly inconsistant with the movie either.

  25. BARBARA says:

    Am I the only one seeing the disrepect in the name itself “The Frog Princess.” Am i over reacting? Sleeping beauty, Snow white, Beauty and the beast and after yrs drum role please….the frog princess. It seems a bit tacky for Disney’s first black aminated character to be associated with a frog. Imagin tea parties….snow white, sleeping beauty, the frog princess. Even if they call her maddy in the flim the frog princess leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I dont care how good the music is, the dance the big names, I might have to boycott this one. Shame on the creators.
    p.s i love disney, the lion king was my movie but geeze just change the name…please

  26. You dont always have to identify with ficticious characters, you don’t always have to look to television, or cartoons to relate to them, it is entertainment, and its not real, the fact that you looked to a cartoon character to relate to is kinda strange, I can’t even recall asking my parents why I don’t look like cartoons because there were images of me, limited images but they did exist. You should look to relating to who you are as a human being and not necessarily as a race!

  27. The Frog Princess is a real fairy tale; look it up on Wikipedia if you so desire. It seems a little moronic to complain about the title since Disney is directly basing the movie off of this story; why not have the same title?

    Also, why are people making such a big deal about the princess being black and a servant; many princesses, especially the Land fairytales, have started out as a servant type and then elevated themselves to a higher “position”, such as queen or princess. It’s all part of the journey that was so popularized during the time period (Middle Ages) most fairytales were created.

    In other words, well said Ryan and unteins!

  28. It seems that a lot of people don’t understand what the uproar is about with this movie. Quite a number of you are stating that race shouldn’t be important, and why should it matter if the prince is white or non black–it’s all about being equal and harmonious right? In fact you believe the people that are complaining about a white prince are the real racists, because they wouldn’t complain in the first place. Wrong. Race is important. Why is it that down the line of the Disney princesses (excluding Pocohontas) that their costars or counterparts were of the same race? Why all of a sudden when it comes to the black princess that Disney wants to change it up? It would makes sense to follow the Disney formula or blue print. I tell you why they changed the scheme of things because Disney wanted to send a message. You know what that message is? It is not practical for a black woman and black man relationship to exist. It is not the norm; therefore, a black woman would have to look elsewhere for love for her prince. In addition it is also saying that a black man could never be a prince or atleast a prince to a black woman. Yes we love interracial relationships, but why is it that the first black princess has to compromise herself to find love. It would make more sense for a white princess to have an interracial relationship first since we’ve already seen her have her white prince. Yes I am glad that Disney thought to have a black princess, but I am certainly not thankful. If they’re going to have a black princess they should present it in the right way. Also just like how I want my daughter to be able to identify with a princess, I want the same for my son. You mean to tell me that as a young black man that he can’t have someone to identify with and that he can’t be a prince. Mulan didn’t have this much controversy because the people that put that project together were knowledgeable about the history, and presented the story in a way that was uplifting to the asian community; however, with this project the people behind it don’t seem to have the same vigiliance. From the start there have been many problems as if they just decided to do the movie without doing their homework and it shows. It is very unfortunate because I have grown up watching Disney movies and looked forward to the fruitation of finally having a black princess, but I will not support this movie because of the damaging message that it is sending. There are beautiful black relationships.

  29. Michelle says:

    Just to let you know if you didn’t, Jennifer Lewis won the role of Maddy’s mom.

  30. did u bellas know that her prince is white?

  31. While I am very happy with the choice of Anika Rose to voice Maddy, I am very unhappy with the Prince being White. There’s plenty to ponder there and I’m sure we haven’t experienced the eye of that storm yet.

  32. What are you guys talking about? The prince isn’t white.

    They wanted to make him a legitimate Prince. Since colonialism was still a HUGE issue in Africa during the time period the film was set, they made up some island nation to make him from (based on ones in the Mediterranean Sea, off of the north coast of Africa) instead of picking some area that was getting continually screwed over by white-run governments.

    Would you really want him to have been from the Congo when Belgium was still in charge and chopping off people’s arms for not working in the rubber plantations?

    Besides, if he WAS white, (which he isn’t) shouldn’t we be celebrating diversity in relationships? It’s not like it’s unheard of for white and black people to fall in love and get married.

  33. Snow White and Cinderella are more “feminist” than Belle, Esmeralda and those overrated “feminists”. Feminazism is overrated anyway. But I guess some people will never be satsified. =P

    And Alicia Keys?? Seriously?! She’s about as black AND proud of it as apple pie and Michael Jackson.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] FINALLY – a beautiful Black princess from Disney. About Time! Afrobella [...]

  2. [...] The F Word has some coverage of coverage of The Frog Princess, which will be Disney’s first ever feature starring a black princess.  While “yet another princess” isn’t really a step forward for women in general, this film may finally acknowledge that little black girls can be just as pretty, glamorous and worthy of societal elevation as little white girls. 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. [...]

  3. [...] If you post a comment with a fake e mail address, it will most likely get stuck in my spam filter. I do go through it every day, but to keep it real with you, I must admit that I didn’t really feel that bad when a particularly nasty comment to my post about Maddy the Frog Princess got stuck in there yesterday. So to the lady who suggested that I somehow hate my heritage and had a terrible childhood because I’m psyched to see Disney have a black princess, shed a tear because your comment got thrown out with the rest of the spam. I did notice it in there but somehow I didn’t have the energy to fish it out from among the grandma porn and Valtrex ads that I get bombarded with daily. [...]

  4. [...] سيدة سوداء أعربت من خلال مدونتها عن سعادتها بالخبر قائلة أن هذا الفيلم سيثلج قلوب الأمهات السوداوات وسيسعد طفلاتهن اللاتي سيتمكن أخيرا من الزهو والتفاخر بشعرهن الأجعد الذي سيصبح رمزا جديدا للجمال يضاهي جمال الشعر الأشقر كهذه البطلة الجديدة التي ستطل عليهن من خلال عالم ديزني الساحر وستنافس شخصيات ديزني الشهيرة مثل سندريلا والأميرة النائمة [...]

  5. [...] سيدة سوداء أعربت من خلال مدونتها عن سعادتها بالخبر قائلة أن هذا الفيلم سيثلج قلوب الأمهات السوداوات وسيسعد طفلاتهن اللاتي سيتمكن أخيرا من الزهو والتفاخر بشعرهن الأجعد الذي سيصبح رمزا جديدا للجمال يضاهي جمال الشعر الأشقر من خلال الأميرة ”مادي”  التي ستطل عليهن من خلال عالم ديزني الساحر وستنافس شخصيات ديزني الشهيرة مثل سندريلا والأميرة النائمة [...]

  6. [...] سيدة سوداء أعربت من خلال مدونتها عن سعادتها بالخبر قائلة أن هذا الفيلم سيثلج قلوب الأمهات السوداوات وسيسعد طفلاتهن اللاتي سيتمكن أخيرا من الزهو والتفاخر بشعرهن الأجعد الذي سيصبح رمزا جديدا للجمال من خلال الأميرة ”مادي”  التي ستنافس شخصيات ديزني الشهيرة مثل سندريلا والأميرة النائمة [...]

  7. [...] سيدة سوداء أعربت من خلال مدونتها عن سعادتها بالخبر قائلة أن هذا الفيلم سيثلج قلوب الأمهات السوداوات وسيسعد طفلاتهن اللاتي سيتمكن أخيرا من الزهو والتفاخر بشعرهن الأجعد الذي سيصبح رمزا جديدا للجمال من خلال الأميرة ”مادي”  التي ستنافس شخصيات ديزني الشهيرة مثل سندريلا والأميرة النائمة [...]

  8. [...] سيدة سوداء أعربت من خلال مدونتها عن سعادتها بالخبر قائلة أن هذا الفيلم سيثلج قلوب الأمهات السوداوات وسيسعد طفلاتهن اللاتي سيتمكن أخيرا من الزهو والتفاخر بشعرهن الأجعد الذي سيصبح رمزا جديدا للجمال من خلال الأميرة ”مادي”  التي ستنافس شخصيات ديزني الشهيرة مثل سندريلا والأميرة النائمة [...]

  9. [...] سيدة سوداء أعربت من خلال مدونتها عن سعادتها بالخبر قائلة أن هذا الفيلم سيثلج قلوب الأمهات السوداوات وسيسعد طفلاتهن اللاتي سيتمكن أخيرا من الزهو والتفاخر بشعرهن الأجعد الذي سيصبح رمزا جديدا للجمال من خلال الأميرة ”مادي”  التي ستنافس شخصيات ديزني الشهيرة مثل سندريلا والأميرة النائمة [...]

  10. [...] سيدة سوداء أعربت من خلال مدونتها عن سعادتها بالخبر قائلة أن هذا الفيلم سيثلج قلوب الأمهات السوداوات وسيسعد طفلاتهن اللاتي سيتمكن أخيرا من الزهو والتفاخر بشعرهن الأجعد الذي سيصبح رمزا جديدا للجمال من خلال الأميرة ”مادي”  التي ستنافس شخصيات ديزني الشهيرة مثل سندريلا والأميرة النائمة [...]

  11. [...] سيدة سوداء أعربت من خلال مدونتها عن سعادتها بالخبر قائلة أن هذا الفيلم سيثلج قلوب الأمهات السوداوات وسيسعد طفلاتهن اللاتي ستتمكن أخيرا من الزهو والتفاخر بشعرهن الأجعد الذي سيصبح رمزا جديدا للجمال من خلال الأميرة ”مادي”  التي ستنافس شخصيات ديزني الشهيرة مثل سندريلا والأميرة النائمة [...]

  12. [...] سيدة سوداء أعربت من خلال مدونتها عن سعادتها بالخبر قائلة أن هذا الفيلم سيثلج قلوب الأمهات السوداوات وسيسعد طفلاتهن اللاتي ستتمكن أخيرا من الزهو والتفاخر بشعرهن الأجعد الذي سيصبح رمزا جديدا للجمال من خلال الأميرة ”مادي”  التي ستنافس شخصيات ديزني الشهيرة مثل سندريلا والأميرة النائمة [...]

  13. [...] a fairy tale set in 1920′s Jazz-era Louisiana, with Randy Newman providing a period-specific score. Much response to the project has been quite positive, but as with all things, the devil is in the [...]

  14. [...] 2009, but a little teaser just hit the internet. Just wanted to share with you all — the last time I wrote about this film, quite a few of you were excited. And some were understandably ambivalent — given [...]

  15. [...] someone might want to let Angelina know that Disney’s first African-American princess movie, The Princess and The Frog, will be released in November 2009. And her name has been changed [...]

  16. [...] The F Word has some coverage of coverage of The Frog Princess, which will be Disney’s first ever feature starring a black princess.   While “yet another princess” isn’t really a step forward for women in general, this film may finally acknowledge that little black girls can be just as pretty, glamorous and worthy of societal elevation as little white girls. Having a Disney Princess with an afro puff means great things for moms who have had to explain to th… [...]

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