Disney has been praised because they make an effort to reflect the diversity of the real world in most of their TV and film projects, but every so often, they fumble. Many fans aren’t pleased with the way recent ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ depict Princess Tiana. Voiced by Anika Noni Rose in 2009’s ‘The Princess and the Frog’, Tiana was Disney’s first black princess (unless you’re old like me and remember when Brandy played ‘Cinderella’) and as such immediately became a significant figure for a large portion of the population.
In the trailer for ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ and in the film, video game character Vanellope finds herself in the presence of the various Disney Princesses, most of whom will be voiced by their original voice actors, including Rose as Tiana. Vanellope thinks that the Princesses don’t look very comfortable in their formal gowns, so she convinces them to ditch the dresses and put on sweats and pajamas. Tiana lets her hair down and many are taking issue with her curly natural hair, citing the fact that real black women and girls have to go through much more effort with their hair at bedtime. They also are put off by the fact that Tiana suddenly seems to have lighter hair and more ambiguous facial features.
Y’all don’t understand how important Princess Tiana is to Black girls. We finally had a Disney princess that looked like us, and now, she doesn’t. They gave her Eurocentric features and turned her into a racially ambiguous woman. It’s a no from me, dawg.
— E-Money (@imanimlewis) August 10, 2018
Author and cartoonist C. Spike Trotman provided a black hair “cheat sheet” with the statement, “black hair is complicated, political, and not something one thread on Twitter can explain.”
As you can see in the picture to the right, Tiana’s nose does appear more narrow. She is sipping a drink through a straw, so her lips may not look completely accurate. But her hair, which is normally black, is all of a sudden brown, once again, giving her a more racially ambiguous appearance.
As Trotman pointed out, if Tiana was actually getting ready to go to bed, she would have her hair in a bonnet or sleeping cap.
But as another Twitter user pointed out, the majority of animators on this picture are white males:
*Looks at Tiana’s hair in the movie*
*Looks at this*
…Yeah, makes a lot of sense. https://t.co/T1Zc3ODPXv
— Iron Spike (@Iron_Spike) August 14, 2018
Perhaps it’s not too late for Disney to tweak Tiana’s appearance in ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’. But if it is, maybe animators, both Disney and otherwise, will make a note for future projects.
‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ opens in theaters on November 21.