6.Disney’s First Black Princess: Tiana


Meet the Disney Princesses:

Walt Disney studios have made the biggest impact on media in the world. From theme parks, to movies, to owning ESPN, to creating dreams for children of all ages, Disney has impacted society on what they call entertainment. Walt Disney studios had only created eight Disney princesses till 2009 where Tiana became the ninth Disney princess. The first Disney princess is Snow White, she first appeared in 1937 in the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.Snow White is known as “the fairest of them all”, she is complimented on her light skin, and ruby red lips. The second Disney princess is Cinderella, she appeared in the film Cinderella in 1950. She is also portrayed with lovely blonde hair, blue eyes, and very fair skin. The third Disney princess is Aurora, she appeared in the film Sleeping Beauty in 1959. She has similar facial features as Snow White, and Cinderella, with golden blonde hair, and light perfect skin. The fourth Disney princess did not appear till 1989, in The Little Mermaid. Ariel is a mermaid who dreams of being human, she has blue eyes, and red hair. The fifth Disney princess is Belle,  from Beauty and the Beast which came out in 1991.She is also fair skin, with brown curls, and brown eyes. These five princesses from 1939-1991 reflect beauty as being a white women, with fair skin. The Tragic Mulatto stereotype is an obvious theme throughout Disney princesses, and this stereotype isn’t broken till 1992 withe the sixth Disney princess Jasmine. She is the first Middle Eastern princess for Disney, and her movie Aladdin was the first Disney princess film not to tie the title with the princess. The seventh Disney princess is Pocahontas, Pocahontas came out in 1995, she is from a Native American tribe, and her story revolves around British settlers coming to America. The eighth Disney princess is Mulan. Mulan came out in 1998, she is the first Chinese princess for Disney. Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan were the very first non-white Disney princesses, their stories were not told till the 1990s. However their skin tones were still portrayed as “light” even though they were supposed to be of color, they were portrayed much like the first few Disney princesses. It took almost a decade for Disney to create a new princess, and this princess was African American. Tiana is the first black princess, she appeared in 2009 in The Princess and the Frog.

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Tiana: the First Black Princess:

Tiana’s story is based off the the short tale, “The Frog Prince.” Disney took “The Frog Prince”, and transformed it into an animated film featuring a young black women in New Orleans. Neely Tucker author for the Washington Post stated the following, “Through these movies and a line of toys, dresses and figurines, the Disney princesses have become global, doe-eyed icons of childhood. Sleeping Beauty awakened by a kiss, Cinderella’s clock striking midnight, Belle waltzing in the Beast’s castle, Ariel with Prince Eric in the moonlit lagoon — these have become heroines whom parents the world over feel safe to let their young girls idolize and mimic. And while Disney has brought us nonwhite princesses before (see “Mulan,” “Pocahontas”), Tiana is a first.” Princess Tiana became a new symbol for feminine beauty, “a culture-changing standard”. Neely Tucker quotes different historians and their take on Princess and The Frog each had positive attitudes towards Disney’s new release.

“If this figure takes off, you’re looking at 30 or 40 years of repetition and resonance,” says Tricia Rose, a Brown University professor who teaches both popular culture and African American studies, citing the enduring popularity of Disney princesses at the company’s theme parks, on Web sites and in videos.

“It’s a very big deal,” says Leonard Maltin, the film historian, critic and author of “Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons.”

“She’s the first modern American [Disney] princess, and that she’s black sends a huge message,” says Cori Murray, entertainment director for Essence magazine.

“Our first goal is to make a great motion picture,” says John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, who is overseeing the project. “But we have also worked very closely with a lot of leaders in the African American community, all across the nation, to make sure we’re doing something African American families will be proud of. It’s very important for us to do it right. We’ve been very careful and cognizant about what we’re doing.”

The creators wanted to make Tiana black, and a strong Disney heroine, however challenges remained in not playing into black stereotypes. For example picking the name of Tiana became difficult, some wanted to name her Madeline, and Maddy for short however this name was linked to a “slave name” and Disney didn’t want racial stereotypes connected to their film. Tiana also represents someone who has a dream for a career, and not just to marry a handsome prince. Which was unusual for Disney princesses. For example Snow White dreams that, “someday her prince will come”, Cinderella links happiness to being in love, and Ariel trades her voice to be with a man she thinks she loves. Tiana’s character was drastically different then previous princesses. Tiana represents a new sort of beauty, no longer is the pale face pretty, but Disney animation artists drew her with a “darker hue” and fuller lips. The artists didn’t try to hide that she was African American, but emphasized her beautiful facial features. Tiana being the first black Disney Princess, reflects a change in society. A society ready to move forward and leave previous ideas about race behind. This year Disney created a new princess name Moana who is a Pacific Islander. As time goes on media adapts to social changes, however these social changes sometimes take years. The Cosby Show, Oprah (actually worked on the film as a voice actress and consultant), and Princess and the Frog, emerged almost 100 years after slavery ended. Society is changing and adapting to new ideas but it’s taking longer then intended.

Moana 2016

“The implied message of Tiana, that black American girls can be as elegant as Snow White herself, is a milestone in the national imagery, according to a range of scholars and cultural historians.” Neely Tucker 

Read More HERE





List of all Disney Princesses





7 thoughts on “6.Disney’s First Black Princess: Tiana

  1. I love that Disney has started becoming more diverse. I just think about the message they send to young girls everywhere. Most girls grow up watching Disney princess movies and wanting to be just like them. Disney has in essence offered that same experience to young African American girls, and now young Polynesian girls as well. I hope we continue to see more of this in future films!


  2. While I love Tiana and what she stands for, I think how she was portrayed is still a little problematic. For instance, while she had darker skin and fuller lips, the rest of her features fell in line with white beauty standards (smooth hair and a small framed body are probably the most significant features that are white influenced). To be fair, most Disney princesses are more attractive than the average woman because of the heavy emphasis on beauty standards in animation, but in Tiana’s case, the beauty standards placed upon her are white. For little girls who look at Tiana, they might misconstrue how Disney portrayed Black women as the ideal or reality–when in fact, it isn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I did not know that the creators had a hard time deciding on Tiana’s name. That is so important that they stayed away from racial stereotypes. It is great that society is gradually changing to include representation’s of colored individuals in media, and portraying them as beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tiana is actually my favorite Disney Princess (and I have the pictures from Disneyland to prove it). I am so impressed that Disney made a real effort to make Tiana black, and not hide her race. It makes a big impact when the effort is put in to create something racial families can be proud of. I loved the character of Tiana, showing that no matter how hard you gotta work, you can achieve your dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. While it is commendable that Disney finally came out with a black princess, it’s important to note (and even criticize) how long it took Disney to feature their first black princess. Media has a large affect on public attitudes, so it is critical that all groups and populations are represented, and represented well.


  6. It is still disturbing to me that only seven years ago Disney released Princess and the Frog, and Tiana is now an after thought. I just went to purchase a birthday card for a little girl I knew on my mission in Houston, and Tiana was nowhere to be found. There are no cards with Mulan, Pocahontas, or Tiana on them (at least that I could find). Sort of interesting. Not only that, but I wonder if the way Disney portrayed Tiana fed into longstanding stereotypes – if all the white women were only concerned about falling in love and marrying a handsome prince (almost as if they are the iconic southern elite mistresses) and Tiana is working at the store, dreaming of owning a restaurant for the rest of her life, what does this tell us? It is certainly progressive, and positive in many ways, but I wonder if there are some holes if we start to deconstruct the film.


  7. The fact that Disney went from specifically praising “Snow White’s” snow white skin to having a black princess shows how far they came in their racial views in 50 years. It’s also pretty reflective of social views in general, because it took Americans so long to accept anybody who wasn’t white (although it’s still a bit behind the times).


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