Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Voice Of Disney's New Black Princess

By now (via Wonderland or Fuse) you've probably heard about the new animated movie coming from Disney in 2009 featuring Maddy, an African-American princess. I'm curious to see how they cast the film, and especially how they decide to voice this character. Will she sound Southern since the setting is New Orleans? Will she have an "articulate" voice? (If you're wondering why I put the word in quotes, read this wonderful article by Lynette Clemson in the February 4, 2007 issue of the New York Times called The Racial Politics of Speaking Well.)

Accents in animated films have always fascinated me. In Disney's Lion King, for example, while the child actor who portrayed Nala (Niketa Calame) and the singing voice of Simba (Jason Weaver) had African-American voices, the speaking Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) and the adult versions were white (Matthew Broderick and Moira Kelly, respectively). Anyone else think it strange that a black lioness grows up to be white, and that when the cub sings he switches races?


mrspilkington said...

ugh -- that drove me crazy in the lion king. i am very curious about the upcoming film. i have a 3-year old daughter who is starting to notice the proliferation of disney princess paraphernalia, so on one hand i'm thinking it could be a good thing, visually, at least. but, i'm very worried about the portrayal of "new orleans" flavor -- accents, singing, and all.

great site, great blog, great books!

Mitali Perkins said...

Yes, I see it as progress, too. Thanks for stopping by, Mrs. P.!

Evorgleb said...

Yeh I just blogged about this over at Highbrid Nation, check it out if you get a chance. Anyway, it really is about time Disney gave little girls a black princess to look up to. Its long overdue. I also think its great that the film will take place in New Orleans. I'll definately have to take my neice to the Frog Princess.

TadMack said...

That whole Lion King thing is quite a good point! I, too, am interested to see how an African American Disnified Person (AADP, hee hee!) speaks. Thanks much for the article link.

Everyone has been so very positive about the Disney thing that I've tried to temper my doubts... I think it's going to be the usual Chock Full' O Stereotypes fare that Disney usually serves up, but I am trying to wait and see... I don't mean to be negative, but it seems that people are so eager to see "themselves" portrayed Disnified that they're willing to shrug off most things. I daresay our "daughters" could do better, and there's a wealth of other stuff out there that doesn't indulge in minimizing people through stereotypes.

Mitali Perkins said...

Tadmack, I'm so glad you're out here in cyber-kid-space! I added you to my blogroll, BTW. Much overdue.

Anonymous said...

As a black woman I must say that I am very disappointed with and deeply offended by Disney’s new “black” princess. The quotation marks because she does not look “black.” Since when are slightly cocoa women with ideal caucasian features “black?” Racist Disney does not want to acknowledge the true ethnic appearance of a black woman. Where are her big, thick lips and wooly hair? Why is she dressed all up like some kind of rich white girl? How come her true ethnic background is not acknowledged? Where is her leopard-print mini-dress and gaudy jewelry? Hell, why isn’t she a true, lovely African princess wearing a grass skirt, garish facepaint and a big plate in her lip? How come she does not live in a mud hut and eat bugs? And her man!!?? Where is his black skin? What is Disney trying to tell my young daughters? That a black man isn’t who she should be with? Why is he WHITE!? I WILL NOT allow my daughters to see this film.