Disney Unveils Its First Black Princess

Anika Noni Rose plays Tiana, a royal entrepreneur

Anika Noni Rose

Tony award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose will give voice to Princess Tiana in Disney's The Princess and the Frog. (Source: Disney)

Playing princess is something shared by little girls around the world. But until recently, the most recognizable princesses worldwide featured in the Disney Co. franchise did not include one that modeled the skin, hair, and facial features associated with women of African descent.

Princess Tiana, the heroine of Disney’s new movie The Princess and the Frog, changed that when she made her debut Monday at this year’s American International Toy Fair in New York. Starting in Fall 2009, the company will sell dolls, t-shirts, backpacks, and other products that feature the likeness of Princess Tiana, Disney’s first American princess who also happens to be its first black princess. The movie will air in theaters nationwide during this year’s holiday season.

“We did a lot of work internally to make sure that the product that we were developing would speak to a really broad range of moms,” says Kathy Franklin, the vice president of global studio franchise animation and Disney consumer products. “We don’t see Princess Tiana product as being just for African American girls at all. But we want little girls who have not seen Disney Princesses who look like them to see Princess Tiana and be thrilled that they have a character in our franchise who speaks to them and how they see themselves as a princess.”

Tony award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose will give voice to Princess Tiana. Talk show host and business mogul Oprah Winfrey will play the voice of Eudora, and Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard also voices a character in the movie.

Noni Rose says she was “thrilled” to give life to the first black Disney princess. “It has been a lifelong dream of mine to voice a Disney character and to have it be this one could not be more exciting,” she added.

The story is set in 1920s New Orleans. To prepare for the role, Noni Rose says she “listened to a lot of music of the era, watched documentaries, and read up on New Orleans at that time.”

Franklin describes Tiana as a smart, aspiring entrepreneur. “Her dream is not to marry a prince. Her dream is to open a restaurant. It is a dream that she has had from the beginning,” Franklin says.

Princess Tiana dolls will be introduced in several sizes and at several price points, which will be determined by the retailers. The dolls will include a standard collector fashion doll equivalent in scale to a Barbie doll, a Tiana toddler doll, a doll that holds a talking frog, and a doll set with Tiana and Prince Naveen, her tadpole-hopping love interest post-transformation.

This year the Disney princess franchise, which accrues $4 billion in yearly retail sales worldwide, will celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Tiana will be the ninth character, the fourth princess of color, and

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  • Alfred Edmond Jr.

    All together now: It’s about time. Now we just have to hold our breath and pray that Disney presents an authentic image for all little girls (especially the brown ones) to admire and love. Does anyone know anything else about this project? Has anyone seen previews?

  • http://www.globalrenaissance.us Gary

    Great!

    Finally!

  • Karima

    It’s seems the appointment of Obama is opening doors everywhere.

  • Jackee

    Now I can purchase princess products with pictures on them for my daughter. It is about time. Barbie and the rest of the toys need to catch on. This is why The Bratz is out selling Barbie, simply because the make and sell African American dolls in a few different shades and they even have hispanic dolls. Everything is not about just white!!!!

  • http://www.blackdollcollecting.com Debbie Garett

    @Alfred Edmond Jr.,

    A link to an image of the doll, Princess Tiana, can be accessed at the following URL.

    http://i133.photobucket.com/albums/q57/blackdollezine/tiana.jpg

  • RachelK

    Hey, while I love the setting for this story, I can’t help but wonder if any segregation laws forbid this from ever occuring. This is wonderful that little girls of African descent will finally have a model true to their race and toy products to buy, but is this the best possible way to announce a new princess? In the wrong era?

  • http://myspace.com/sty_n Cherrionne

    I’m sorry, what year is this!!! We have to wait until 2009 to be told by WHITE AMERICA that we are now offically princesses. I don’t know if I’m ahead of the world but my daughters have always been princesses, and I didn’t need your permission to ask if black girls {oops African Americans} could be a princess. You people kill me in thinking it’s okay to do something when you think it’s permissable.We have been trying to get everybodys approval but our own KEEP YOUR BLACK {OOPS AFRICAN AMERICAN} ass doll to yourself. I tell my daughters, grandaughters, nieces, cousins, even sisters and strangers that they are Queens and Princesses. When did we need Disneys approval. Madam CJ Walker spent most of her years helping out what has been destroyed by other races as far as looks. Pleeeeze tell that princes mess to someone who needs to hear it constantly.Little White Girls.

  • Lou

    Jackee just wanted you to know that Mattel has been making African American Barbies for years now and Hispanic Barbies also. Way before the Bratz dolls. As of Christmas 2008 Barbie was still #1 on the list for girls of all colors. I myself own several Black barbies.

  • Edwina

    I was excited to see The Princess and the Frog trailer last year when I bought a Disney movie for my 2 girls (2 & 5). I promised them that “Lord willing” I will take them to the theater to support the movie. I am one mother who refuses to buy my daughters any caucasion dolls. I have a young neice (6) who questioned her beauty because of the stigma portrayed on tv, magazines, toys and how my inlaw complains about the “thickness” of her hair. Whether barbie, american girl dolls, etc. I want my daughters to see that you can be who you are, embrace who you are and love who you are; support products and people that reflect who you are while being beautiful and proud doing so… Great Job Disney!

  • http://www.monkeyshine.co.uk nursery furniture

    I’ve never given this a try, but I think it’s about time I do.

  • soulshadow55

    I think it’s a great idea that some black person should have thought up first. Why are we consistantly asking other groups to do for us what we should be doing for ourselves?

    It’s just another case of someone else making money off of us when one of us could have created this, marketed it and made a fortune and kept that money in the black community.

    We have begged Disney for years to create a black doll when we should have just told them to go to hell and created one ourselves. I won’t be buying one for my grand daughter.

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  • N

    and her prince is white!!!!! says alot!

    • http://gmail.com ejeezy22

      has not white his more of a browm skinned.
      but he is brizilian

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