The blockbuster season of holiday movies takes a giant leap forward with this weekend’s release of The Princess and the Frog, an animated Disney retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm tale. The hand-drawn, New Orleans-set Creole adventure marks not only the return of the filmmakers behind Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, but a major step forward for the 86-year-old media conglomerate, the single largest entertainment entity in the world: It marks the first time a woman of colour will appear as a princess in a Disney film.
“As a kid, you’re always wondering if you’ll see something that looks like your mommy,” says Anika Noni Rose, the 37-year-old Tony-winner charged with catching the Mickey Mouse company up with the times. “I remember seeing Snow White and saying to my mother, ‘Will there ever be a Chocolate Brown?’ She said, ‘Probably, why not?’ I just never thought the first black princess would be me.”
To win the role of Princess Tiana, a girl in the French Quarter who dreams of opening a restaurant, the actress from Bloomfield, Conn., was rumoured to have beaten out the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Tyra Banks and Alicia Keys. Other characters are voiced by John Goodman, Terrence Howard and Oprah Winfrey, and it’s pretty esteemed company. But Rose says she was never nervous. After all, playwright Tony Kushner was the first person to give her a break.
“I think there being a first black princess is going to be amazing for people of all backgrounds,” she says.