“Frozen” took America by storm. It is the highest grossing animated film of all time; Coming in at 1.6 billion dollars in revenue. Children all over the world ate the film up like candy. It was all the things we expect from a Disney princess animation: it was magical, well-written, fun, and it left out African Americans. When I saw “Frozen”, I couldn’t help but think “Where are all the black people.” African American characters only, barely, appeared in the background, hidden in crowds of people. But, it isn’t the lack of black faces in the film that tells us something about Disney’s racist agenda. It is the presence of black people in specific, racially driven roles that help us think about the role that Disney feels they play in real life.
A good place to look at this would be “The Princess and the Frog”, which is Disney’s first, and only, attempt of including an African American heroine in their princess franchise. The movie is set in 1912 Louisiana, a few decades after the Civil War. The story doesn’t start until our heroine, Tiana, gets a gig catering an event held by her mother’s former employer, Eli, who is white. In return for her services, he agrees to pay Tiana enough money to buy a sugar mill to open her dream restaurant. The idea that an African American woman in 1912 becomes able to open her own business through the donation of a white man is a fantasy itself. But, due to a course of events including voodoo, a risky gamble, and a kiss, Tiana becomes a frog and stays in her frog form for a majority of the film. What the most fantastical about the film is that Tiana’s best friend is Eli’s entitled daughter, Charlotte. Charlotte is the total opposite of Tiana in every way. She grew up knowing that Tiana was below her; and even through all their degrees of separation, Tiana and Charlotte remain close. In fact, she is Tiana’s only human friend. The only other friends Tiana has are the animals in the bayou. Disney chose only the things they liked about black culture to include in the film: their history of servitude, southern jargon, and jazz but glossed over real racial issues that existed during that time. Then, they slapped on dark skin on a character with mainly European features, turned her into a frog, and called it a magical story. Ironically, the only real magic used in the story is dark magic, voodoo.
With all that in mind, it is still important to think about the main differences between “Frozen”and “The Princess and the Frog”. Why did the latter gross only a fraction of the revenue than the former? The answer could be that Tiana isn’t really a Disney princess. Yes, by law, because of her marriage to Prince Naveen, she is legally a princess. But, her happy ending, which every Disney princess is entitled to, included a new husband and her going back home to her restaurant that she outright purchased in the first place. Her curse was not broken by love, or magical trolls, but by a legal ceremony. Tiana had to work for her “happy ending”, she did not come across it by luck. In the end, there is no grand palace to call home, her royal title means almost nothing, and all she has secured for herself is a place she has to work at for the rest of her life. She did not end up in a magical land, an enchanted forest, or any of the places we usually see princess films take place, but back in segregated America. All I can see is Disney’s racially driven goal, to keep young black girls feeling as though they should be content in their lives with a job and a husband. To them, there are no real magical possibilities for African Americans. Although, many believe that The Princess and the Frog was a major stride for the Disney princess franchise, it is simply a frog dressed in gowns.