The Actress Who Voices Princess Tiana Asked Disney to Address Whitewashing Complaints
From what it appeared, Princess Tiana, the star of The Princess and the Frog and Disney’s first black princess, had been animated to have more Eurocentric features, much different than she’d originally looked in the 2009 film. Her skin and hair seemed lighter and her nose had been noticeably slimmed down—all of which prompted cries of whitewashing on social media.
The backlash continued to mount until last week when The Wall Street Journal reported that Disney had made the decision to reanimate Tiana’s CGI model, after meeting with Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Princess Tiana, and black advocacy group Color of Change.
“Disney’s decision to restore Princess Tiana’s image to that of an unapologetically Black princess with full lips, dark skin and dark hair in Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 is a victory for Color Of Change members, Black children and their parents, and Black audiences who want to see the variety of shades, shapes and sizes of Black characters accurately represented in the arts,” the advocacy group released in a statement, per WSJ.
On Monday, Rose took to Instagram to share more about the conversation she’d had with Disney’s animators regarding Tiana’s appearance. In her statement, she revealed she was “surprised” by the changes that had been made to Tiana, but “glad” to see support from those outraged by the tweaks.
“My team and I immediately put in a call to the studio to talk about the visual changes, and three weeks ago I had a meeting in person with the Wreck It Ralph team, my original animator Mark Henn, and others,” she wrote. “They explained how CGI animation did different things to the characters’ color tones in different light compared to hand drawn original characters, and I was able to express how important it is to the little girls (and let’s face it, grown women) who felt represented by her that her skin tone stay as rich as it had been, and that her nose continue to be the little round nose that Mark so beautifully rendered in the movie; the same nose on my very own face and on many other little brown faces around the world, that we so rarely get to see represented in fantasy.”
When The Princess and the Frog was in production, Rose recalled, she’d specifically requested that Henn give Tiana “a round nose, full lips, and that she be left handed.” In the recent meeting, she wrote that he’d explained to her how the animators were working to restore those important qualities of Tiana’s in her CGI rendering. “It was important to me to hear what Disney had to say, and to have an open dialogue about legacy and representation,” she wrote. “I also appreciate that this far into the process Disney had enough care and respect for all who love Princess Tiana and her legacy to spend the time and money to make the adjustments necessary. In doing so, they recognize that her legacy is also their legacy; two things I’m very proud to be a part of.”
Glamour has reached out to Disney for comment and will update this story upon response.
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