With just a few days to go before Disney’s classically animated “The Princess and the Frog” opens, it seems like every little girl in Atlanta is counting down to showtime.
How do I know? Because dozens of parents told me, dead-panning that the countdown has been running since their little one saw the TV commercials/movie previews/Halloween costume/Tiana doll.
For those families, the moment had finally come at an early screening at Atlantic Station this weekend. (Check out these photos from the screening celebration here.) We’re not allowed to publish reviews of the film for a few more days, but I can say that the theater full of little girls, drunk on cupcake and glitter, were squealing at the end. As one mom put it, only now does she feel comfortable with Disney.
The Disney-fied version of 1920s New Orleans gets a lot of screen time, as does a romantic firefly, a musically gifted alligator and a wicked man who knows all the wrong things about voodoo. Nobody, though, gets more love than Tiana, a waitress mistaken for a princess with dreams that manage to suit both. She’s Disney’s first black princess — far too long in coming, but filling the roles here of princess and hero. Race is never explicitly addressed in the film, but the disparity between white and black New Orleans is sometimes clear, like when Tiana and her mother make a long journey home from the luxurious mansions where Eudora works to the village of shotgun homes where they live.
Tiana is a different kind of princess for everybody, though. I grew up post-Cinderella, but too early for Disney Princesses to be a term we capitalized. Ariel of “The Little Mermaid” was the animation standard. (I was extremely upset as a first grader to learn that “mermaid” wasn’t an actual career path outside of Florida.) I love her, but she didn’t do much but sing and rebel by brushing her hair with a fork.
Tiana rebels a little, like Ariel; she’s compassionate and creative, like Belle; she’s unimpressed by pretentious dudes, like Jasmine. But Tiana works. She holds down two or three jobs and keeps her eye on the prize — a restaurant of her own — and not because a wicked step-mother forced her into it. (In fact, this is the rare Disney film where the lead character’s childhood includes a stable, two-parent household.)
Just a few more days, parents. Just a few more days…
Will you go see “The Princess and the Frog?” What do you hope to see in the new film? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!
Want to go? “The Princess and the Frog” opens in theaters in Atlanta on Dec. 11. Click here to find a theater near you.
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