Several little birdies have told me that I’ve been focusing too much on Disney’s upcoming 2010 release, “Rapunzel.” 2010 is two years away! What about the nearer, more *controversial* 2009 release of “The Princess and the Frog?”

So, I present you with: the news round-up for the Princess and the Frog. I’ve got it all! I’ve got the teaser trailer, I’ve got *all* of the pictures, I’ve got the gossip, the controversy, and the cast list. Click below to see it all!

Let’s start with the cast list:

Tiana (heroine!) – Anika Noni Rose
Eudora (her mother) – Oprah Winfrey
Charlotte La Bouff (token mean gal) – Jennifer Cody
Big Daddy La Bouff (Charlotte’s dad) – John Goodman
Dr. Facilier (villain) – Keith David
Mama Odie (fairy godmother) – Jennifer Lewis
Ray (Cajun firefly) – Jim Cummings
Louis (jazz singing alligator) – Michael-Leon Woody
Prince Naveen – Bruno Campos
Lawrence (Naveen’s valet) – Peter Bartlett

To start off this post, here’s the official teaser trailer for Disney’s 2009 release of “The Princess and the Frog.”

And here’s all of the concept art that has been released by Disney so far. It’s all copyrighted under Disney. The only one that is just a “rumored” pic is the one with the crocodile. They are presented as thumbnails. Just click on them to get a bigger image.

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Now then! Being an intelligent reader, you will think to yourself: “Hmmm. I seem to remember seeing some other concept art for the movie. Whatever happened to that art?”

Glad you asked, intelligent reader…glad you asked. Before answering, I will present you with a summary of the film’s plot, as it now stands.

As far as we know, our heroine is a 19 year old (black) girl named Tiana, who lives with her mother Eudora. She has some sort of fairy godmother known as Mama Odie (who may or may not [its a rumor] be a voodoo practitioner.) Tiana’s archenemy is (white) Charlotte La Beouf, a southern diva. The film’s (black) villain is Dr. Facilier, a voodoo doctor and palm reader. The (middle eastern) Prince is named Naveen. The film is set in New Orleans, at the height of the Jazz Age.

“Hey! I have problems with this,” says Lit.Scribbles’ intelligent reader. “Why is the villain a voodoo practitioner? Doesn’t that demonize something that many people feel to be an integral part of their culture?”

Just wait until you see the original version.

In the film’s original script, Tiana was named Maddy. She was a white girl’s (presumably Charlotte’s) chambermaid. The Prince was named Harry, and was a white prince. He was portrayed as rescuing Maddy from her situation. Also, Maddy/Tiana had a very different look back then:

Maddy, Tiana's previous incarnation

Maddy, Tiana's previous incarnation

So yeah. Disney’s original story was problematic at best. Their heroine’s name, for one. ‘Maddy’ calls up memories of the Old South and slavery. Not the best choice of name. Also putting her in such a clearly subservient position was not a smart move either. Making the prince white in and of itself was not bad, but by putting Maddy in an economically subservient situation, Disney made the Prince appear to condescend towards her. Also – just look at the way Maddy dresses v. the way Tiana dresses. We will never know how the original movie (called ‘The Frog Princess’) might have turned out, but it certainly didn’t look very…shall we say…progressive.

Not good. Controversy erupted. Under pressure, Disney changed the whole operation to the Tiana plot sequence. They did not, however, remove the voodoo doctor villain from the picture – something which I have a bit of a problem with. Making a religious figure into a bad dude is usually…well, not the best move. But I will withhold judgment until the movie comes out.

So, what do I think of the movie so far? Well, from the trailer, I can say that the “love sick Cajun firefly” (as he is called on the Disney specs site for the film) is going to be pretty stereotypical, just like his voice. Tiana, on the other hand, has at least the potential to be a wonderful heroine. And of course, as the movie marks Disney’s return to hand-drawn animation, the film promises to be visually glorious.

Disney has run into racial issues before. Remember Aladdin? In the sequel to Aladdin, “The Return of Jaffar,” there was a little ditty that said: “I come from a land, from a faraway place, where the shieks and the camels roam. Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face….its barbaric, but hey, its home.”

Yeah. That didn’t make many Middle Easterners and/or Muslims very happy. Neither has much of Disney’s history. Consider, for example, that forgotten Disney not-so-classic The Song of the South. I haven’t seen it, and no wonder…the film has such racist overtones that Disney has never even released the whole thing in the US. So I can’t exactly give an expert opinion on the film, but I can say this: this is not the first time that Disney has been a bit careless in its storyline.

Still, I’m excited for “The Princess and the Frog.” It’s based off of a Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale (the first one, actually, that appears in the published editions [though not the first one that they collected by any means]). The animation looks spectacular. And because the film is set in New Orleans, I’m sure that the music will be wonderful, too. Besides, Anika Noni Rose is voicing Tiana. And I love her. I mean, she was the one bright light in that otherwise disaster of a TV fiasco, “The Starter Wife.” Blech.

But really, folks, I’ll lay all my cards on the table. I’m more excited for Rapunzel, as you can probably guess if you’ve been reading the blog lately. I like the original fairy tell better than I ever liked “The Frog Prince.”

Also, I just want hair like that.

…Though I might be prevailed upon to settle for Tiana’s dress.

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