Disney film breaks color barrier with black princess

December 11, 2009 (CICERO, Ill.) Disney's The Princess and the Frog is the first animated movie to feature an African-American princess.

Many believe it's an important film, especially for young African-American girls. One theater in west suburban Cicero saw a steady stream of fans Friday who were eager to see the movie.

Some lucky girls also were excited about being a princess for a day.

"I'm excited about being a princess and having a party. I'm so excited," said Keshana Lackey.

But it's mothers of black girls like Nikki Garrett who remember a childhood without a positive African-American female image like Princess Tiana, featured in the new film.

"Now, there's a princess here [that] they can actually look up to her. I can look up to her, too, because I think she's pretty," Garrett said.

The girls' day as royalty is the result of a partnership between Fifth Third Bank and community group called Breakthrough Urban Ministries. It came about after the girls wrote essays about how to use hard work to achieve their dreams.

Mixed in with mini-makeovers and the promise of pizza, the girls will get to see the animated film which experts say is good for the self-esteem of young African-American girls.

"It's a story about a young girl who realizes her dreams. She plans. She's thoughtful and strategic. You can't get any better than that," said Dr. Carl Bell, a UIC professor of psychiatry and public health.

Inspired by the frog and princess fairy tale, in the new version, Tiana's adventure begins after she kisses a frog who turns out to be a handsome prince from a faraway land.

While most love the movie's message, some critics say Tiana spends too much time as a frog, and her prince clearly isn't African-American.

However, while appearing on ABC's The View, the movie's star responded.

"I'm not speaking specifically of Disney. I am speaking of animation, that we're evil and scary and bad. And why wouldn't they show a black male? But I have to say that Tianna's daddy is beautiful and wonderful and so supportive. The black man is not missing from this film," said actress Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Princess Tiana.

And most agree that, now that a black princess is on the screen, some dreams have come true.

"Growing up, we didn't have all these things, and this program is really good for my daughter," mother Erica Watts.

Note: Disney is the parent company of ABC7 Chicago.

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