Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


There will also be a singing crocadile
July 22, 2008 5:46 PM   Subscribe

In January of 2004, Disney shut down their Florida animation studio, part of their decision to move away from 2D, or cell-shaded, animation for good. Two years later, as part of the new deal with Pixar, John Lasseter and Ed Catmull were brought in as heads of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, and promptly declared that 2-D Animation would thrive again on their watch. For their first new project, the team wanted to show support for the still-struggling New Orleans, and simultaneously introduce Disney's first Black Princess in "The Frog Princess" (Or The Princess and the Frog, as it is now known), a fairy tale set in 1920's Jazz-era Louisiana, with Randy Newman providing a period-specific score. Much response to the project has been quite positive, but as with all things, the devil is in the details.
posted by Navelgazer (111 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
jes' to be sociable ah tek yo word.
posted by mds35 at 6:08 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmm, interesting post. Looks like they have already made some changes in the story in response to criticisms, but it seems weird to me that they won't give her a black love interest. A few of the links say he was originally a white man, which didn't fly, but then he was changed into . . . a middle-eastern man?

Obviously a lot of thought and effort is going into the particulars of this movie, but what the hell? Disney wants to be proud of their black princess, but they won't give her a black leading man?
posted by arcanecrowbar at 6:09 PM on July 22, 2008


Could be worse.
posted by redhanrahan at 6:11 PM on July 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


Thomas Newman + Peter Gabriel + Pixar = Good! Memorable! Oscarworthy!

Randy Newman + Disney = Saccharine! Trite! Oscar winner. :-/
posted by markkraft at 6:12 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


With Lasseter and Catmull in charge, I'm confident that this will be good. They did not get where they are by making bad films.
posted by mullingitover at 6:13 PM on July 22, 2008


A singing crocodile sounds cool.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 6:17 PM on July 22, 2008


arcanecrowbar - without knowing plot details, I'm kind of flying blind here, but given what we know of the original story, here's what I'm guessing they were trying for:

Maddy has to work her ass off for this spoilt rich debutante Charlotte. Some permutation of the "shooting the arrows" bit occurs and the foreign prince finds himself searching for his determined bride in New Orleans. Charlotte knows that the "chosen one" is Maddy, but enlists the villainous Voodoo priest to change her into a frog in order to land the prince for herself. The Voodoo priestess fairy godmother comes along to help out Maddy, and the Prince sees her through the trials that his father commands. As a frog, she is able to ace the trials, not only having the Fairy Godmother's help, but also having been brought up under harsh conditions which allow her to do work the coddled Charlotte has never dreamt of. As the Prince is forced to choose the frog over the debutante, Disney logic lifts the spell, revealing her once again as the human Maddy, whom the prince immediately falls for.

It sounds like this has been changed somewhat, and while I'd love to see the Prince be black as well (and even better, voiced by Prince!) this storyline would probably be most powerful if it makes sense that the foreign prince was "expecting" a bride who looked like Charlotte and had her stature, and then realized at the end how much more beautiful, in every way, Maddy is.

Just my guesses, but I have full faith in Lasseter's instincts as well.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:18 PM on July 22, 2008


Here's a list of upcoming Disney and Pixar movies through 2012.
posted by euphorb at 6:22 PM on July 22, 2008


Holy crap, this is a good post.
posted by not_on_display at 6:23 PM on July 22, 2008


Nothing says 1920's Louisiana jazz like Randy Newman.
posted by Eideteker at 6:24 PM on July 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


Part of me recoils at the idea of using FPPs that promote anything Disney, with the exception of this.
posted by markkraft at 6:26 PM on July 22, 2008


As a parent, I'm thrilled to have a mainstream movie where the heroine isn't white. That it involves an interracial relationship is a huge bonus; we live in the Bay Area, I'm always happy when art reflects our reality.

But I do hate Randy Newman with the heat of a thousand suns and I hope his head falls off.
posted by padraigin at 6:29 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like Randy Newman's stuff. Admittedly, I prefer it when his stuff is caustic and raunchy and bawdy and uncensored. His stuff with Disney is trite and saccharine cuz they won't let him out of the shackles.

The more recent Disney stuff hasn't interested me much. Aladdin had its moments, but Mulan? Lion King? Hercules? Whatever. In fact, Disney pretty much lost me with their rendition of Beauty and the Beast. Whereas, Pixar has repeatedly proven to raise the animation bar, with works like Monsters Inc, Toy Story 2, Cars, and A Bug's Life, all of which featured Newman behind the music.

If Randy Newman's taking The Frog Princess to 1920s New Orleans? Color me cautiously optimistic on this one.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:31 PM on July 22, 2008


Regarding this: They're making a sequel to Cars, but not to The Incredibles or Finding Nemo? WTF?? I HATED CARS!
posted by ZachsMind at 6:35 PM on July 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


...I hated Toy Story too and they're making a THIRD installment of that thing? Sheesh!
posted by ZachsMind at 6:36 PM on July 22, 2008


All right, let me tell you a true story about how awesome Pixar is.

Whoops. Sorry. It's just reflex and this point.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:37 PM on July 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


...okay. So. i didn't HATE them per se. I adored The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. I kinda liked the first Toy Story but didn't enjoy the sequel. I ..didn't even go see Cars. IT'S CARS! Why would I want to watch two hours of anthropomorphized automobiles?

...I liked the music. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 6:38 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


And guess what... looks like John Goodman is along for the ride again too. Who wants to bet they'll have another crappy Newman/Goodman duet?!

When will the world realize that Goodman's a crappy actor who makes a living off of impersonating Phil Harris?!
posted by markkraft at 6:38 PM on July 22, 2008


Eideteker: "Nothing says 1920's Louisiana jazz like Randy Newman."

Randy Newman grew up in New Orleans.
posted by octothorpe at 6:39 PM on July 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


I really should've linked to this in the FPP, but for those who didn't follow the link in the Afrobella article, here's the (absolutely fascinating) piece by Disney's "Lone Negro," Floyd Norman.

Also, MeFi spellcheck doesn't think "should've" is a word. WTF?
posted by Navelgazer at 6:47 PM on July 22, 2008


octothorpe, Randy Newman was the son of Alfred Newman, the Hollywood film composer. He's a movie colony brat. The guy is the world's biggest minstrel, with his phony baloney Negro accented singing voice. Everything he touches turns to crap. (By the way, this is the best post and greatest thread for a long time.) My compliments to the gentleman above who remarked: I do hate Randy Newman with the heat of a thousand suns and I hope his head falls off.
posted by Faze at 6:50 PM on July 22, 2008


He's a movie colony brat, but actually did live in New Orleans as a boy, and summered there until he was 11.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:58 PM on July 22, 2008


The fact is, Pixar can take inferior talent like John Goodman and Jerry Seinfeld and make them successful. But that doesn't mean that John Goodman is a good singer, or that a child-version of Jerry Seinfeld is particularly funny.

I mean, take Disney/Pixar away from John Goodman nowadays and you'd be left with movies like King Ralph, C.H.U.D., and Blues Brothers 2000.
posted by markkraft at 7:00 PM on July 22, 2008


John Lasseter, a man who was fired by Disney, will in the end save Disney Animation. God bless him and Catmull and everyone else for bringing Disney back.
posted by cavalier at 7:02 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Randy Newman's mother was from New Orleans, he lived there as a child and according to several interviews I read with him he spent the summers there until his teen years. He still has close ties to the city.
posted by raysmj at 7:03 PM on July 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


Pixar can take inferior talent like John Goodman and Jerry Seinfeld and make them successful.

Yeah, Seinfeld should kiss Pixar's ass for hauling him out of obscurity and poverty.
posted by rokusan at 7:04 PM on July 22, 2008


Seinfeld's "Bee Movie" was from DreamWorksSKG, not Pixar. Also, it sucked.
posted by briank at 7:05 PM on July 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


Ahem, Bob Iger was also paramount in bringing Pixar back into the fold, so thank him too. And fuck Michael Eisner for not figuring out that without Frank Wells he was not the right man for Disney and for holding them back for so many years. And for the timeshares. Blech.
posted by cavalier at 7:17 PM on July 22, 2008


I mean, take Disney/Pixar away from John Goodman nowadays and you'd be left with movies like King Ralph, C.H.U.D., and Blues Brothers 2000.

How on earth could you forget The Big Lebowski? This aggression will not stand, man.

On Topic: I'm really glad to hear that Disney is finally making a movie with a black princess. I work with a little girl who is obsessed with Princesses, specifically Disney Princesses, and while the gender stereotypes drive me up the wall most of all, the WHITENESS of it is a close second in the irritation realm. Yes! Let's all be cookie cutter versions of the same white girl! Except for Princess Jasmine. She's the only brown one.

Mulan isn't a Princess, but is pretty damn awesome. That is, until they made Mulan II which is just as "oooh, look at me, I'm a girl!" as any other Disney Princess movie and made me want to rip out my soul with a fork.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:29 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Pixar can take inferior talent like John Goodman and Jerry Seinfeld and make them successful.

Yeah... poor, talentless, John Goodman.

What, you were serious?
posted by not_on_display at 7:30 PM on July 22, 2008


(Oh, they count Pocahantas as Princess too? Ok, well, she's also brown. And problematic for reasons of re-writing history. Oh yes, the white people really were nice and friendly to the natives. REALLY.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:30 PM on July 22, 2008


I think its pretty much agreed that, in the Disney dictionary, Princess = Female Lead in Disney Movie.

Which is awesome, because it means they had a furry Princess before and African American Princess.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:35 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


That it involves an interracial relationship is a huge bonus.

In 1920's Louisiana? Won't the subsequent lynching upset all the kids?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:41 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone calling John Goodman and Jerry Seinfeld inferior talents is as asinine as me calling Dana Carvey unfunny.

...

He just doesn't make me laugh! Honest!
posted by ZachsMind at 7:46 PM on July 22, 2008


Disney wants to be proud of their black princess, but they won't give her a black leading man?

Wouldn't people complain that the movie was anti-miscegenation in that case?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:47 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


My compliments to the gentleman above who remarked: I do hate Randy Newman with the heat of a thousand suns and I hope his head falls off.

It was a woman. And may Randy live a long, productive life creating music that I love and in the process annoying the hell out of you both.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:48 PM on July 22, 2008


...

John and Jerry make me laugh. They're both great. I meant Dana Carvey.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:48 PM on July 22, 2008


"Randy Newman was the son of Alfred Newman, the Hollywood film composer."

Actually, no. Thomas Newman is the son of Alfred Newman, a great composer and the creator of cinema's best known theme.

And Thomas is actually is a damn good composer who has helped create beautiful, memorable moments in cinema, just like his father.

He didn't start his career by inheriting big establishment movies. He took small ones, and helped make them big, with his modern, synthesizer-influenced composition techniques.

...and Randy Newman is Alfred Newman's crassly commercial nephew.
posted by markkraft at 7:51 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Randy-Newman-hating people got no reason.
Randy-Newman-hating people got no reason.
Randy-Newman-hating people got no reason to live.

They got Randy-Newman-hating hands
And Randy-Newman-hating eyes
And they walk around tellin' great big lies
They got Randy-Newman-hating noses
And Randy-Newman-hating teeth
They wear Randy-Newman-hating shoes
On their Randy-Newman-hating feet

Well, I don't want no Randy-Newman-hating People
Don't want no Randy-Newman-hating People
Don't want no Randy-Newman-hating People
Round here!
posted by ZachsMind at 7:53 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]



The fact is, Pixar can take inferior talent like John Goodman and Jerry Seinfeld and make them successful.


Hell you've got it made writing for the pictures, beating out that competition, and me being patronizing! Is the egg showing, or what?
posted by furtive at 8:02 PM on July 22, 2008


arcanecrowbar writes "Obviously a lot of thought and effort is going into the particulars of this movie, but what the hell? Disney wants to be proud of their black princess, but they won't give her a black leading man?"

I think they are probably trying to avoid what I call The Cosby Zone. IE: a black leading family doesn't seem to know any other minorities or heck even very many white people. It's especially surreal when you live in a country with different demographics than the US.

ZachsMind writes "Regarding this: They're making a sequel to Cars, but not to The Incredibles or Finding Nemo? WTF?? I HATED CARS!"

Well the sequel to Cars practically writes itself and the merchandising is much more lucrative than anything else Pixar has done.
posted by Mitheral at 8:07 PM on July 22, 2008


As I've said roughly (way too many times)^2, I've been living this Summer in New Orleans, and the nature of my work takes me daily into the Lower 9th Ward, Gentilly, East New Orleans and Broadmoor, and all sorts of other neighborhoods still striving to put things back together against the best efforts of every incompetent government agency standing in their way... well now I've gotta go on a tangent. I'm sorry.

Earlier today I watched a newscast where the investigative reporters apparently forgot that they're not expected to do actual investigation anymore, because they looked into all the addresses the New Orleans Affordable Homeownership committee (they call themselves a non-profit but they're one of Nagin's pet agencies) had shown to them as proof of their work, and found the properties to be not fixed, completely vacant, or in some cases non-existent.

Ed Bradley, a thoroughly vile human being in charge of the redevelopment (he spent the 4th of July hosting a party full of nothing but people, mostly women, in their early twenties, at what he called his "bachelor pad" while sporting a coke-pinky-nail and asking these guests - generally volunteers at area non-profits - to assist him in making it easier to foreclose on people's homes) has proclaimed his problems with NOAH - not for their incompetence - but for standing in his way on "code enforcement." Code enforcement in NOLA right now means, "expropriating victims from their property for not having their lawns mowed." I've sat in on these meetings, and they would make you want to womit.

At a community fair held by the Lower Ninth Ward Homeowners' Association this last Saturday, I was tasked with asking people survey question about what kind of help they needed. The final question on the survey was "What is most important, to you, in rebuilding the ninth ward?" To a person, every single person I spoke to answered some variation of, "Just let my neighbors come back." The news footage of Katrina showed people fighting for their lives and labeled it "looting," but all of the people in the 9th Ward just want, and need, the community that thrived there, that they were a part of. That sort of cimmunity can be alien to a lot of people now used to moving with their jobs, but it is still very real and deperately needed in New Orleans.

It might mean shit, but the fact that Disney will return to cell-animation with a "Princess" story set in New Orleans, the first modern fairy tale they have conceived, making their American Princess a beautiful Black woman, well it means something to me. People need to remember that New Orleans is still out there, still magical, and still very much the cultural capital of African-American arts. I've barely been able to accomplish anything in my time here, and I'm leaving soon. I don't know what Disney can accomplish, but anything that can help remind thepeople here of why their fighting so hard for their home is more worthy than whatever I've done.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:14 PM on July 22, 2008 [25 favorites]


Disney wants to be proud of their black princess, but they won't give her a black leading man?

Wouldn't people complain that the movie was anti-miscegenation in that case?


This is true. It seems to me that a really good reason for Disney to not make a black princess is that every single choice you make will have people jumping down your throat.

It's offensive to have her be a chambermaid. But, people might complain that painting her as rich isn't staying true to the black experience (as was said about the Cosby Show). It's offensive to have a non-black love interest. But surely someone would complain as Dr. Steve points out above if the opposite was true.

Of course, Disney has made some other racial decisions that are a little more, um, black-and-white in their ickiness, so maybe they brought this on themselves. But nothing they've done on this project strikes me as actually offensive. Especially since everyone is making judgement on third-hand information.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:17 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh yes, the white people really were nice and friendly to the natives.

I was disappointed there were no Pocahontas souvenir blankets.
posted by rokusan at 8:25 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Aladdin had its moments, but Mulan? Lion King? Hercules? Whatever.

Wait, seriously? I hope I'm just being dense and this is going over my head. Say what you will about Hercules, and to a lesser extent Mulan (though I love it), but Lion King's awesomeness is an indisputable fact. (Yeah, I know, exaggeration.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:37 PM on July 22, 2008


See, I really don't like Bugs Life, or the Incredibles, but thought Cars was brilliant. I have watched it 427 times now (because of my toddler's demanding obsession with it), and it's still great. The animation is incredible, given what they're working with (Cars), the scenery is beautiful, it has some great characters, it has pretty multi-layered themes (arrogance will get you nowhere, you can't get by without friends to help, there are more important things than winning, rural decline, righting the wrongs you've done, don't judge people by appearances).

However, my DivX player has broken, and my son's attention has now turned to Finding Nemo, so I haven't watched Cars in about 3 weeks. Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder.

However, the fact that we can sit around and discuss and debate kids movies shows what a good job Pixar does.
posted by Jimbob at 8:48 PM on July 22, 2008


If you know anything at all of Randy's not-so-well-selling solo work outside of "I Love L.A." (which was rather snarky--"Look at that bum over there, he's down on his knees") or whatever, you'd cut him some slack for doing commercial work for movies. Much of Newman's non-soundtrack work is ten to thirty times more interesting and daring than most music mentioned here on any given day. He was the arranger for Peggy Lee's "Is That All there Is?" regardless, and that should give him a half-lifetime's pass at least.
posted by raysmj at 9:01 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer: That's Ed Blakely. Ed Bradley was the late 60 Minutes dude and regular NOLA Jazz Fest attendee.
posted by raysmj at 9:03 PM on July 22, 2008


PeterMcDermott writes "In 1920's Louisiana? Won't the subsequent lynching upset all the kids?"

You'd start to question if it was a Disney flick if they weren't re-writing history.

Jimbob writes "I have watched it 427 times now (because of my toddler's demanding obsession with it), and it's still great."

Thank god it's a movie that is re-watchable. My 4 year old still watches it at least once a week. Also thank you great techno lords for blessing us with the DVD player without which I would probably have been on my 8th or 9th tape by now.
posted by Mitheral at 9:06 PM on July 22, 2008


raysmj: thank you, of course you're right.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:10 PM on July 22, 2008


Could be worse.

...

Wow. Just... fucking wow.
posted by Caduceus at 9:14 PM on July 22, 2008


I don't understand how Randy Newman's position in the cabal of modern animation peddlers seems so secure. In fact, I think his most honest work as of late was on the The Family Guy

On the other hand, really liked Monsters Inc.
"Which means the scare floor will be..."
"Painted?"
posted by sloe at 9:19 PM on July 22, 2008


A Few Words in Defense of Our Country. This one won't be in a Disney cartoon. It's not atypical, however, of his non-soundtrack work.
posted by raysmj at 9:21 PM on July 22, 2008


We're actually huge fans of Mulan around here. A girl who takes on the risk of alienating her family in order to save them, who becomes a bad-ass fighter, and then saves her country? And the love interest comes groveling to her at the end because he RESPECTS her, not because she's a pretty maiden who needs saving? How is that not awesome?

Plus, Donny Osmond.
posted by padraigin at 9:24 PM on July 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


Just as an aside, The only Disney character I can recall that comes off as gay is the evil childless Uncle Scar in The Lion King. Shades of Doctor Smith!
posted by longsleeves at 10:32 PM on July 22, 2008


A Few Words in Defense of Our Country.

A President once said,
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"
Now it seems like we’re supposed to be afraid
It’s patriotic in fact and color coded
And what are we supposed to be afraid of?
Why, of being afraid
That’s what terror means, doesn’t it?


Man's a fucking genius, because it should be so obvious that being afraid of terror is fear of fear itself but I never put those two together...
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:48 PM on July 22, 2008


ZachsMind, is he still posting? WTF? I HATED ZACHSMIND!

... okay. So. I don't hate him per se. I kinda liked his first post but I didn't like everything after that. And... I didn't even read his posts in this thread. It's about CARS. Why would I want to read about that?
posted by crossoverman at 10:57 PM on July 22, 2008


Disney wants to be proud of their black princess, but they won't give her a black leading man?

Wow, this is political correctness gone mad. Perhaps you can start some petition for racial purity in children's movies. Im sure the public will see the wisdom of your "black cartoon girls need black cartoon boyfriends or the man has won" position.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:01 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have watched it 427 times now (because of my toddler's demanding obsession with it), and it's still great.

I think we're pushing closer to 800 times over here (5-year old car freak on site). And while I don't exaxtly watch it carefully everytime it's on, it still works, for all the reason you mention. And I still discover nice details from time to time (tire tracks in the sky? clever). And ray tracing an entire feature movie? Those Pixar engineers are completely crazy.

Now, if I could only persuade him that Boundin' (one of my own Pixar favourites) is actually the original, and not a remake of the Cars easter egg with animals instead of cars...
posted by effbot at 11:29 PM on July 22, 2008


In fact, Disney pretty much lost me with their rendition of Beauty and the Beast.

What the hell. I'll bite.

You're joking right? Let's look at the list of top billed cast.

Paige O'Hara
Robby Benson
Richard White
Jerry Orbach
Angela Lansbury
David Ogden Stiers

You've got more Tonys there than an episode of The Sopranos, it was the last of the Disney movies where the voice actors did their own singing parts and it received an Academy Award nomination for best picture. Not best animated feature. BEST PICTURE.

Beauty and the Beast is one of the finest examples of modern cinematic animation ever made and if anything will be a shining example to other aspiring animators for decades if not centuries to come.
posted by Talez at 11:34 PM on July 22, 2008


(and when exaxtly do we get the ability to edit our own posts for, say, the first 30 minutes after posting? no, preview isn't good enough. it really isn't.)
posted by effbot at 11:50 PM on July 22, 2008


It's not that I don't think that Randy Newman is talented... that's been obvious since he wrote "Mama Told Me Not To Come", which was a big hit at the time, and is one of the top dozen or two big songs in Tom Jones' repertoire nowadays.

The problem is that his modern commercial work is cookie cutter crap, and after thirtyodd years of pianoing, everything he does sounds painfully the same. Yes, he still occasionally writes clever/humorous lyrics... but so does Mark Russell, and I don't buy his albums either.

That's why I was *VERY* pleased and surprised with Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman getting a chance to work together on "Down To Earth", as it's a song that has depth and complexity to it, posessing lyrics that are deceptively simple, while being very relevant to the film as well... both literal, and figurative at once.

"Did you think that your feet had been bound
By what gravity brings to the ground?
Did you feel you were tricked
By the future you picked?
Well, come on down..."


Frankly, I haven't ever wanted a repeat listen to any Randy Newman film song or movie score since "Ragtime", which actually had a beautiful, touching score and *WAS* a significant accomplishment. If he achieved such things with his work with Disney, I wouldn't cringe so badly. It's worse than Disney / Elton John at this point... and that's pretty bad, even though we all know Elton has done some great songs.

I would love to hope that Randy Newman could do for "The Frog Princess" what he did for "Ragtime"... but how many of you actually think he will?!

I doubt it, frankly.
posted by markkraft at 1:24 AM on July 23, 2008


The only Disney character I can recall that comes off as gay is the evil childless Uncle Scar

Scar is obviously Shere Khan's African cousin.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:34 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, this is political correctness gone mad.

No, it's not. For the longest time, movies and tv seemed to portray black people as needing white people to have a family, relationship, job, what have you. To have Disney make a big deal about this being the first black princess and then not make her love interest black sounds naive and somewhat insulting. They're just opening themselves up for backlash from the black community and black men in particular.

Can black people ever be portrayed as loving someone outside of their race? Of course, but for Disney's first animation with black lead, it would have been better to have her a black love interest. It's about setting the right tone at first.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:02 AM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Back on track for a moment: Why doesn't Disney, MGM, etc recognize their history by re-releasing such classics as Song of the South or some of the cartoons mentioned above, or even the WWII era cartoons that picture the "Japs"? I just purchased a copy of SOTS ripped from an old laserdisc. I haven't watched it all yet, but it isn't that offensive, since the blacks always come off as smarter than their white counterparts. Yes there are the typical stereotypes, but shouldn't it be a teaching moment? Or is their very existence such an abhorrence?
posted by Gungho at 4:20 AM on July 23, 2008


Well, I always found it insulting when black people on TV only dated other black people, in those teen drama/comedy shows like "saved by the bell", especially since there would usually only be two black characters, so I would prefer they do an interracial relationship. It's actually much more daring and forward thinking, IMO.
posted by delmoi at 5:47 AM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher wrote
To have Disney make a big deal about this being the first black princess and then not make her love interest black sounds naive and somewhat insulting.
delmoi wrote
Well, I always found it insulting when black people on TV only dated other black people...
Well this is exactly why most movies like to play it safe - everyone seems to have an opinion on race. I am disappointed that in this day and age a black leading lady in a children's film can provoke such discussion. So much for being colourblind.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:38 AM on July 23, 2008


It's actually much more daring and forward thinking, IMO.

Is it really over forty years since Guess Whose Coming To Dinner swept the board at the Oscars?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:46 AM on July 23, 2008


[Randy Newman's] modern commercial work is cookie cutter crap, and after thirtyodd years of pianoing, everything he does sounds painfully the same.

I know this is a Disney thread and I should just leave it alone and let everyone predict how painfully insensitive and unfunny the company's attempt to pander to an African-American audience is going to be ...

But whenever I read this kind of dismissive slagging of Randy Newman's work (Randy Newman!) it honestly throws me for a loop. Granted, I haven't heard his new album (comes out in two weeks, counting the days, etc) but I think "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" is wickedly droll — if a little tossed-off, as Randy Newman songs go.

But I've got the lyrics booklet for his last album, Bad Love, in front of me, and let's see what we've got here. Here's one about a nasty, crusty old fart trying to earn sympathy from his fed-up girlfriend. "Do you know what it feels like/To wake up in the morning/Have every joint in your body aching, God damn it?/You know what it feels like/To have to get up in the middle of the night and sit down to take a piss?/You do know?/So you say/I have my doubts, Missy"

Here's one, maybe a little auto-critical, about an aging rock star. "I have nothing left to say/But I'm gonna say it anyway/Thirty years upon a stage/And I hear the people say/Why won't he go away?"

Here's one about European colonization of the New World. "Balboa found the pacific/And on the trail one day/He met some friendly Indians/Whom he was told were gay/So he had them torn apart by dogs on religious grounds they say/The great nations of Europe were quite holy in their way"

And there's one about Karl Marx. "I'm glad I'm living in the land of the free/Where the rich just get richer/And the poor you don't ever have to see/It would depress us, Karl/Because we care/That the world still isn't fair."

And there are a few gorgeous, heartbreaking love songs, too.

I sure want to know where you buy your sweets, because I don't see a lot of cookies like these out there.
posted by Joey Bagels at 6:58 AM on July 23, 2008


I adored The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. I kinda liked the first Toy Story but didn't enjoy the sequel. I ..didn't even go see Cars. IT'S CARS! Why would I want to watch two hours of anthropomorphized automobiles?

Yes, because anthropomorphized automobiles are ridiculous, whereas anthropomorphized fish and toys are sublime.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:09 AM on July 23, 2008


Black prince, Arab prince, doesn't matter. Just as long as they keep teaching young girls that if they work really hard to be a helpless princess, they can be rescued by a prince one day and be a trophy wife happily ever after.
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 7:10 AM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


You're doing a heckuva job, Maddy!

One hopes that Lasseter will have the courage to just make the best movie he can, and tune out the various groups who will micro-analyze every syllable of dialect and every paint hue chosen for skin. He's already clearly expressed that the intent of the project is (1) to correct a fairly obvious omission -- the lack of a black princess, and (2) to honor New Orleans. On intentions alone, the guy should be congratulated.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:15 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maddy sounds almost exactly like "mammy." What are Disney thinking? Also, I didn't like how Cinderella was pretty much a slave for the first half of the movie.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 7:39 AM on July 23, 2008


Just as long as Randy Newman doesn't sing his own songs. How may animated movies can he ruin with that awful clumsy bumble?
posted by ao4047 at 7:49 AM on July 23, 2008


briank : Seinfeld's "Bee Movie" was from DreamWorksSKG, not Pixar. Also, it sucked.

It really, really did. I was actually amazed at how not good it was considering how much effort they put into promoting it. I can't actually think of an animated movie that had more advertising time given to it, nor can I think of an animated film that I have liked less.
posted by quin at 8:10 AM on July 23, 2008


I mean, take Disney/Pixar away from John Goodman nowadays and you'd be left with movies like King Ralph, C.H.U.D., and Blues Brothers 2000.

...and BARTON FINK, and O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU, and THE BIG LEBOWSKI, and RAISING ARIZONA, and MATINEE, and the biopic HBO did of Huey Long, and....

As to Randy Newman: maybe it's that he hasn't quite figured out how to pull off how to write FOR KIDS yet. I've seen a lot of artists of every stripe -- actors, singers, writers, etc. -- who get a little weird when they know their audience is children. They get very self-conscious about what they're producing, and their work is affected as a result. It isn't always terrible, just markedly different from their regular work. Case in point: I went to see the Broadway run of YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN in 1999, where Anthony Rapp starred as Charlie Brown. I've seen Anthony Rapp in other things, and been impressed; but as Charlie Brown, his performance just smacked of "I Am Doing Childrens' Theater And That Requires Certain Things." He never really relaxed into BEING Charlie Brown, he was concentrating more on trying to Engage The Children Who Were Watching.

In the same cast, on the other hand, you also had B. D. Wong who was EXCELLENT as Linus. He didn't get all hung up on "oooh, Kids are watching me," he just....was Linus. And it worked. Same too with Peter Gabriel -- his "Down To Earth" completely blew me away, he didn't get hung up on "kids' movie music".

I'd hazard a guess that the War Over Randy Newman we see here is that maybe Randy Newman's work for Pixar has a whiff of "I'm Writing For Kids Now," be it self-imposed or forced upon him by the powers that be. Not terrible, just not up to the same scale as his other work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:12 AM on July 23, 2008


I don't understand how Randy Newman's position in the cabal of modern animation peddlers seems so secure.

Perhaps its just me, but it seems that once you've hit with a popular score/theme song for a best-selling movie or television show, that you have a pretty secure business as people keep bringing you on board to repeat the same formula sound. So you pretty much are guaranteed that most Burton projects will have Elfman attached, Lucas and Spielberg often pulled Williams. Although Hans Zimmer seems to be the new go-to guy for action-adventure.

He's no Philip Glass (who would have won an Oscar if they were actually about quality), but Pixar isn't aiming for that market. Newman produces quality work that triangulates the market of elementary school children, parents, and boomer grandparents. And his pop influences certainly have hit the mark better than Disney's attempt to do Broadway in animation since Ashman/Menken.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:15 AM on July 23, 2008


Well, I always found it insulting when black people on TV only dated other black people, in those teen drama/comedy shows like "saved by the bell", especially since there would usually only be two black characters, so I would prefer they do an interracial relationship.

I readily admit that there is a fine line. Black characters shouldn't be confined to only dating other black characters, 'cause that's just petty and unrealistic, but there's been such a history of black characters not dating other blacks or even being allowed to have black familes (Hello there Different Strokes), that I personally would prefer to see black/black relationships, especially in these Disney films that seem to make such an impression on kids.



It's actually much more daring and forward thinking, IMO.

Heh. I can easily see some people getting upset with that statement, especially the "forward thinking" part. It kinda reads as "them" not wanting black people to get together and raise families, which as everyone knows, has been white peoples plans all along, uh huh.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:17 AM on July 23, 2008


They should remake 'Snow White' as a mordant satire.
posted by Phanx at 8:24 AM on July 23, 2008


It's offensive to have a non-black love interest.

It reminds me of the movie Romeo Must Die with Jet Li and Aaliyah (a year before she died). From the title of this movie you would assume that the stars were lovers. But they were just buddies or something. It was really odd. But they didn't dare make them lovers--the outrage from the African American community would have been too much. Why? It seems so strange after so many years of fighting racial segregation and anti-miscegenation (inter-racial marriage) laws, which existed in some states until a few years ago. Why embrace this segregation and be insulted when the 'violation'? The KKK would be proud.

Black prince, Arab prince, doesn't matter. Just as long as they keep teaching young girls that if they work really hard to be a helpless princess, they can be rescued by a prince one day and be a trophy wife happily ever after.
That's what Disney is all about (at least for girls). There's an enormous industry in Disney princesses, as anyone with a small daughter knows all too well.
posted by eye of newt at 8:26 AM on July 23, 2008


"I mean, take Disney/Pixar away from John Goodman nowadays and you'd be left with movies like King Ralph, C.H.U.D., and Blues Brothers 2000."

"How on earth could you forget The Big Lebowski? This aggression will not stand, man."

"...and BARTON FINK, and O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU, and THE BIG LEBOWSKI, and RAISING ARIZONA, and MATINEE, and the biopic HBO did of Huey Long, and...."


Like the song says, it's a scientific lifestyle.
posted by Eideteker at 8:50 AM on July 23, 2008


But they didn't dare make them lovers--the outrage from the African American community would have been too much. Why?

Because the black family has history of being torn apart, abused and shitted on in America, yet surviving, even if somewhat damaged and seeing that separation in the media, even if it's innocent, just opens up those wound. That history is going to go away just because Will Smith is big name movie star.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:50 AM on July 23, 2008


Maddy sounds almost exactly like "mammy." What are Disney thinking?

Her name's "Tiana" now.
posted by Lucinda at 8:52 AM on July 23, 2008


Her name's "Tiana" now.

Surname: "Mansquare".

According to the marketing department, focus groups in Buttefuck, Montana. thought the name sounded hip and black, while simultaneously giving a nod to the wider global civil rights agenda and avoids coming across as too liberal because it contains an implicit dig at those commie chinks who are stealing our jobs.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:09 AM on July 23, 2008


The only non-offensive solution to all this is to make Maddy a polyandrist so she can live happily ever after with princes of several ethnicities.
posted by ODiV at 9:20 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Joey, I'm pretty sure if Disney considered Marian a (canonical) princess then you could buy Robin Hood junk from them. But I hear you can't do that.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:57 AM on July 23, 2008


Joey, I'm pretty sure if Disney considered Marian a (canonical) princess then you could buy Robin Hood junk from them. But I hear you can't do that.

You could, although I don't see any on the Disney Store site now. But I've seen Maid Marian plush dolls in the wild. I believe they had them in stores the last time the DVD was reissued.
posted by padraigin at 10:20 AM on July 23, 2008


First off, great post!
But:
"Also, MeFi spellcheck doesn't think "should've" is a word. WTF?"

Should've isn't a word and MeFi doesn't have a spell check. You're probably using Firefox I assume.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:32 AM on July 23, 2008


"Well, I always found it insulting when black people on TV only dated other black people, in those teen drama/comedy shows like "saved by the bell", especially since there would usually only be two black characters, so I would prefer they do an interracial relationship."

Do you find it insulting when white characters only date other whites?
posted by agregoli at 10:34 AM on July 23, 2008


He's no Philip Glass (who would have won an Oscar if they were actually about quality)

Randy Newman won one award in category in which Phil Collins has won, after being nominated numerous times in various categories (including for soundtrack work in adult films). Quick: Who won it this year? The category is a holdover from the days when musicals weren't a rarity. Philip Glass has been nominated for three Oscars for Best Original Score, for Kundun, The Hours and Notes on a Scandal. Newman's been nominated four times in the same category, for Ragtime, The Natural, Avalon and Monsters Inc. Their records are equal, however, in that neither has won the Oscar in that category.

Glass, however, won a Golden Globe in roughly the equal to that category for his work in The Truman Show. Newman never took home the prize there.
posted by raysmj at 10:43 AM on July 23, 2008


Do you find it insulting when white characters only date other whites?

Yes. It doesn't reflect on my experiences, and it contributes to a culture where dating outside of your race is considered somehow remarkable (in either a positive or negative light, both of which cause problems).

I've noticed that the what little I've watched of BBC television appears to have a much higher rate of interracial couples that you see on American television (also gay/lesbian couples). My sample size is too small to know whether or not this is the norm for television in the UK; can anyone out there tell me if that's the case?
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:46 AM on July 23, 2008


raysmj: My point was not that Newman has won more Oscars than Glass. My point was that Glass is one of the greatest living composers, and his scores have struck me as better music than most other score composers.

The Oscars are, first and foremost, an insider popularity contest. I'm usually disappointed, but not surprised by who wins them.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:24 AM on July 23, 2008


Interesting mental experiment: can you come up with ANY plot for a potential "African-American Princess" Disney movie that won't get decried as racist? If she's poor, then it's racist because it's suggesting that blacks are a permanent underclass. If she's rich, then it's racist because it's deliberately unrepresentative of the black experience (the "Cosby Show" dilemma). If her love interest is a black guy, then it's racist because it's anti-miscegnation, if he's white, then it's racist because, um, racists believe in racial intermarriage...(that one's a bit of a headscratcher, but this thread proves that it will be out there).

Maybe the only solution would be to release the movie simultaneously in multiple versions, with theaters being required to show them on a random rotation (so they can't be accused of racistly targeting one plot at whites and the other at blacks)?

Or maybe if everyone chilled out a little, the movie would be a big success, and movie studios everywhere wouldn't decide that making a movie with a black heroine is just a hideous minefield that is too risky to approach. That way there'd be enough of them produced that we wouldn't have to read every single one as the definitive word on the subject. And then little kids would have a range of black "princess" figures to idolize--including the one who marries the black prince AND the one who marries the white prince AND the one who marries the asian prince (hey, and who knows, maybe the one who marries the princess of any race you care to name).

Or, you know, we could just try to bury this film in outrage so that it ends up locked in the vault along with SotS. I guess that would be "progress"?
posted by yoink at 11:33 AM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


The Oscars are, first and foremost, an insider popularity contest.

You say that like you're exposing the awful truth behind the facade. But isn't "insider popularity contest" exactly what the Oscars are according to their publicly stated rules?
posted by yoink at 11:37 AM on July 23, 2008


yoink: But isn't "insider popularity contest" exactly what the Oscars are according to their publicly stated rules?

Not at long as they preface award with "best."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:57 PM on July 23, 2008


My point was that Glass is one of the greatest living composers, and his scores have struck me as better music than most other score composers.

Then why'd you bring it up here? Glass doesn't write songs, although rumor has it that he played a role in the little-known original minimalist version of "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." He's a composer. It's almost like bitching because the sound mixing dudes from "The Bourne Ultimatum" didn't win for sound editing ... no, wait, they did.
posted by raysmj at 1:56 PM on July 23, 2008


Can black people ever be portrayed as loving someone outside of their race? Of course, but for Disney's first animation with black lead, it would have been better to have her a black love interest. It's about setting the right tone at first.

Is the right tone supposed to be "Hooray we have a black princess, but only as long as she stays within her race." To me that would not fly. I think that having an interracial relationship within a disney movie is a great thing. I am so much more excited about having an Arabic prince in a Disney movie, because all the princes are white white white. Sure Aladdin and Li Shang aren't white, but in china, everyone was chinese, and in the middle east circa 1ad, everyone was middle eastern. Also that he is a prince coming from a far away land makes me want to see less of a same race couple.
posted by rubberkey at 2:04 PM on July 23, 2008


Not at long as they preface award with "best."

I'm honestly not at all clear what you mean by this. If I poll a bunch of industry insiders on what they think is the "best" movie (or cinematography, or costumes or what have you), how is that not an "insider popularity contest" and how is it inappropriate to say "this is what this bunch of industry insiders think is the "best" work"?

I never quite understand the way people get worked up about the Oscars. "Why, unlike every other award ceremony, THIS one seems to have failed to give its awards to what is objectively the best possible work according to universally agreed scientific standards! What can they have been thinking!?"

It's a popularity contest held among industry insiders--that's all it is; explicitly. As such it's kinda silly fun. To hold it to an utterly artificial standard of perfection seems pointless.

Sorry--thread derail. I'll shut up now.
posted by yoink at 2:42 PM on July 23, 2008


raysmj: Unless the documentary material I have is wrong, Glass, Newman, Menken, Williams, Zimmer and Elfman are all score composers. Why you feel to pull Glass out of that list is something that baffles me.

I mentioned Glass because he is an example of a person who writes (IMO) better scores than Newman. But a Phillip Glass score wouldn't fit the audience Pixar has grossed $2.5 billion dollars aggressively cultivating.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:11 PM on July 23, 2008


yoink: I don't know who is getting worked up here. But I disagree that the Academy Awards are just kinda silly fun when those nominations and awards influence box office revenue and in turn what kinds of projects get picked up for production and distribution.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:05 PM on July 23, 2008


Is the right tone supposed to be "Hooray we have a black princess, but only as long as she stays within her race."

No, it's supposed to be "Hooray, we have a black princess and look she didn't have to go outside of her race to find love as has been widely depicted for decades. It's perfectly ok and natural for black people to be in a relationship."

Interesting mental experiment: can you come up with ANY plot for a potential "African-American Princess" Disney movie that won't get decried as racist?

Of course. There are any number of fairy tales that could be adapted with black princess. There are any number of African fairy tales and no doubt more once you get into the individual countries of the continent.

But the problem is that America has a nasty history with black people, which taints and colors all the American stories. Or does it? The 1999 film "Wild Wild West" had Will Smith taking on the character role formerly played by a white man and set in the late 1800s. There was lot of talk before the film came out about how unbelievable it was to have a black hero in that time period and yet that aspect of the film worked (I'll leave it to others to decide whether it was good, but I thought it was). Racism was touched on, but didn't overwhelm the film, which helped cement that fact that yeah, here was black man in a sometimes racist society, surviving. I tend to think that love interest in the movie was intentionally not a white woman, because that would have been just too unbelievable.

So yeah, I think it's entirely possible to use black characters in pretty much any story, as long as it's handled well. It just doesn't sound like Disney was doing that.


if he's white, then it's racist because, um, racists believe in racial intermarriage...(that one's a bit of a headscratcher, but this thread proves that it will be out there).

No, the idea is that it's racist because it's depicting, yet again, the idea that blacks can only have successful relationships with whites, which reenforces the idea that being black isn't good enough.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:45 PM on July 23, 2008


No, the idea is that it's racist because it's depicting, yet again, the idea that blacks can only have successful relationships with whites, which reenforces the idea that being black isn't good enough.

So tell me, where's this long American tradition of movies showing successful, happy relationships between blacks and whites? The Hollywood production code of 1930 banned the depiction of mixed-race couples. The race movie of the teens--thru--forties was largely produced outside the Hollywood system, and the movies they brought to black audiences showed nary a single mixed-race marriage (can you imagine the outcry if they had?).

Prior to "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" in 1967 (nineteen sixty-fucking-seven!!) the only (oblique) treatment of mixed-race relationships in Hollywood films were those films such as "Imitation of Life" and "Pinky" that treated the condition of being "mixed-race" as an appalling burden, destroying the lives of the offspring of such misbegotten relationships. Even "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" treats it as an agonizingly difficult problem for the parents of the mixed-race couple.

The vast, vast majority of Hollywood movie couples are same-race, and it is only in the wake of the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s that mixed-race couples started to get any prominence at all.

Whatever else can be said for or against the claim that people should only date and mate "within the race," it is about as indisputably a "racist" proclamation as one can imagine. If you don't think racism is a good idea, then I really don't see how you can argue that people's most intimate and profound forms of self-expression and development should be entirely defined by racial identities. Not only defined by those identities, but dedicated to the perpetuation of those identities in a sacrifice of "self" to "race." I don't see any gain for human freedom in such a cause.
posted by yoink at 5:25 PM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


i have to agree with paul and storm that every movie can be improved by randy newman music
posted by rmd1023 at 9:39 AM on July 24, 2008


KirkJobSluder: Because Newman never won an award for a composition. He won for a song, for pop music basically. Glass has never been nominated for a song. It's a different category, a different type of thing altogether. That Newman won for pop music isn't an insult to Glass, because he doesn't write pop music songs.
posted by raysmj at 9:50 AM on July 24, 2008


Except for Princess Jasmine. She's the only brown one.

I believe Pocahontas and Princess Kida would like to have a word with you.

on preview: you got Pocahontas. Kida is from Atlantis. She's not labeled as a particular race, but she's brown and voiced by Cree Summer.

This whole hubbub is PC overload. Should we never show a black person as a maid? Should we just pretend certain things never happened? And Maddy is a perfectly normal, old-fashioned southern name. Jamie Lynn Spears just named her daughter Maddie. (Though I think of it as more of a dog's name, probably because our WNBA team mascot is a dog named Maddie.) The whole "Mammy" claim is utterly ridiculous. So now they've given the character a stupid modern name like "Tiana" that isn't really of the period or evocative of the place where she lives, for PC reasons.

As for the prince - why not let him be white or Middle Eastern or whatever? Are whites only supposed to date whites and blacks with blacks? We've already had Disney show Pocahontas with white men, but that's based upon historical accounts.

Basically, no matter what they do, somebody's going to be unhappy, so they should've just made the film they wanted to make.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:33 PM on July 24, 2008


Pixar can take inferior talent like John Goodman and Jerry Seinfeld and make them successful.

Heil Hitler.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:34 PM on July 24, 2008


raysmj: Because Newman never won an award for a composition. He won for a song, for pop music basically. Glass has never been nominated for a song. It's a different category, a different type of thing altogether. That Newman won for pop music isn't an insult to Glass, because he doesn't write pop music songs.

Well, given that I didn't say or imply that Newman's award for pop music was an insult to Glass, I'm still baffled as to your point. I only mentioned Glass's lack of an Oscar to highlight that I feel he is under-recognized by the mainstream.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:26 AM on July 25, 2008


Gungho - You mentioned the WWII-era cartoons. Disney has re-released them under the title Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines The War Years. Here's a review.
posted by missmerrymack at 2:11 PM on July 26, 2008


The 1999 film "Wild Wild West" had Will Smith taking on the character role formerly played by a white man and set in the late 1800s. There was lot of talk before the film came out about how unbelievable it was to have a black hero in that time period and yet that aspect of the film worked (I'll leave it to others to decide whether it was good, but I thought it was).

If memory serves, "Wild Wild West" also had a plot in which an English madmen built giant mechanical spiders in an attempt to take over the world. When you've got THAT going on, it strikes me that you've already left "period realism", so that may be why it didn't matter.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 AM on July 29, 2008


The Disney Animation Studios site has been released. History, jobs and projects. [adversaria]
posted by tellurian at 10:44 PM on August 14, 2008


Thanks missmerrymack. I ordered the DVD today.
posted by Gungho at 11:09 AM on August 15, 2008


« Older For years, Wired magazine has tapped a bevy of des...  |  Butch Cassidy wanted to call h... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments