Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Princess Tiana in the upcoming film Ralph Breaks the Internet, has addressed the changes made to the animated character, and how she was involved. Rose, who originally voiced the character in the 2009 Disney film The Princess and the Frog, returned to voice Tiana for the new film, specifically in a scene in which all of the studio's popular princesses interact with Vanellope von Schweetz, who starred in the first Wreck-It Ralph film. Vanellope (voice by Sarah Silverman), is a princess herself, and the scene sparked a lot of audience interest when it appeared in the second trailer, released in June.
But there was one notable detail that stood out to many. Specifically, in subsequent images released in August, Tiana can be seen up close. Fans noted that her skin is significantly lighter than in her own film, and her features are different, most notably her nose, which is sharper and narrower. This sparked a backlash - and fortunately, Disney was actually paying attention. The studio took the time to "restore Princess Tiana’s image to that of an unapologetically black princess with full lips, dark skin and dark hair," according to the racial justice organization Color of Change. These changes were visible in the final trailer, released in September.
Now, Rose herself is chiming in to tell her side of the story. On her Instagram account, Rose shared a series of text screenshots. She acknowledged that she had "been very quiet on the subject" up until that point, but that she had read the reactions, and taken charge. Meeting with the studio's animators, Rose "was able to express how important it is to the little girls (and let's face it, grown women who felt represented by her" as Tiana originally appeared in The Princess and the Frog.
Rose also wrote that the animators explained how the character changed during her transition to 3D. The Princess and the Frog was created in the likeness of Disney's old-school style of 2D hand-drawn animation, whereas Ralph Breaks the Internet is comprised of entirely CGI 3D animation. Classic Disney Princesses like Snow White and Cinderella also look very different from their original counterparts in Ralph Breaks the Internet; however, their changes aren't directly tied to racial representation. The importance of preserving Tiana's look hinges on something much more significant.
In her post, Rose expressed how pleased she was to work with an animator to make sure that her own likeness was incorporated into the character of Tiana. She added that she was happy Disney chose to engage with her in "an open dialogue about legacy and representation" and added that that she appreciates the company chose to take steps and listen to her and the fans so far into the process of making Ralph Breaks the Internet. Hopefully, this means that in the future, Disney will take the time to consider these things earlier on in the animation process, and can avoid making the same mistake again.
Source: Anika Noni Rose
- Ralph Breaks the Internet/Wreck-It Ralph 2 (2018) release date: Nov 21, 2018