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Diverse Disney

Roth says “in the late 1980s, educators had asked Binney & Smith to produce a line of multicultural art products, to portray a full range of skin tones, since people are not black and white” (pg 76). This change did not occur until 1991. After reading this article and considering skin tones in other products, I thought of Disney. The first Disney movie was released in 1938 and Disney princesses were always white. The first movie by Disney with an African American princess did not come out until 2009!  (Mulan was 1998- was she ever a princess? Or a hero?) This cover of a word search book shows how Disney is now incorporating diversity in its brand.

Larissa

Comments

Andrea
Reply

I think it’s interesting that they took this long to bring more diversity into Disney. I wonder why honestly. Was there a demand for a more diverse movie? Or did they finally realized that all of the princesses were white? It’s somewhat suspicious if you ask me.

Nikolas
Reply

But only 60% of the princesses are white, no? Pocahontas was American Indian (presumably Powhatan, to the extent the film was based on the actual historical figure), Jasmine was Arab, Mulan was Chinese, and in the latest film Tiana is black.

It’s an interesting discussion. I suppose first you would have to decide whether to view Disney in international terms, or strictly American ones. If the latter, their representation of ethnicity isn’t so far off going by the 2010 census: 63.7% of Americans are non-Hispanic white, compared to 60% of Disney’s princesses; black, Asian, and Indian Americans make up 12.6%, 4.8%, and 0.2% of the population, respectively, and each group represents 10% of Disney’s princesses. The ACS estimates 0.5% of Americans are Arab, and they represent the final 10% of Disney’s princesses.

On the whole, it seems if any ethnicity is drastically underrepresented it is Hispanics, who made up 16.4% of the population in the 2010 census, but have never been represented in one of Disney’s princess films.

Sandy
Reply

I also noticed that a while ago. I think that’s a good step and Disney is becoming more representative of society itself.

Larissa
Reply

Andrea, it’s definitely suspicious. One night my girlfriends and I watched the Princess and the Frog and heavily debated about Disney’s decision to create this movie. Either way, it’s interesting how long it took and that there is still only one movie without a white princess.

Alexandra
Reply

I love your idea. When I saw it, I automatically thought about how they were considering making a bald barbie (i think it’s barbie or could be Disney character) for little girls who suffer from cancer. Definitely a great example of diversity.

Charles
Reply

I remember when that movie came out; my family was really excited knowing that this was a HUGE controversy for Disney industry. Overall, I am glad that they are now making Disney more diversified because it will bring more attention to all different kind of audience.

Joelle
Reply

Honestly?

A lot of older Disney stories were based off of folklore that was European or related… Thus the Disney princesses being mostly “white.” Because of that, I never really blamed them for a “lack” of diversity, nor did I think they needed more.
Plus, as stated– some of these date back pretty far… far before we had become a diverse nation that started accepting differences. I get that Disney trying to prove they’re also encouraging diversity, but when I watched this movie I felt like it was a bit forced… It broke the “disney princess” movie tradition.
I know that the concept of “kissing a frog and hoping he turns into your prince” is an older one, but the actual storyline was mostly created as an original disney concept, unlike the other “princess” movies. Yes, it was technically listed as based off a book from 2002, but disney still changed a LOT. It was very loosely based off a recent book that most people weren’t familiar with. That is to say, Cinderella and most other stories were based off of written versions that existed prior. Some, such as Pocahontas and Mulan, actually based off of real women. Even Rapunzel, the newest, was based off of an older story most kids grow up hearing.

Sorry for the rant.. Props if you read this long. If you skimmed it, I guess I’m happy Disney is diversifying, but I just wish it wasn’t so forced. It broke the chain of their classic Disney films based off of traditional fairy tales and real women. There are plenty of famous black women they could have modeled a story after, and I would have loved watching the story far more.

Joelle
Reply

**chain of their classic Disney PRINCESS films **

Larissa
Reply

Nikols I see your point, however I was thinking about the Disney princesses with the most publicity. If you google image search disney princesses, images of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, and Jasmine are shown together.

Liz
Reply

Don’t forget Princess Jasmine! She was shown quite often in the group depictions of Disney princesses, yet it never really dawned on me until I was in my teens that she wasn’t a fair-skinned princess of European descent. It is almost as if Disney attempted to be more diverse with “Aladdin” in 1992, but all the characters seem like tanned Europeans rather than Arabian, even though the music clearly states the story takes place during the “Arabian night.”

Annette
Reply

I personally think that Disney were somewhat diverse, they also included a variety of locations and the people who lived in those certain locations.

Natalie
Reply

Having younger cousins the example of Disney strikes a chord for sure. Though there have been other ethnic princess before Tiana, my experiences have found that Pocahontas, Mulan, and Jasmine are less popular. Given the relative popularity and quantity of merchandise you see related to Tiana, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Disney doesn’t market them as much as some of the more caucasian princesses like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel the Little Mermaid, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and recently Rapunzel from Tangled, but as this book shows, they are making a greater effort to include Tiana. Anytime I shop for a birthday gift for my cousins, the Toys R Us aisles are full of poofy dresses and crowns with those characters, but not the others (Which also raises an interesting point, as the three more excluded princesses have different costuming than a poofy, traditional princess dress, and the way they are costumed goes hand in hand with their, albeit “Disneyfied”, cultural identity).

Amanda
Reply

Nikols I see your point, however I was thinking about the Disney princesses with the most publicity. If you google image search disney princesses, images of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, and Jasmine are shown together.

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