Disney has come a long way since Song of the South. Their newest animated film, The Princess and the Frog, will star their first black princess, Tiana. More importantly, the princess will be voiced by Bloomfield native Anika Noni Rose! After graduating from Bloomfield High in 1990, Anika went on to study Drama and Theater and then began acting professionally. She won a Tony for best actress in 2004 for the Broadway hit Caroline, or Change and is probably best known for her role in Dreamgirls in 2006. Anika auditioned three times for the part of Tiana, finally beating out some of Hollywood's finest, such as Beyonce Knowles, Alicia Keyes and Tyra Banks. Being part of a Disney film has been a lifelong dream of hers:
I know when I saw "Fantasia" that I wanted to be one of those creatures, period. I was 2. It wasn't like I recognized voice at that time. I wasn't thinking, "I want to be a voice-over actor." I just knew I wanted to be in that, without having the desire to be an actor at all. With each movie, they got me, more and more and more. I always did voices when I was a kid. I was terrible. I'd imitate people all the time. My mother was like, OK, we'd be in the mall, and she'd say, "Anika, if that person turns around, there's nothing I can do for you." I was imitating their walk; I was imitating the way somebody chewed gum; I would do people's voices. I've always been attracted to voice and sound.
This is an important, albeit extremely past due, occasion in Disney history. We can only assume the film will be based on the same stereotypes and cliche plotlines they've been recycling since 1937, but we hope those messages of love and equality and whatnot will shine through.
The Princess and the Frog premieres this Friday, December 11th at a scenic theatre near you!
(If you have forgotten some of your favorite racist Disney moments, refresh your memory here.)