Sunday, November 08, 2009

Disneyland: Black to the future? Or past?

A year after the election of Barack Obama, Disneyland officially inaugurated its first black princess with the debut of Tiana's Showboat Jubilee! starring Princess Tiana from the new animated feature, The Princess and The Frog.

Singing and dancing and performing from the Mark Twain riverboat along the Rivers of America and culminating in a second line march into New Orleans Square, the spectacle is, as the daily program, promises, a "toe tappin,' hand-clappin' riverboat extravaganza" that veers perilously and surprisingly toward the coonin' and buffoonin' of another era and a Showboat of another era. The actress lip-synching to the recorded tracks plays it broad-- way broad, and the happy shining stereotypes, including a gravel-throated crocodile trumpeter named Louis-- are in your face. Equally controversial is that the prince Tiana is paired up with, appears to be white, or Indian, or Middle Eastern, but most definitely not a black man. It all seems to tarnish Tiana's achievement, and while she may become a favorite of little black girls, the setup could lead to serious questions from black boys.

Stevie Wonder
Any irony in all this? While the show tapped and clapped along New Orleans Square, Stevie Wonder was in the plaza at the end of Main Street with Sleeping Beauty's castle behind him, dressed in red and performing "What Christmas Means To Me" for an ABC Christmas Day special.

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