This year, Disney released a new portrait in their series of Disney Dream Portraits, masterfully executed by Annie Leibovitz, as always. Starring Princess Tiana is the very talented Jennifer Hudson.
You may or may not remember but Tiana, although Disney’s 9th Princess, is the first African American Princess in their portfolio so far. Before settling for Anika Noni Rose, the producers have auditioned Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce Knowles (even Tyra Banks). Also a singer and an actress, Rose has co-starred with Hudson and Beyonce in Dreamgirls. But despite of her high profile colleagues having auditioned for Tiana, Anika Noni Rose got to voice the legendary Princess kissing the Frog.
What intrigues me now, upon seeing Disney new Dream Portrait, is that not Anika Noni Rose is Tiana but Jennifer Hudson. Isn’t it surprising… a little bit? (wait, there’s more! Hit the jump!)
The second African-American Princess in an animation movie for children (and all around family entertainment film) came on our big screens this year in Epic. Tara, is more of a Queen, Mother Nature-ish and is voiced by Beyonce Knowles. Dreamgirls circle complete! Although Epic’s story is wonderful and beautifully animated, Blue Sky’s studios focus wasn’t on Tara as they left her character’s physical rendition in more of a sloppy in-between phase with highly un-synchronized moves and facial expressions. At times, you’d think that Tara, although harmoniously presented as the reigning Mother Nature is painfully moving pixel by pixel, in a Matrix kinetic of her own.
All that is contrasting with Beyonce’s strong voice and unhesitant interpretation but other than that, we can all congratulate Queen Bee for finally obtaining the role of an African American princess. I wonder, as I have not read the original book upon which the movie is based (William Joyce’s The Leaf Men and The Brave Good Bugs) about Tara’s ethnicity in the original context or if she was modified at Beyonce’s request…
Either way, beyond the reality update necessity, this is a Dreamgirls dream came true and I couldn’t be happier for Anika Noni Rose, Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce Knowless who fight the good Princess fight for our children’s imagination and healthy moral construction. I know there’s much to be said and even more to be done yet but! Let’s concentrate on the positive of this all and less on the awkward and the gauche doings of the stories and the photos (Jennifer Hudson looks really uneasy in this Dream Portrait and lacks a lot of Tiana’s charm… But who’s looking at that now? She’s a Princess! Finally! -wink) (all the images from this story came from imdb.com, disneyparks.com and the respective movies websites)