Nov. 12, 2009 - President Barack Obama has joined his 43 predecessors in the Hall of Presidents at Disney World. But the first African-American president is sharing the limelight with the introduction of Disney's first African-American princess: Princess Tiana.
Disney didn't know in 2006 when it began creating the 2-D hand drawn animated film it would be making its debut alongside another "first"; the first African-American president.
And now Disney has both.
"We worked on him [Obama] for a little over eight months; this figure is the most technical advance in detail accuracy. The technology allowed us to get the pitch of lips -- how he moves his lips when forming his words," Diego Parris, of Imagineering for Disney told me. (They also worked on a John McCain figure until the election.)
Obama's likeness stands on stage in the Hall of Presidents Exhibit and delivers brief remarks along with the likeness of President George Washington following a highlight presentation on the history of U.S. presidents. Parris said, Obama's participation included recording his remarks for Disney at the White House and staff assisting with the details on his attire, label pin and watch.
I can't say who is providing the voice for President Washington role, but I do know who's the voice for Princess Tiana. Actress Anika Noni Rose provided the voice for the princess; you may remember her from the film "Dream Girls."
"Princess Tiana is the first Disney princess introduced in 10 years, the ninth Disney princess and the first American princess created by the animation dynasty. The movie, "The Princess and the Frog" is scheduled to open next month.
The musical fairy tale is about a young girl from New Orleans who is mistaken for a princess by a prince of a frog who requests a kiss to break the spell. I think you can fill in the rest. Having the story take place in New Orleans gives a city that has faced some bad times some good PR.
To capture the feel and the spirit of the city, filmmakers took more than 50,000 photos of local images to use as reference and inspiration including streets, buildings, restaurants and the garden district.
Some critics have questioned the film taking place in New Orleans where Blacks suffered such harrowing experiences during Hurricane Katrina, why the princess ends up with a frog and why her suitor isn't also from states (he's from a fictional land)?
Having a Black president has brought about a lot of discussions about race, role models and altering realities for stereo-types. I think the same is true for the introduction of a Black princess. Now little girls and boys of all races won't think its make believe; they'll see a president and a princess giving fairy tales new endings.