|First appearance||The Princess and the Frog|
|Created by||Ron Clements
The Brothers Grimm
E. D. Baker
|Voiced by||Anika Noni Rose
Elizabeth M. Dampier (young)
Frog (after Prince Naveen's magic backfires)
|Family||James (father, deceased)
|Relatives||The King of Maldonia (father-in-law)
The Queen of Maldonia (mother-in-law)
Prince Ralphie (brother-in-law)
Princess Tiana of Maldonia is a fictional main character who appears in Walt Disney Pictures' 49th animated feature film The Princess and the Frog (2009). Created by directors Ron Clements and John Musker and animated by Mark Henn, Tiana is voiced by Anika Noni Rose as an adult while Elizabeth M. Dampier voices the character as a child.
Tiana is loosely based on Princess Emma, the heroine of E. D. Baker's novel The Frog Princess, and the princess who appears in The Brothers Grimm fairy tale by which the book was inspired. A hardworking waitress who dreams of opening her own restaurant, Tiana's progress is stalled when she transforms into a frog after desperately kissing a prince who has been turned into one by an evil witch doctor. The ninth Disney Princess, Tiana is the first to be of African-American heritage.
Tiana has been mostly positively received, with critics praising her personality and values. However, Tiana's ethnicity has been met with mixed reception, driven by speculation and controversy.
Conception and ethnicity
According to co-director John Musker, adapting the fairy tale The Frog Prince by The Brothers Grimm into an animated feature film had been a subject at Walt Disney Animation Studios for eighteen years. The project was repeatedly shelved because the studio was unsuccessful in creating a version with which they were satisfied. When Disney bought the rights to The Frog Princess, a novel written by E. D. Baker that is based on the fairy tale, in 2006, co-directors Ron Clements and Musker were hired to lead the studio in yet another attempt at adapting the fairy tale, choosing 1920s New Orleans, Louisiana as its setting. Although originally conceived as a computer-animated film, Clements and Musker fought for The Princess and the Frog to be traditionally animated.
Tiana is loosely based on both Princess Emma, the heroine of Baker's novel, and the princess who appears in the Grimm fairy tale. Clements described Baker's The Frog Princess as "a kind of fairy tale with a twist" because in it "the princess kissed the frog and instead of him turning into a prince she turned into a frog". Clements and Musker pitched the idea for the film to Walt Disney Animation Studios CEO John Lasseter "as a hand-drawn film with an African American heroine", conceiving Tiana "as someone who would never have been a big fan of Disney fairy tales." The character was inspired by famed restaurateur Leah Chase, who Clements and Musker met on their research trip to New Orleans. Clements elaborated, "There's a woman in New Orleans named Lee (sic) Chase who was a waitress and ultimately opened a restaurant with her husband … we met with her and we talked with her and she went to kind of into her story, her philosophy about food, which is a big element of the movie."
Tiana is recognized for being Disney's first African American princess. As the film's writers and directors, Clements and Musker claim that their decision to depict Tiana as an African American young woman came naturally simply as a result of the location in which the story takes place. Clements explained, "we didn’t realize it was that big of a deal" and originally gave the character the French name Madeleine -- Maddy for short. However, when the name drew controversy and speculation as a result of alleged racial connotations—according to various sources, the name Maddy was commonly used as a "slave name"—they decided to change it to the Greek name Tiana, which rhymes with Diana and rana (Latin for frog). Though Tiana (Τιάνα) does not translate as princess (πριγκίπισσα), it can be decoded as portmanteau, coined by blending the princess names Τία and Νταϊάνα. Vying to continue to approach the film with sensitivity, Clements and Musker sought guidance from screenwriter Rob Edwards, who is African American. In order to add emotional weight to the story, Clements and Musker placed further emphasis on Tiana's relationship with her father, James, who originally "wasn't as much in the picture".
Directors Ron Clements and John Musker opted against hiring "big stars" to voice the film's main characters, explaining that "it can help with the identification of that animated character with the voice if you don't get an instant mental picture of the real actor." Several well-known African American female entertainers expressed interest in voicing Tiana, including recording artists Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys, and actress and fashion model Tyra Banks. The role of Tiana ultimately went to actress and singer Anika Noni Rose, alongside whom both Knowles and Hudson co-starred in Dreamgirls (2006). When Rose was personally contacted by Disney about voicing Tiana, her expectations were not particularly high. She explained, "I wasn't planning on being a princess. I thought I'd be like a weeping willow or something". To prepare herself for her audition, Rose made sure that she "had a voice ready."
Rose auditioned for the role of Tiana a total of three times. Both "thrilled" and "ecstatic" by the fact that she would be voicing Disney's first African American princess, Rose, a longtime fan of Disney who had always wanted to voice a Disney character, was "surprised by some of the things that the community took issue with". When the film was brought to her attention, Rose was drawn to it more by "the story of the young woman" rather than Tiana's ethnicity. "I don’t think the cultural significance hit me until later", she explained to The Root.
Rose described the recording process as "very solitary work" that required her to do much research and preparation. She elaborated, "I called people in New Orleans; I listened to their voices to hear what they sounded like. I did a lot of reading up on the city, and listened to a lot of music in the jazz era." Rose gradually received the film's screenplay "in pieces". During her first recording session, Rose read through and recorded the entire script in eight hours, describing the experience as "exhausting, but wonderful." She and co-star Bruno Campos, who provided the voice of Prince Naveen, recorded the majority of their dialogue separately.
Design and characteristics
Mark Henn served as the supervising animator for Tiana. Henn was hired by Lasseter because he had animated nearly every Disney Princess since Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Describing Tiana, Henn said that she is following "a new trend in our princesses," likening her to Ariel from The Little Mermaid. When animating Tiana, Henn was inspired by voice actress Anika Noni Rose, borrowing from her dimples and left-handedness. Henn was also inspired by studio employee Jaimie Milner, a film intern who was working in post production. The fact that Tiana is African American was "never a big issue" for Henn when it came to animating her, but drawing her as both a human and a frog proved difficult. "Tiana appears in the movie in so many different forms … she's a little girl, she's an adult human, and then she's a frog".
Rose's thoughts, ideas and concerns were taken into consideration when it came to finalizing Tiana's design. "I … said I wanted it to look like she ate and wasn’t skinny, and she has a full mouth and a little round nose and curly hair and these are all things that made her look distinctly herself." Rose didn't want Tiana to resemble "a cookie-cutter princess who had been coloured in brown. When I saw her for the first time and realized how much she looked like me I was really blown away." Rose also served as a form of visual, live-action reference for supervising animator Mark Henn as he worked on Tiana, videotaping her as she recorded her lines and incorporating some of her distinct characteristics, such as her dimples and left-handedness, into Tiana's design.
The Princess and the Frog
Tiana works two jobs in order to raise enough money to turn a rundown sugar mill into a restaurant, a promise she made to her now deceased father. As a result, Tiana has become absorbed with her work and doesn't have time for anything else. Tiana finds hope when her wealthy childhood best friend Charlotte pays her a lump sum of money to make and serve beignets at a masquerade ball she is hosting for the handsome but disinherited Prince Naveen.
That night, Tiana's hopes are crushed when the owners of the mill tell her that she was outbid by someone for the sugar mill and that it is probably a good thing given her 'background'. When Tiana accidentally ruins her costume, Charlotte is kind enough to replace it with one of her own. Out of desperation, Tiana wishes on a star, only to be greeted by a talking frog, who claims to be Prince Naveen. Mistaking her for a princess because of her costume, Naveen promises to give Tiana the money she needs if she turns him human again by kissing him. After some persuasion, Tiana succumbs, but becomes a frog instead.
While on the run from hungry gators, Tiana strikes a deal with Naveen, demanding that once he marries Charlotte, he will use the money he gets from her to help Tiana buy the restaurant. Things change, however, on their journey to end the spell. They both meet a jazz-playing alligator named Louis and a Cajun firefly named Ray, who help them reach the voodoo priestess Mama Odie. Tiana and Naveen help each other escape from frog hunters and Tiana teaches Naveen to help her cook. As Ray sings an ode to his true love "Evangeline", Naveen shows Tiana how to dance, something that she has never done before because she was afraid to. Both frogs find themselves falling in love with one another, but are unsure how to say it.
Eventually Tiana comes face to face with Facilier himself, who promises to make her dream of "Tiana's Place" a reality if she hands over a voodoo charm which plays a significant role in his plans. After reminding her of all the work she has done and the people who held her back, he shows her an image of her late father, telling her that she can make sure the dream he never lived to see come true. Seeing her family together, Tiana finally realizes what her father had meant that he never got what he wanted but he had love, what he needed. Tiana is able to smash the charm and leaves Facilier at the mercy of the angry voodoo spirits.
Tiana finds Naveen, who is promising Charlotte that he will marry her but only if she will give Tiana her restaurant. Tiana stops him and finally admits that she loves him. Moved, Charlotte says she will kiss Naveen, "no marriage required", but it is already midnight and she is too late to break the spell. Tiana and Naveen get married in the bayou. Once they kiss, they finally become human again because Tiana is finally now a princess and is shown wearing her princess ball gown. Louis "terrifies" the realtors into accepting Tiana's offer. Together, Naveen and Tiana open the restaurant, now named "Tiana's Palace" and dance under the stars. Tiana's singing voice is also provided by Anika Noni Rose.
In other media
On October 26, 2009, "Tiana's Showboat Jubilee!" debuted with appearances from Tiana, Naveen, Louis, and Dr. Facilier, at the Walt Disney World Resort; and later at the Disneyland Resort. Tiana and Naveen are also in the "Festival of Fantasy Parade" at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Tiana and Naveen are also doing meet and greets at Walt Disney World's Liberty Square. She joined Disney's "Once upon a Dream Parade" at Disneyland Paris in April 2010 as part of the "New Generations Festival". Tiana also joined Fantasmic! in early January 2010 during the finale with the Mark Twain Riverboat. Tiana, along with Naveen, Doctor Facilier, and Ray each make a cameo appearance in Disney's World of Color at Disney California Adventure Park. Tiana and the other Disney Princesses have an attraction at the Magic Kingdom called Princess Fairytale Hall. In 2014, Tiana made a guest appearance on Sofia the First. When visiting Walt Disney World visitor can spot Princess Tiana under a shady, forest gazebo at the edge of Liberty Square.
Reception and legacy
As a character, Tiana has been mostly positively received. Helen O'Hara of Empire wrote positively of the character, describing her as "a hard-headed heroine who works hard and displays a focus and drive". Catherine Shoard of The Guardian praised Tiana, congratulating Disney for creating "a heroine who's an actual character; a woman whose three dimensions you don't need to don daft specs to see." Betsy Sharley of The Los Angeles Times wrote positively of Tiana, describing her as both "beautiful" and "boisterous". Carey Bryson of About.com gave Tiana high praise, calling her both "a fabulous new princess" and "a decent role model".
Tiana is notable for being Disney's first black princess. The studio's decision to create a black heroine was met with mixed reception. While some critics, such as Richard Watson, praised the film for offering a long-awaited "break in tradition", others received it with much criticism and speculation. Rachel Bertsche of O, The Oprah Magazine called the arrival of a black Disney princess "barrier-breaking" and "long overdue". Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian wrote, "these avowedly black people spend an awful lot of the movie being adorable, unthreatening little green creatures. Disney may wish to reach out to people of colour – but the colour green wasn't what we had in mind." Bidisha of The Observer was fairly mixed in her review, calling Tiana a "one-dimensional" but "clever, strong woman", while criticizing the film's light-hearted plot and lack of emphasis on racial issues. Patricia Williams of The Guardian, who conceded harboring a general dislike of Disney animated films and the characters featured in them, including the princesses, accused Disney of being "unforgivably late" in their creation of a black heroine. Williams did, however, find Tiana to be "spunkier than most princesses", comparing her to Princess Fiona of the Shrek franchise, and reacted positively to Tiana's portrayal as a tireless feminist restaurant tycoon. Writer Brooks Barnes from The New York Times highlights the two different issues for Princess Tiana, in her article "Her Prince Has Come. Critics, Too" that shows Disney with a good standing than with a negative standpoint, with the help of other writers expressing how, "Disney should be ashamed," said William Blackburn, a former columnist at The Charlotte Observer. "This princess story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community." From a rumor that surfaced online giving off that Disney was originally was going to call Maddy (short for Madeleine) giving the idea that it was too close to the racist word Mammy, giving the aspect for her being a slave to her friend Charlotte La Bouff. Harvard teacher Michael D. Baran, a cognitive psychologist and anthropologist, expressed how children learn about race, and how Disney has a stereotyping history, "Because of Disney’s history of stereotyping, people are really excited to see how Disney will handle her language, her culture, her physical attributes" said Michael D. Baran.
On August 19, 2011, Anika Noni Rose was presented with a Disney Legends award at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California to commemorate her work on The Princess and the Frog. At the same ceremony, actresses Jodi Benson, Paige O'Hara, Linda Larkin, and Lea Salonga were also honored with awards for their individual contributions to Disney, having each at some point loaned their voice to a Disney princess.
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