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GUEST COMMENTARY: Disney makes a crowd-pleaser for black community

Thursday, January 7, 2010 | 4:28 p.m. CST; updated 1:00 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 30, 2010

Move over Snow White, Cinderella and Pocahontas. There's a new star in the sky. Princess Tiana is beaming across our movie screens. She's a New Orleans girl with some hip in her step.

There’s lots of Louisiana flavor. Voodoo doctors and blind voodoo priestesses. There is a trumpet-playing alligator, beignets and a Cupid-like firefly. Tiana follows the Disney rags-to-riches formula. She's a poor black girl who wants to open her own New Orleans-style restaurant.

Her prince is, of course, a suave, handsome Creole. There are demons and shadows, magic kisses, dangers and dramatic rescues. These are all served on abeautiful musical platter.

The cast includes the voice of Anika Noni Rose as Tiana, the 19-year-old waitress whose dream, like Cinderella's, seems hopeless. Bruno Campos is cast as Naveen, the Creole prince. David Keith is the villainous voodoo witchdoctor. Jennifer Lewis is the blind voodoo priestess.

There are many other dazzling characters to complete the fanciful ensemble, including a jazz-playing alligator. Oprah Winfrey has a cameo as Tiana’s mother, Eudora. The music, directed by Randy Newman, includes four new songs: "Almost There," "Dig A Little Deeper," "When We're Human" and "Friends On The Other Side." They provide the familiar Disney magic carpet flying the audience into a musical bayou dreamland. Audiences are applauding this film.

The African-American community is predictably ecstatic. The marketing around this movie started before Halloween. Many of the online tiaras and cosmetics sold out. While critics like me would love to have seen Randy Newman team withPrince or Wynton Marsalis on the music, the little ladies I watched in the theater did not share my concern. Everything to them was just fine. Thanks to everyone involved in this gift to our little princesses! Let's all go to the movie and see this black princess!

Quote: "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." — Walt Disney

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus for MU.


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