Anika Noni Rose goes to bat for Princess Tiana after Disney lightens her skin tone

Fans of Princess Tiana complained when they saw how Disney had made over the black princess for the new “Wreck-It Ralph” sequel. Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog,” didn’t like the changes, either.
Fans of Princess Tiana complained when they saw how Disney had made over the black princess for the new “Wreck-It Ralph” sequel. Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog,” didn’t like the changes, either. Twitter

People noticed it right away. Her skin tone was lighter. Her nose appeared slimmer.

Fans of the black Disney Princess Tiana balked over the summer when they saw images of her from the upcoming “Wreck-it Ralph” sequel.

“Disney, who dis princess?” wrote Maiysha Kai for The Root.

“Call it a trick of the (animated) light, but the newest iteration of Tiana seems to have traded in her dark skin and more African features for a seemingly more caramel hue and prototypical Pixar snub nose, complete with a mane of 3c curls.”

The backlash on social media to Tiana’s “new” look alongside other Disney princesses in “Ralph Breaks the Internet” could be summed up in this tweet: “They done white washed princess tiana smh.”

Actress Anika Noni Rose, who gave voice to Tiana in Disney’s 2009 animated film “The Princess and the Frog,” didn’t recognize the updated, 2018 version of Tiana either. This week she revealed in an Instagram post that she went to Disney studios three weeks ago to speak her mind on the matter.

According to People, “Disney animators hit the drawing board again.

“The social-media-driven backlash prompted Disney to begin reanimating the princess immediately after the images were released, according to a person familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

“The revisions — an unusual move given the yearslong process of making an animated film — come in the final months before the movie’s release on Nov. 21.”

Rose wrote that she purposefully stayed quiet on the matter as the controversy swirled “because it was important for me to do my due diligence before publicly addressing something as near and dear to my heart (and face) as Princess Tiana.

“This summer new images were released where she looked very different, with lighter skin and much sharper features. I was as surprised as most of her & my fans. Aside from my personal feelings, I noted how people felt online (and in my dms) and I was glad to see that people are still very much in love with and supportive of our Princess.”

Rose said she and her team put in an immediate call to Disney studios to talk about the changes and that she met in person with the “Wreck-It Ralph” team and Disney’s Mark Henn, who animated “The Princess and the Frog.”

“They explained how CGI animation did different things to the characters’ color tones in different light compared to hand drawn original characters,” she wrote, “and I was able to express how important it is to the little girls (and let’s face it, grown women) who felt represented by her that her skin tone stay as rich as it had been, and that her nose continue to be the little round nose that Mark so beautifully rendered in the movie, the same nose on my very own face and on many other little brown faces around the world, that we so rarely get to see represented in fantasy.”

Rose wrote that when she was making the “Princess” movie, Henn asked for her input on how Tiana should look, “and among the first things I said were a round nose full lips, and that she be left handed.

“He made certain to incorporate these things as he created my likeness as a Princess then, and he sat with me in this meeting showing me the steps they were taking to bring those things back that got lost in the movie from hand drawn to CGI.”

Rose wasn’t the only to lodge a formal complaint. The civil rights group Color of Change started an online petition to protest Tiana’s changes.

“When Princess Tiana’s character came out, this princess who was from the Gulf Coast, from New Orleans, Louisiana, it was a character that we hadn’t seen before at that high level of a princess movie,” the group’s president, Rashad Robinson, told The Daily Beast.

“And she represented the image that a lot of black girls could see in themselves, could see in their aunt or their cousin or their mother. And then when the new representation was coming out, it just looked radically different, and the image of Tiana had become something that took away some of the features that made Tiana so unique in the first place for a Disney character.

“Doing that without a conversation felt, for us, deeply troubling.”

Robinson said that group members had a phone meeting with Disney last month in which they were given a “verbal agreement” that Tiana would be restored to her original self.

Rose reported the same outcome from her conversations with Disney.

“It was important to me to hear what Disney had to say, and to have an open dialogue about legacy and representation,” she wrote.

“I also appreciate that this far into the process Disney had enough care and respect for all who love Princess Tiana and her legacy to spend the time and money to make the adjustments necessary.”

It’s not clear, reports MovieWeb.com, whether Disney had already started making merchandise for the movie, “but if they started getting the Disney Princesses stuff ready, they’re going to have to go back and fix that as well.”

The scene in the movie featuring all the Disney princesses “was what Disney used to first unveil the animated movie” at the big Disney fan event, D23 Expo, according to MovieWeb.

“Throughout the marketing campaign, the Disney Princesses have been a big focal point, so it was wise of the studio to go in and reanimate Princess Tiana so quickly, before the backlash got even more out of control,” wrote the entertainment news website.