Dreaming big is not just for princesses

Hollywood-Disney has become a master at the art of storytelling when it comes to making us fall in love with the many heroines they’ve been able to showcase throughout the years. Pick a princess, any princess, and chances are you’ll be on the money when it comes to choosing a fairytale that won’t fail to draw you to the tear well and make you believe that good can triumph over evil.

You’ll understand how love always find a way to kick hate to the curb. More importantly, the discovery of self, determination and the will to overcome obstacles, no matter how daunting the challenge may be, is a running theme in Disney’s animated films that feature princesses. You can go from Cinderella to Snow White to Pocahontas to Belle to Merida, and there are a couple of common threads that binds them all together.

One, all of Disney’s princesses are all resolute. They know how to hang in there when the going gets tough. Secondly, the animated characters give hope to love. But perhaps the most essential aspect of their being is that they are all dreamers. They dream of a better life. They dream of love. They dream of change, of the unexpected taking place in their lives.

That’s the magic of Disney. That’s the beauty of these princesses; they’re not shackled by their circumstances. Their minds allow them endless flow of possibilities. That’s what Disney’s recent concept campaign of Dream Big, Princess, is all about. The idea behind the slogan is to get young people, particularly young girls, to think beyond their environment and believe that they can be all that they believe they can and want to be.

Disney’s Moana. Photo courtesy of Disney

This is where we find the Princess Tiana in Disney’s fantasy animated film  The Princess and the Frog, which made its debut as the No. 1 movie in America back in 2009. That seemed like a long time ago. The film went on to gross over $267 million worldwide.

“The Princess and the Frog” received a recent revival at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood when Disney, through its “Dream Big, Princess,” initiative, pulled the movie out of its vaults, along with other princess movies such as Tangled and Moana, to show young girls it’s never too late to dream.

Through the forming of Princess Tiana, Disney effectively created a dimension for young black girls to see themselves as royalty as well. And in recent years, Disney has been successful in bridging the cultural boundaries as it relates to introducing to us princesses from different ethnic backgrounds. That has certainly added to the demands for more princess films.

Disney has now gone from its original core group of princesses of Snow White, Cinderella and Auroa (Sleeping Beauty) to a list of 12 (Mulan, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Ariel, Rapunzel, Merida, Tiana, and Moana). Disney’s impressive lineup of princesses displays its ability to highlight the princess in all young girls. Princess Tiana is not your typical Disney princess in that she has to do battle with a wild animal to show her grit or deal with a crooked witch to validate her heart’s goodness.

Her fight is being human. This is where critics have tagged Disney about regarding its first black princess. Unlike other Disney princesses who exhibit strength and beauty throughout their respective films, Tiana, with a play on The Princess and the Frog, goes through her trials and tribulations, mostly as a jumping bug-eater.

Rapunzel in Disney’s “Tangled.” Photo courtesy of Disney

Disney succeeds in this area as it shines a light on the fact that black girls historically been told or suggested to that their beauty is not worthy to be redeemed. From slavery to pictorial mischaracterizations of big-lipped, wide-eyed, and scarf-wearing servants, the black woman has had to endure cruel stereotypes of their beauty.

When people think of a frog, they tend to think of something not very attractive. Human or frog, Tiana learns that beauty lies within the heart and how you see yourself. It is through the transformation that Tiana finally realizes her worth as she sets about life as a tadpole after kissing a frog (Prince Naveen). Disney’s message in The Princess and the Frog appears to be what Christina Aguilera sings about in her hit song Beautiful. And that is to learn to love yourself no matter what people say.

It takes a while, but eventually Tiana gets there. That’s because she spends most of her time thinking about fulfilling the promise she made to herself and her father of someday of owning her own restaurant. Set amidst the backdrop of gumbo, jazz and pageantry in New Orleans, The Princess and the Frog gives us a young Tiana, who is a hard-working waitress wanting to make good on her quest, even if it means missing out on some fun and games with friends.

Sacrifice is another subtle message to take away from The Princess and the Frog. What Tiana is able to display through her persistence of working two jobs and saving up all those change-makers is that you have to sacrifice something in order to get something. She shows young girls that hard work and sacrifice do matter and that it can equate to a dream being fulfilled.

As Tiana goes about going through this process, love comes along in a happenstance way when she comes across the conceited Prince Naveen, who believes he is a gift to all women. Through the manipulation and detraction of Dr. Facilier (Keith David), both Prince Naveen and Tianna are transformed into frogs.

Another lesson here is to stay away from temptation and greed, otherwise you’re risking self-sabotage. Tiana gets that memo, and her mind is able to supersede her physical trappings. She knows she is beautiful. She knows she is worthy of love. Once she lets go of her suppressed thoughts, Tiana sees the dynamics of her being turn into wonderment fruition. This is what wishing on a star is all about. Dream big.

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