*A rep for Disney has reportedly released a statement clearing up some rumors about the studio’s upcoming animated feature, “The Princess and the Frog,” formerly known as “The Frog Princess.”
As previously reported, the 2009 release is to be Disney’s first fairytale featuring an African American princess. Although no contracts have been signed, “Dreamgirls” star Anika Noni Rose is rumored to have beaten out Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Tyra Banks to voice the lead character of 19-year-old Maddy/Princess Tiana in the film, which is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the 1920s.
A character list describing Maddy as a “chambermaid” suddenly appeared on Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that requires the public to fill in the pages. The site already got in trouble after someone added a false post stating that comedian Sinbad had died. With that in mind, Wikipedia’s "Frog Princess" posting lists the following characters:
“Maddy, a 19-year-old chambermaid; Charlotte La Bouff, an 18-year-old spoiled, southern Debutante and Diva; Dr. Duvalier, an African American Voodoo magician/fortune teller and villain of the movie; Mama Odie, an elderly, 200-year-old Voodoo priestess/fairy godmother; Ray, a lovesick Cajun firefly; Louis, a Jazz singer alligator; Prince Harry, a gregarious, fun-loving European Prince; Lawrence, Prince Harry's pompous valet; Big Daddy La Bouff, a wealthy, Southern plantation landowner and father of Charlotte La Bouff; Eudora, Maddy's mother and Charlotte's ex-nursemaid; George, the La Bouff family cook; and Little Arila, Maddy's sister.”
One angry reader of industry Web site A-List took issue with some of the character list described by Disney.
“What the hell? Disney's first black fairytale and the lead is a black chambermaid who runs way with a white prince?!” wrote filmmaker/designer Shirley Bruno. “There's a villainous Voodoo priest!"
Bruno also pointed out that the villain, Dr. Duvalier, could be a reference to Haitian dictators Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.
After contacting Disney about the character breakdown on Wikipedia, the A-List says it received the following response from studio spokesperson Heidi Trotta:
"While it is a Studio policy that we do not comment on our animated films while they are in the early stages of production due to the nature of our evolving development process, it has come to our attention that there is incorrect information being circulated about Disney’s 2009 motion picture ‘The Princess and the Frog’ (whose previous working title was ‘The Frog Princess’).
“The central character is a young girl named Princess Tiana. The story takes place in the charming elegance and grandeur of New Orleans’ fabled French Quarter during the Jazz Age. She is the newest addition to the Studio’s royal family of ‘Disney Princesses.’ Princess Tiana will be a heroine in the great tradition of Disney’s rich animated fairy tale legacy, and all other characters and aspects of the story will be treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity.
“This American fairy tale is several years away from completion and the creative process is ongoing. No other details regarding the film have been released at this point, and unfortunately much of the information that has surfaced, including the casting breakdown…is inaccurate. When we do casting calls we frequently use substitute information as we don't want details out about the movies. Therefore that information you have is incorrect."