To Be “Image Affirmed”

New ‘toon continues Disney trend toward diversity

For most of the last century, the Disney ‘toon heroine was as white as, well… Snow White, the studio’s first feature-film superstar, who marked her debut in 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

It would take some 60 years for the Disney artists to begin painting their leading ladies with all the colors of the wind, including the American Indian Pocahontas (1995), the Chinese Mulan (1998) and the Hawaiian Lilo (2002).

Only now, with “The Princess and the Frog,”have Disney animators put a black female front and center. Ironically,the inspiration for the new film came from two Caucasian men: currentPixar-Disney chief John Lasseter and the late Walt Disney himself.

“The story really came from an initial idea of doing an American fairy tale, which hadn’t been done at Disney,” said “Princess” co-director Ron Clements. “And setting it in New Orleans, which is John Lasseter’sfavorite city in the world. It was Walt Disney’s favorite city in theworld … Out of that, it seemed natural that the heroine would beAfrican-American.”