Behind the scenes of “Ralph Breaks the Internet” at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Tiana has been getting a makeover these past few weeks. Responding to claims of white-washing by fans on social media and at the suggestion of the character’s original voice actress, Anika Noni Rose, Disney has reworked Princess Tiana’s CGI character design.
When the first images of the Disney Princesses as they would appear in “Ralph” were released this past summer, there was some criticism that the new three-dimensional version of Tiana, the protagonist of 2009’s “The Princess and the Frog,” did not resemble the character as she appeared in her original film.
The different depictions of Tiana in “Ralph” so far | © Disney
Whether it was lighting, angles, or tricks animation plays on the eye that made Tiana look different, no one knew. A significant amount of people simply pointed out she did not look like the princess they have come to know and love. All the princesses had been changed to match the look of “Ralph,” but Tiana had been changed too much. Largely, the shot under question was how Tiana appeared in the image of released of all the princesses in their new loungewear (see above image).
Tiana herself, actress and singer Anika Noni Rose, advocacy group Color of Change, and website The Glow Up all felt the same. Rose set up a meeting with the studio to discuss the changes she described as “lighter skin and much sharper features” while The Glow Up released an article and Color of Change launched a campaign. The result was a happily ever after where the studio listened and revamped the “Ralph” version of Tiana to look more like the hand-drawn version!
The reworked design compared to the original film | © Disney
In a statement released on her Instagram, Rose detailed her interaction with the studio concerning the issue:
“I had a meeting with the Wreck-It Ralph team, my original animator Mark Henn, and others. They explained how CGI did different things to characters’ color tones in different light compared to hand drawn original characters, 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 skin tone that it 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,” said Rose.
Anika Noni Rose leaving Walt Disney Animation Studios | © Instagram @anikaaroundtheworld
Tiana was Disney’s first African-American princess and remains to be the only one. When “The Princess and the Frog” was released, there was some criticism from people who disliked the fact that the first African-American princess was a frog for the majority of the film.
The studio has also faced some criticism in recent years that all of their CGI female characters have similarly shaped faces with big eyes and button noses. Additionally, “Frozen” head of animation Lino DiSalvo spurred a series of negative online remarks in 2013 for saying, out of context or not, it was “tough” to have an animated film with two female leads because “[female characters] have to go through these range of emotions, but you have to keep them pretty…” He has since defended his statement, saying it was blown out of proportion.
In the end, fans have been very pleased that Disney actually listened to their concerns and changed Tiana’s “Ralph” look to better resemble her original design more consistently. The new version of Tiana can be seen in the film’s newest official trailer.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is the sequel to the 2012 Oscar-winning film “Wreck-It Ralph.” It will be released in theaters on November 21, 2018.