What's the narrative here? What story are these items telling? If you think it's impossible to deliver emotional power through products, you're sorely mistaken. This is appalling.
If you don't live here, you may believe these are simply exceptional examples, but no. It is nearly 100% consistent and very, very obviously deliberate. You may say it's about local market appeal, and you'd surely and sadly be right. Definitely Japan is a place where "Disney Princesses are white" has a kind of unquestioned, patent obviousness. But then you realize that Jasmine, and even Mulan (who is a Princess though not a princess) are accepted, so the message quickly becomes, "Disney Princesses are NOT black," and that message not only sticks but is openly pursued and reinforced. Is institutionalized bigotry a market force that an American global company like Disney openly embraces? Apparently yes.
Not without irony, a real push for Princess Tiana could have been a watershed moment for little Japanese girls' (and everyone else's) understanding of the kind of race/cultural awareness that forms the bedrock for most modern industrialized high-GDP nations like Japan. Sadly, the fact that she has been de facto omitted from the Princess lineup makes it much, much worse. When she just wasn't there, it was lack of representation. But to have her exist but not include her, very aggressively not include her, sends a crystal clear message: No colored folk at the Princess table. Wait, no. It's clearer than that: No Blacks.
And to not even talk about or question it makes it "okay."
It bothered me when Princess and the Frog was still preparing for release that there seemed to be no real marketing push. And then it did release and there still seemed to be no attempt at generating real hype. I was deep into Disney fandom at this time and knew how the machine seemed to work; it was strange. But I told myself it was just my own hypersensitivity, cos I'm like that a lot.
Then Rapunzel/Tangled released and even before it hit theaters, the blond, fair-eyed princess was EVERYWHERE. Suddenly there was room for seven princesses, but Tiana had somehow missed that boat. I had noticed that we never got the Tiana edition of the Animators' Collection Dolls in Japan, either, but they always staggered that release, never having the full line-up in the Disney Stores. So even though the products were heavily featured and Tiana's absence was noticeable, others were missing, too, and I could let it go...even though I knew what it meant. Rapunzel's Animators' Doll appeared right in line with a major merchandisinig push not only at Disney Stores, but with tie-in marketing all over the country. Soon enough, all the Animators' Dolls were displayed together, as they are now, with only one noticeable absence. Tiana has never been available, and isn't now. The message is very clear, "In Japan, black girls are not princesses."
The same thing happened in the parks. I kept waiting for Tiana's Disneyland debut, but it never came. I told myself that the Japanese were simply interested in preserving their "classic" six princesses, but then Rapunzel (and Eugene/Flynn) made a big splash, even appearing in parades. I actually thought Rapunzel/Tangled was a great movie with great music and fantastic Disney feeling, but I hated how it made me feel.
It's true that in my opinion Princess and the Frog is quite simply a badly told story with terrible music for the most part and some awful design choices at every level. But Tiana as a character is compelling. It is hard to want her to be with a selfish, little talent, womanizing drifter. It is hard to accept that the first (and likely only, ever) black Disney princess was not only not black but not/sub- human for most of her film. There are many, many very real problems with Princess and the Frog. But that is not the point. I'm not talking about how people didn't like it. I'm talking about how the usual, expected marketing push never, ever even started to happen in even the tiniest way.
When it was just about Tiana v. Rapunzel, it hurt me, badly, often. I struggled with how I could, especially as a person of color, possibly reconcile giving emotional and financial support to a company that could do this so brazenly. But I just kept telling myself, "No, no. You're being too sensitive. The movie just wasn't very popular." But then comes Frozen, which is somehow an even "whiter" movie to me than Tangled. And by that, I don't mean race. I mean safe, privileged. Rapunzel is a far more universal and vulnerable character than either Elsa or Anna. I honestly find that both of the Frozen sisters, though I love them, come across as more entitled princesses than any other princess in the Disney canon. They both think everything in the world revolves around their emotional issues and needs - and the people around them allow them to be right. But that's a whole long other thing which I imagine most people have little stomach for, since so many seem to think Frozen is the best thing that has ever happened.
The point is, Frozen has also had significant pre-release marketing and constant, extremely aggressive marketing EVERYWHERE throughout its theatrical run, with a new obscenely aggressive push for home media sales. Frozen is not bad. It is not, to my mind, fantastically exceptional save for a talented and charming cast and a beautiful representation of sister bond. But there are at least as many holes and problems as Princess and the Frog in terms of making a great film. The difference is that it was supported. Disney is a marketing machine. When they release a film and don't support it, the message is more than obvious, it is hurtful. My takeaway was, "We made this so black people in America could finally just shut up. Thank goodness in Japan there is no such pressure because little Japanese girls think princesses can only be white or Japanese anyway." When I read recently that there are sequel plans for Frozen, while Tiana so desperately needs a better story told, it just re-ignited this frustration and pain. And when a poster commented in another thread that Duffy had "no character," it got me thinking about how merchandising itself tells very powerful stories and I thought I'd try talking about this again. Every time I have tried to talk about the problems with Tiana and Princess and the Frog, I have been marginalized, so I won't push the issue here, but if others have thoughts on this, it would be nice to really discuss it.
I very often think that I would prefer for Tiana to have actually never existed than to prove, undeniably, how uninvited we are, how unwelcome, with these continuous passive aggressive jabs. Like it's not even worth being overt about, and certainly nothing to apologize for. Heartbreaking. Constant. Deliberate. It was like this from the beginning; there was never even an attempt. So much more insulting than if they hadn't even bothered.