By Will Lerner, Yahoo Entertainment
In Ralph Breaks the Internet, Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) encounter Disney’s princess crew when they take their adventures online. When a rough version of the scene was screened at a Disney event in 2017, fans couldn’t contain themselves. However, when the studio released an image of the film’s finished CGI princesses, there was instant backlash.
At issue was the design of Princess Tiana, the lead of 2009’s The Princess and the Frog. Twitter erupted with criticism over the lightening of Tiana’s skin and what some believed were Caucasian features. Among those calling out the depiction: the voice of Tiana herself, Anika Noni Rose.
Rose revealed that she had taken up the issue directly with Disney and that she and the studio had met and collaborated to adjust her features, saying that she appreciated “that this far into the process Disney had enough care and respect for all who love Princess Tiana and her legacy to spend time and money to make the adjustments necessary.”
In a recent interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Ralph Breaks the Internet stars Silverman and Taraji P. Henson (who voices the new character Yesss) praised Disney for its handling of the controversy.
“What I love about Disney in what they’ve been able to do over the years is take care of everyone, ” Henson tells us. “In their storytelling, there’s something for the kids, there’s something for the adults. They are a company that values the customer, that values their support. The people had a problem with something and they fixed it. And that’s honourable.”
Silverman says that Disney has demonstrated its desire to move beyond a problematic past that included racist, anti-Semitic and sexist characterisations of various characters.
“First of all, just the princess scene, to show that Disney was so game to reflect on their entire canon of Disney princesses and what that means — to do that, you have to be willing to acknowledge their accountability in a problematic ideal, a man who saves the day, a very white existence,” Silverman says. “They have really taken that on. You can’t erase a problematic past but you can acknowledge it, internalise it and be forever changed by it. I feel like they do that and I respect that so much.”
Silverman herself had a story to share regarding Disney’s willingness to listen when people have reasonable criticism.
“I was so excited that Vanellope inspires the princesses to wear comfortable clothes,” she adds. “I walked in one day and there were sketches [of the princesses in their lounge wear]. There were half-shirts with tiny waists and I was like, ‘God please don’t make it sexy sweats. Please, I’m begging you. I’m begging you on behalf of every little girl in this country. Please don’t do this.’ And they really did adjust it. And I don’t know if it’s because of me, but I’m so grateful because it would have made me so sad.”
Watch: Sarah Silverman insists her ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ character is Disney’s first Jewish princess: