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Wreck-It Ralph 2 voice actor speaks out about light-skinned Tiana controversy

Anika Noni Rose met with Disney studios to discuss the changes to her character

Walt Disney Animation
Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

On Sept. 20, the Wall Street Journal reported that Disney would reanimate scenes from upcoming Ralph Breaks the Internet, the sequel to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, which featured Princess and the Frog character Princess Tiana. This move comes in response to criticisms about the princess’s character design following one of the film’s trailer.

The second trailer for Ralph Breaks the Internet showed off a scene in which Sarah Silverman’s Vanellope meets the Disney Princesses — casual, cool, and lounging — who’ve all been reimagined in 3D animation. But viewers quickly noticed there was something off about Princess Tiana: she didn’t look a thing like her original design. She had lighter skin and hair, and was remodeled with sharper features.

Tiana first appeared in 2009’s The Princess and the Frog and to this date is the studio’s only black princess.

Aside from the fact she was clad in her usual green, the “new” Tiana was a far cry from the hand-drawn original, especially when compared to the other princesses, who received tasteful CGI redesigns. This led to a rally on social media, as fans of Princess Tiana spoke out against the very obvious changes to the character’s design.

It’s unusual to do revisions so close to a movie’s release, but beyond the social media backlash, Tiana’s voice actress, Anika Noni Rose, also raised concerns.

This week, Rose spoke out on Instagram for the first time since the reveal of the lighter skinned Tiana, revealing that she and the original animation team behind The Princess and the Frog — along with representatives from advocacy organization Color of Change met with Disney’s animation studios after the reveal of the lighter-skinned Tiana.

When producing The Princess and the Frog, Rose says that the animation team, led by Mark Henn, made sure to incorporate certain aspects of Rose’s likeness into the character — most specifically her deeper skin tone, her rounded nose, her full lips and the fact that she was left-handed. When Rose and the team met with the animation studios, the animators told her that the CGI did certain things to the lighting which might have altered Tiana’s appearance. But Rose made it clear that keeping Tiana’s original appearance was imperative.

“I was able to express how important it is to little girls (and let’s face it, grown women) who felt represented by her that her skin tone 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,” wrote Rose. “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 in fantasy.”

Rose’s full statement can be read below.

Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 premieres on Nov. 21.

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