In 2009, Disney released their groundbreaking film The Princess and the Frog, and for the first time, the heroine was a Black young woman named Tiana. For Black girls and grown women alike, the moment was deeply significant. One of those women was writer and director Stella Meghie.
Meghie, the woman behind films like The Photograph and The Weekend and a longtime fan of Disney movies, is writing a new long-form musical series following Disney’s first Black princess.
Tiana, announced today in conjunction with other upcoming features on Disney+ Day, centers on the newly crowned Princess of Maldonia who hails from New Orleans. In celebration of the streaming platform’s second anniversary, The Walt Disney Company is offering Disney+ subscribers special benefits including additional time in Disney parks, exclusive first-looks on the platform and more. From now through Sunday, November 14, new and eligible returning subscribers can get one month of Disney+ for $1.99.
Walt Disney Animation Studios announced that Stella Meghie (“The Photograph”) will be director and writer of the new long-form musical series, “Tiana,” coming to Disney+ in 2023. In the series, Tiana sets off for a grand new adventure as the newly crowned Princess of Maldonia, but a calling to her New Orleans past isn’t far behind.
Tiana is set to debut in 2023 but we had a chance to speak to Meghie about the new project. See what she had to say about the importance of Princess Tiana and what we can expect from the series.
What did The Princess and the Frog mean to you when it was first released?
STELLA MEGHIE: It was huge. I’m such a huge Disney fan. The Little Mermaid was my first favorite movie that I can remember. Disney was just always in my mind. When Princess and the Frog came out, that was the first Black princess, the first Disney icon that I could relate to visually and experience-wise. It was huge. I love jazz. Everything about it was inspiring to me.
I tell the team at Disney all the time that I had been stalking Tiana, basically. I didn’t know that there was an opportunity to bring her to life again in animation. I thought maybe they would consider doing something live-action. Then I got a call saying that they’re doing a show with a particular princess. I said, ‘Which one?’ And when they said Tiana, I was just so excited. It was nothing I was expecting. It reminded me of what one of my mentors says, ‘When something’s for you, it’ll come to you. You won’t even have to chase it.’
How is writing for an animated character different from other projects you’ve done?
MEGHIE: There’s something about animation that is so freeing. It is very exciting to write whatever you want on the page without worrying about a note that says, ‘We can’t afford this.’ It’s pure imagination. You’re not bogged down by real life, real world themes and you can get to the bottom of certain themes and ideas and adventures. I love writing animation, it’s just blue sky.
When you learned you would be taking on the project officially, did you feel any increased pressure because of what Tiana means to the Black community?
MEGHIE: It’s a tremendous amount of weight because she means so much. She’s the only at the moment, really. You have to get it right. The Black community can be very scrutinizing. But I’m not new to this. I’m true to this. I’m used to it and it just really fuels me to work hard to make sure we’re digging really, really deep to make sure we’re getting to the soul of Tiana.
What’s so interesting about Princess Tiana is that she works. What possibilities does that open up in terms of her story?
MEGHIE: You will be surprised. It can take you very, very far. She is kind of the working girl. She is grounded in a real space that we all know in New Orleans. But in the series we are taking her on this grand adventure. When we meet her, she’s the newly crowned Princess of Maldonia. We get to see her explore that world but New Orleans is calling her back.
Those are her roots. I think that’s a theme I love to explore and Tiana will explore too. I think there’s a sense of exploring identity. While she is the Princess of Maldonia, she is still Tiana from New Orleans, so not letting go of that while also giving her a big adventure that I don’t think people will see coming.
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