Voodoo in The Princess and The Frog

Anderson, Jeffrey Elton. “Voodoo.” African American Religious Cultures. 10 September 2009: 427-439.

Jeffrey Anderson is an assistant professor of history at Middle Georgia College in Cochran, Georgia. In this book, he writes an article entitled “Voodoo” which describes several facets of the origins of the religion and its roots in America’s south. Within the article he describes: Voodoo’s historical development, African terms associated with Mississippi Voodoo, beliefs, practices and Voodoo deities.

Blackburn, William. “Long Lack of Black Princesses Over, But Not a Fairy-tale Ending.” Charlotte Observer. Charlotte Observer. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2009/06/11/774955/long-lack-of-black-princesses.html (4 October 2010).

William Blackburn works for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as well as a columnist for the Charlotte Observer. This article was originally published in April of 2007, a couple years before The Princess and the Frog was released. Going on information leaked before the movie’s release, Blackburn bitterly writes about Disney’s failing attempt to finally develop an African-American princess. He states that Disney should be ashamed to set the story in New Orleans, the city in which one of the most “devastating tragedies to beset a black community” occurred. Blackburn also writes that putting together the setting, a Voodoo theme and a sidekick alligator creates an “ill-considered fairy-tale”.

Consentino, Donald ed. Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou. Los Angeles, California: University of California, Los Angeles, 1995.

Editor Donald  J. Consentino is a professor of English and World Arts and Cultures at UCLA. Consentino’s book offers a collection of sixteen essays written on the varying aspects of Haitian Vodou. Subjects covered include: Vodou’s African roots and evolution through slavery, the ten major Vodou divinities, and Vodou art and artists.

Davis, Martha Ellen. ““Vodú” of the Dominican Republic: Devotion to “La Veintiuna División.”” Afro-Hispanic Review. 26.1 (2007): 75-90.

Martha Ellen Davis is an affiliate associate professor at the University of Florida. In this article Davis writes about the religious traditions of the Dominican Republic, the most prominent being Voodoo. She states that Voodoo’s devotees are the rural dwellers and lower class, people searching for cures to illness and problems of everyday life. Davis looks at Voodoo’s role in both religion and medicine as well.

“Dr. Facilier, a Voodoo Doctor.” Youtube. Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3oGxN9Jynk (4 October 2010).

In this four and a half minute clip from The Princess and the Frog, we are shown Dr. Facilier’s (the film’s antagonist) first encounter with the male lead, Prince Naveen. Dr. Facilier invites them into his “Voodoo Emporium” and his powerful Voodoo magic is evident from the beginning through singing masks, fiery faces, and sleight of hand. Dr. Facilier then invites Naveen and his butler Lawrence to “shake a poor sinner’s hand”. And with that they are transported into a world of magical Voodoo as is evident through his “friends on the other side” (loas) and Dr. Facilier’s mask.

Dubois, Laurent. “Vodou and History.” Comparative Studies in Society and History. 43.1 (2001): 92-100.

Laurent Dubois is an author and associate professor at Michigan State University. He writes that in nineteenth century Haiti, Vodou was usually considered to be “the ultimate antithesis of “civilization”” because of its African slave roots. Dubois writes that Vodou is incorrectly viewed by outsiders, that many stereotypes exist. He goes on to speak about Vodou and the people who practices it and how that is connected with the Haiti’s history.

Frisbie, Annie. “The Princess and the Frog.” Movies and TV. Christianity Today Magazine. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/movies/reviews/2009/princessandfrog.html?start=2(3 October 2010).

Annie Frisbie, a reviewer for Christianity Today, opens The Princess and the Frog review with a positive approach and excitement for Disney’s newest 2-D movie. After a detailed description of the film and its animation, she dissects seemingly minor issues. For instance: Shadowman’s “pimp”-like appearance (and how it aids in the stereotyping of African-American men), the sexual undertones, and main character Tiana’s exchanging of a kiss for money. Frisbie claims though, that the movie’s “hollow, thoughtless core” stems from the use of Voodoo. The use of black magic is described as both frightening for young children, and fascinating for older children. Character Mama Odie, who practices wholesome Voodoo magic, is depicted as a Gospel singer with “Jesus neatly stripped away”.

Geiger, Thaisha. “The Princess and the Frog.” Christian Spotlight on Entertainment. Christian Answers. http://christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2009/princessandthefrog2009.html (3 October 2010).

Thaisha Geiger is a movie reviewer for the Christian website Christian Answers. The review begins with a description of The Princess and the Frog as well as referencing the movie’s Christian themes. She goes on to describe the movie’s objectionable content, such as: the “demonic” and “dark” depiction of magic, the implication of reincarnation, and occult practices.

Greydanus, Steven D. “The Princess and the Frog (2009).” Decent Films Guide. National Catholic Register. http://www.decentfilms.com/reviews/princessandthefrog.html (4 October 2010).

Greydanus opens his review of The Princess and the Frog with praise over Disney’s first 21st century classic. He comments on Disney’s new strategy of saying wishing on stars isn’t enough – hard work is required to make your dreams come true. And hoping someday your prince will come doesn’t make a great life’s strategy. Greydanus comments on New Orleans Voodoo being “an occult world of terrifying powers”, as well as the races and their portrayal within the context of the movie. It would seem from the remainder of the article that Greydanus believes Dr. Facilier’s dark magic is an accurate portrayal of Voodoo, while Mama Odie’s evangelical numbers give an “ambiguous and problematic” depiction.

Hurston, Zora Neale. “Hoodoo in America.” Journal of American Folklore. 44.174 (1931): 317-326.

Zora Hurston was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author in the early 1900s. She begins the article by describing the different terminology for Voodoo: Veaudeau, Hoodoo, juju and roots. She discusses its prominence on America’s Gulf Coast as it was brought about by Haitian immigrants. A detailed article, it describes the people involved in Voodoo including Marie Leveau, Samuel Thompson, and Ruth Mason. She also explains the many practices and Voodoo solutions offered by these individuals.

Lewis, James. Satanism Today: An Encyclopedia of Religion, Folklore, and Popular Culture. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO Inc, 2001.

James Lewis is a writer and academic who specializes in new religions and the New Age. In his book Satanism Today, Lewis has a section on Voodoo entitled “Vodoun (also Voodoo; Vodun)” which can be found on page 272. In the chapter he describes the former slave religion which originated in Africa and migrated to the Caribbean. Lewis goes on to explain how Christian tradition has viewed Voodoo in a demonic light. One important reason he gives for this negative association is the Voodoo practice of creating zombies.

Maldonado, Michelle Gonzalez. “Bad Magic: Voodoo According to Disney.” Culture: RD Magazine. Religion Dispatches. http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/culture/2132/bad_magic%3A_voodoo_according_to_disney (3 October 2010).

Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado is an assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of Miami and author. Writing in the first person, she speaks about her desire to write about the depiction of Voodoo in the movie The Princess and the Frog after overhearing her children comment that Voodoo is “bad magic”. Right away she expresses her anger at the film’s offensive stereotypes relating to Voodoo, in particular the depiction of Voodoo loas. Maldonado also expresses her discomfort at the movie’s association of Voodoo with death. She ends the essay with the assertion that the portrayal of Voodoo in The Princess and the Frog is a “blatant, racist, and misinformed presentation”.

Mohammed, Patricia. “The Sign of the Loa.” Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism. 18 (2005): 124-149.

Patricia Mohammed is an author and senior lecturer at the Centre for Gender and Development Studies. Mohammed describes the Voodoo’s most popular figure, the loa. She explains they are African deities who have been inherited through succeeding generations by the descendants of those who brought them to Haiti. She also explores the Voodoo ritual of vèvè execution, the primary source from which aesthetic production in Haitian culture emerged.

Morrissette, Noelle, and Juang, Richard eds. Africa and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO Inc, 2008.

Africa and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History is a collection of alphabetically arranged articles about countries, history, people, and religions among other topics. The chapter on Voodoo can be found on page 1110 and begins with the description of its African roots and subsequent growth in New Orleans. It offers descriptions of the Voodoo being practiced in America by slaves, such as their ritualistic dances and ceremonies. The chapter ends with a paragraph on how Voodoo has been inducted into popular culture.

Pinsky, Mark. “What Walt Wrought.” Opinion Journal. The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703580904574638143338424878.html (2 October 2010).

Author Mark Pinsky is a long-time religion writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Orlando Sentinel. In this piece for The Wall Street Journal, he offers a unique perspective on the religious controversies in The Princess and the Frog as well as Disney’s other full-length animated films. He elaborates on Walt Disney’s desire to forsake Judeo-Christian religious themes in favour of magic, a more palatable alternative. Because of this, there is a subsequent backlash from Christian and evangelical groups. In the end of the article, he states that different belief systems can be found in most of Disney’s movie (Mulan’s Confucianism, Pocahontas’s animism et cetera) and despite this they all portray the same themes of “dreaming, wishing, hard work, love and self-sacrifice”.

Singh, Severine. “A Brief History of Voodoo.” Voodoo Crossroads. Om Place. http://www.omplace.com/articles/Voodoo_History.html (2 October 2010).

Reverend Severine Singh is a Voodoo Priestess and Medicine Woman in the New Orleans tradition. In this article, we are given a brief history of the Voodoo faith and its African origins. She goes on to state that when the slave trade began, Voodoo spread to the Caribbean and Central, North and South America. Singh also describes that Voodoos believe in one God, “a very abstract, omnipotent, yet unknowable force”. She states that today about 15% of New Orleans residents practice Voodoo.

“The Princess and the Frog – Dr. Facilier’s Death.” Youtube. Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wHNdmGqaA4 (2 October 2010).

This one and a half minute clip from the movie The Princess and the Frog is filled with Voodoo imagery and themes. As Tiana (the female lead) throws the Voodoo pendant down, the Shadowman catches it, in the process saving his plans. Despite this Tiana still manages to smash it and the “bad” Voodoo magic come for him chanting “are you ready?” Loas spring from the graves and Voodoo dolls burst from the ground. In the end Dr. Facilier dies, eaten by a gravestone which then transforms into his own grave.

“The Princess and the Frog “Mama Odie” Song.” Youtube. Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVFta6CTfYo (3 October 2010).

This two minute clip features Mama Odie, the kind Voodoo priestess who lives in the Bayou. She is the antithesis of Dr. Facilier, helping others and showing Tiana and Prince Naveen their heart’s desires. She has a pet snake aptly named Juju, a word used to describe objects that have a supernatural power ascribed to them. During the song she manipulates Juju into different animals using her Voodoo magic. She also uses magic to command her pot to show pictures of the past, present, and many other possibilities.