The Symbolism Of Disney's Princess Tiana

One of the hottest toys this Christmas season is Disney's newest princess, Tiana. Host Guy Raz visits a Target store in Washington, D.C., to talk to moms about what a difference Disney's first African-American princess makes for their kids.

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GUY RAZ, host:

Inside this branch of Target here in Washington, D.C., and at toy stores across the country, one of the biggest sellers this season is Princess Tiana. She's Disney's first African-American princess and the star, of course, of the film "The Princess and the Frog."

Now, Disney had already sold about 50,000 Tiana dolls before Thanksgiving. And at this Target, well, they can't keep them on the shelves.

Ms. GWEN ARNOLD(ph): This is the second store that I went looking, and they're out of stock online. You can't order it online.

RAZ: You can't find the Tiana dolls anywhere?

Ms. ARNOLD: No.

RAZ: That's Gwen Arnold, who's hoping to snag a Tiana doll for her 4-year-old cousin before Christmas. Candace Claiborne(ph) is one of the managers at this Target. She reassures Gwen Arnold that they're working as fast as possible to get more of the dolls on the shelf.

Ms. CANDACE CLAIBORNE (Manager, Target): We've had some this whole week. But as soon as, like I said, we get a truck or two every night, as soon as they...

RAZ: Are they selling like crazy?

Ms. CLAIBORNE: They sell very quickly.

RAZ: And it's not just the dolls. It's the Tiana shirts and pajamas and blankets and hairbrushes.

Ms. CLAIBORNE: I honestly have not heard as much talk about a toy as this one, at least not anything that's Disney. The people, you know, looking for it has really lasted a much longer time.

RAZ: This afternoon, most of the shoppers looking for Tiana dolls are African-American mothers, but Disney reports brisk sales of Tiana nationwide and not just at urban retail stores. But for the moms and aunts and grandmothers we met at this Target, we heard the same thing as Gwen Arnold told us: Tiana isn't just a doll; she's a symbol.

Ms. ARNOLD: That it's a new Disney princess is the big deal, that she's a major movie. And now, little black girls can go and see themselves as a princess in the movies. That's the big deal for me.

RAZ: Gwen Arnold is part of the baby boom generation. And she says when she was a girl...

Ms. ARNOLD: It was just one type of doll, just the white dolls. That was it. So there wasn't any choice when I was growing up - at all.

(Soundbite of film, "The Princess and the Frog")

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. ANIKA NONI ROSE (Actor): (As Tiana) (Singing) The evening star is shining bright. So make a wish and hold on tight.

RAZ: The film "The Princess and the Frog" just opened last week. And as expected, it was number one at the box office.

The other night at one movie theater, in Silver Spring, Maryland, we caught up with Rose Sanford(ph), who stood in line with her two daughters to see the film.

Ms. ROSE SANFORD: I think it means a lot. I think the times have changed a lot. And for especially the younger girls, at 9 years old, you have your first African-American president, that's probably going to be all that they ever remember, not the things that I remember from growing up. And then to see their first African-American princess, that's wonderful for them.

RAZ: A few feet away from Rose, Monica Davie(ph) also brought her two daughters to the theater.

Ms. MONICA DAVIE: I think it'll change things a lot. You know, my daughters are 9 and 7. And mostly, what they've had are all Caucasian princesses. And I just think it's shameful that it took this many years, you know? So I just think it means a lot that they can look at a princess and say, this can be me.

RAZ: That's Monica Davie, waiting to see the new Disney film "The Princess and the Frog."

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