Home, which stars Rihanna, is not critically acclaimed in the world of animation. The critics were largely split. And even though viewers liked it, the movie came and went without much discussion. But Home has something that none of the Disney or Pixar films have to date (unless you count the mostly forgotten Princess Tiana) – a black girl main character. The last black main character in a Dreamworks animated film was Prince of Egypt in 1998. I like Disney and Pixar as much as the next guy, but it's honestly just sad. There have been roughly 79 Disney and Pixar animated feature-length films combined. One of them has a young black girl as the main character. I don't even think there are any black toys or dolls in any of the Toy Story films.
There isn't really an excuse for why it took Dreamworks this long either, but at least we've got the first. And even more importantly, the representation of this young black girl protagonist isn't problematic or hinged on tropes. Tip is a character that gets to develop as much as any character in a movie like this can. And Home is a story that allows black girls to see themselves at the helm of an adventure that requires bravery and intelligence.
And we have to mention the natural hair realness.
Reviews for Home were critical of the story. Many people were of the opinion that the movie's plot was overdone – because that's never happened in animation before. If anything, Home is a breath of fresh air in major studio Hollywood animation, because for the very first time, a black girl gets to do what all the little white boys have been doing from the jump. In fact, I'd argue that this type of character literally not existing anywhere before makes this movie completely original.
But just like they always do, Hollywood buries a movie that should've gotten so much love – which affects things like merchandising. Do you know there are almost no dolls of Rihanna's character Tip in stores? There are blue/purple alien plushes to be found everywhere. But no black girl dolls. She's only the main character of the entire movie, right? Even when we get a win for black women, it comes attached with so many shortcomings.
My point is, this is not what we deserve. This is lightyears away from the best we can do. And it's time that we start getting more representation everywhere. I'm still going to go see The Incredibles 2, ok Pixar? But can we get something on the books for an African princess, fam? We've literally been to every other continent there is. Africa does have people there too, not just animals. That's all I'm asking. The game needs balance. Ignoring films like Home to discourage studios from making similar choices to represent people that can't see themselves on screen is not the business. And if you think it is, you're the problem.
Thanks for reading Strictly 4 My Blerds. Leave a comment, I read and reply to all of them. Hit the share button and tag a friend who needs to see this.
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The other day, I sat back and reflected with friends over punch and the best Publix salsa money can buy. We did what every group of slightly-under-the-influence millennials does: We took turns singing and reminiscing about our favorite childhood movies. Lion King, Tarzan and A Goofy Movie (Tevin Campbell went in on “Eye to Eye”), were all called out and had their soundtracks sung until the bottles were empty and our hearts were merry. But then it hit me: Disney never gave me a black love story.
Before the naysayers hop in with the, “What about The Princess and the Frog?!” I just want to nudge them to go really watch that movie again. Now tell me where in there do you see a blatant #BlackRelationshipGoal. I see a struggling small business owner, some frogs, a hood alligator and a racially-ambiguous man with a tan and an s-curl. Again, show me the Dwyane and Gabby in this film. Great. So back to my point.
Disney has never shown me what black love looks like in animation form on a big screen. I’ve gotten plenty of white men teaching me how I could never look like prince charming, some white women who showed me that blind endless love can take you from the bottom of the ocean to even marrying a naked white man that was raised by gorillas and apparently grew dreadlocks. But yet again, no black love.
Let’s do a childhood check. I’ve gotten; white woman dating an abusive wildebeest-lion thing (who at the end turns into a white guy). I’ve gotten a white woman taking the best power nap of life and falling in love with a white man on a horse. Plot twist! I’ve gotten a white man who is completely invading an entire civilization ending up in an interracial relationship sweeping a Native American woman off of her feet (which is proven to be a false revision of history). I had a white woman running around with one shoe until a white guy brings it to her and they fall in love. Hell, I’ve even gotten two dogs eating spaghetti. But two black people loving each other? Nope.
So as I sat back and reflected on my childhood, it made me wonder, how does a black child raised on Disney ever get to visualize in their mind that they can fall in love with someone that looks like they do? What if they never get that visual in real life? And given the socio-economic structures that be, the black family historically has always been and continues to be under attack. So to not have this visual on TV or at home as a child can really determine how this young black or brown person feels about black love. We’re talking some of the most formative years here. We know how to fall in love with the blonde damsel in distress and the default white prince charming, but being black and falling in love with black people? Nah.
Of course, the role of family and community is supposed to come in to provide everything television doesn’t give us and all that good stuff. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t negate the fact that black love and that Disney “happily ever after” was never shown at my sleepover.
Maybe my children will get to see it someday.
Until then, we have to settle for the racially ambiguous guy with the s-curl.
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Floyd Norman is a legend. Any young black child that has ever dreamed of a life in animation has probably heard his name. His credits in the business are long and illustrious. The projects that he contributed to are a huge chunk of my childhood exposure to animation.
His work includes The Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, and Robin Hood just to name a few. Disney films like these were huge influences on me, and many of us during our most formative years. Norman was a part of them all. He was lucky enough to learn early in life what his passion was and he pursued it all through high school.
But his first time meeting with Disney wasn't an immediate victory.
After showing them his portfolio, Norman was advised to get more training. He attended the Art Center College of Design and two years later the call finally came.
Disney isn't Mr. Norman's only claim to fame, either. After the passing of Walt Disney, he branched out on his own. He founded AfroKids Animation Studio – which birthed the first Fat Albert television special ever. He returned to Disney to work on more projects several years after. And to this day, Norman is still a freelance consultant for both Disney and Pixar.
Now, his story is coming to life. Floyd Norman: An Animated Life will be released in select theaters, On Demand, and digitally on August 26th, 2016.
As a child directly influenced by this amazing man, it feels great knowing that his work will be preserved forever. Floyd Norman's legacy will live in the hearts of those affected by his art, like me, and on film for others to learn about his passion. We have filmmakers Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey to thank.
Let me know what you think in the comments, because I read and reply to all of them. Hit the share button and tag a friend who needs to see this.
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The movement to renew Disney Junior's Doc McStuffins has been growing by the day – rightfully so. This is a time where the fight for black and PoC representation has collectively changed from request to demand. Networks have been learning and will continue to learn what that means the hard way. Especially when they decide to play games with our content.
The blerdfather,W. Kamau Bell, has been a huge voice in the charge to keep McStuffins on air.
Seriously, if you love #DocMcStuffins as much as my family, tell @DisneyJunior to #RenewDocMcStuffins! pic.twitter.com/KRPUbj1Nsx
— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) July 2, 2016
As a young blerd, Saturday mornings were the turn up I waited for. From the morning until the afternoon, I watched the cartoons that made me the man I am now back to back. Even though the days of Saturday morning programming are over, representation in animated series is very personal for me.
Stories have traditionally played a huge part of personal development in civilizations for centuries. Through story, children can be taught lessons that help shape their world view for years to come. This is why representation is not a luxury but a necessity. How can we give a child (or anyone) an accurate world view if everyone in their world is not present?
Doc Mcstuffins is not just a show to let young black girls know that they can be medical doctors (but it is and that's lit). It's also to let every other child know that young black girls can be medical doctors. The story's very premise is the instillment of what will be accepted as the norm for every child that watches. Doc McStuffins is the reason black boys (and everyone else) will know that sometimes it's dad who stays home and holds down the crib. These images are important because the notion that art imitates life isn't as far off as most people think.
And the doc's impact is proof of that.
Hey @DisneyJunior I definitely need you to #RenewDocMcStuffins b/c #RepresentationMatters for my little doc. pic.twitter.com/vVrzAX8iq8
— Dionysus (@CatoTheEldest) July 2, 2016
Doc appeals to kids of all backgrounds. She is clever and kind. Teaches them about compassion #RenewDocMcStuffins pic.twitter.com/7QKEIlTu9N
— jamilah lemieux (@JamilahLemieux) July 2, 2016
@ReignOfApril @DisneyJunior don't do this to my girl! She loves this show. #RenewDocMcStuffins pic.twitter.com/bL2Ll3x9qG
— Jaz (@FatAndSassyGal) July 2, 2016
@wkamaubell @DisneyJunior All our children deserve 2 see themselves in positive images. #RenewDocMcStuffins pic.twitter.com/UQrdlqBI97
— Artemis Medical Soc (@ArtemisMedSoc) July 2, 2016
Season 4 is in the can and that's great, but animation makes for long production schedules. It takes time. That's why if a cartoon is going to get renewed, it happens long before the season's air date. So far, Disney Junior has been crickets about season 5 of Doc Mcstuffins. That's just not acceptable.
The people demand better, and they should. This show has won an NAACP Image Award, a Peabody and had 500 million dollars in merchandise sales last year. So there shouldn't even be a conversation about renewal. Most of all, we're tired of getting short changed for no reason while other shows get a pass. Doc McStuffins needs some respek on her name, the end.
Thanks for reading Strictly 4 My Blerds. What do you think about Disney Junior not renewing Doc McStuffins for a season 5? Let me know in the comments, I read and reply to all of them. Hit the share button and tag a friend who needs to see this.
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Cinderella is a beautiful story that's been told in many different ways...
And although many of these films are great, none of them are as good as the best version of all time. In 1997, ABC aired a re-imagined Cinderella. This production is the best ever for a few reasons:
The cast was ethnically diverse.
Cinderella, her Fairy godmother, one of her stepsisters and the queen are played by black women. When I was a child, I craved positive representation of black women in media. And with this movie, I got it.
Whitney Houston plays the fairy godmother.
Whitney. Oh, Whitney. She kept it real with Cinderella. She let her know how incredible she was and made sure she looked incredible for the ball.
Seriously, Whitney had her lookin' fresh as hell.
And her boo thang is sexy AF too.
Seriously, they were made for each other. See how he looks at her when they are walking down the street?
His mother is the queen of all queens.
Whoopi Goldberg was perfect for this role. She had the perfect balance between elegance and not giving a *&#@.
Bernadette Peters plays the perfect evil stepmother.
The music is incredible.
Although Rodgers and Hammerstein are to thank for the music and lyrics, the phenomenal vocals can be attributed to the cast. For instance, Whitney Houston is, in my opinion, the best.
But, of course, Brandy slayed us all.
The women are not afraid to speak their minds. Her stepmother got real about relationships.
Prince Charming tries Cinderella's life and she claps back with a feminist response.
And the ending. That perfect ending.
When Whitney reminds us that no matter the circumstance, she is forever the reigning queen of all.
What do you think? Is this Cinderella the best version? Let us know in the comments below.
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Make no mistake, whether she's the new face of Cover Girl, appearing in the next Spider-Man film or ultimately slaying the red carpet, Zendaya Coleman is a powerful influencer that cannot be ignored. In the July issue of Cosmopolitan, the 19-year-old star and co-producer of K.C. Undercover explains why she returned to Disney to be a part of the series.
"The only way I was going to come back to the Disney Channel was if I was in a position of more power", she told the magazine."One thing that is really important to me is diversity on the channel. It's hard as a young person of a different ethnicity or background to look at the TV and not see anyone who looks like you. Representation is very important."
We all know Zendaya has no problem standing against racial criticism and injustice, but she also told Cosmopolitan how she handled racial insensitivity on set, telling them, "I didn't like my hair and makeup one time on a photo shoot, and my publicist told me, 'You should just be happy with it — they haven't had a black girl on the cover since forever.' She's no longer my publicist."
In case you needed more proof of Zendaya's #BlackGirlBadassery, then there you have it. She's confident, she knows what she wants and she's goes after it!
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We already know and love #TGIT, the lineup of ABC dramas on Thursday nights created by the one-and-only Shonda Rhimes. Although I love those shows, I can’t watch dramas all the time. Sometimes I need a little comedy to brighten my day, and there’s something about ABC’s sitcom lineup this season that keeps me coming back. With Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Modern Family, Dr. Ken, The Real O’Neals, The Goldbergs and their new comedy Uncle Buck, ABC has proven that they aren’t only good for dramatic programming — they also excel in the comedic department.
Talented actors paired with witty storylines make for family-friendly television that is certain to keep you laughing. ABC’s sitcoms are some of my favorites, hands-down. Check out the reasons why you should be watching them, too.
Watch when you need a laugh.
Times are hard and things are likely to get more difficult as we age. Being black is often exhausting. When you need a break from fighting the power, watching one of these hysterical sitcoms can be excellent relief.
Watch if you need a good cry.
Disney programs have a long-standing reputation for being heart-warming, and ABC’s sitcom lineup is no different. Some episodes are truly touching. You’re guaranteed to feel all warm and fuzzy inside after watching one of these shows.
They normalize cultures considered "different."
By showing black and Asian families or families with gay children, these sitcoms work to alter negative perceptions about specific cultures — while poking a little fun at the stereotypes.
They’re great if you’re missing your own family.
I’m sure one of these sitcoms will remind you of your family in some way. When you aren’t able to be with your own family, it can be nice to watch something that reminds you of what you love (and hate) about them.
They'll make you feel better about your family’s craziness.
You thought your family was bizarre? Try watching The Goldbergs and you’ll see that it’s not just your family that’s a little off-beat.
Watch when you’re feeling nostalgic about your teen years.
You’ll be sure to remember that being a teenager actually wasn’t so great.
Watch when you need a little optimism.
One of the best things about family sitcoms is that there’s always a positive takeaway. As parents teach their kids to see the glass half-full, you’ll be reminded of the power of optimism. Or, in Jessica Huang's case, you'll get a little dose of reality.
Even if you think you can’t relate to the characters, you can.
The best part about ABC’s sitcoms is that there's always some character you can relate to, even if initially you think there won't be. The Goldbergs might be a white, Jewish family, but they have a classic three-sibling dynamic. Barry is a textbook middle child — passionate, determined and always trying to get his family’s attention. I'm certain most middle children can relate to those struggles.
They teach life lessons and spark discussion.
Sitcoms are known for teaching lessons and starting discussions among the families watching them. One of the most important lessons sitcoms teach is that there’s always space to be silly. Sitcoms have serious moments, but the characters don’t take themselves too seriously. These families are constantly cracking jokes and having a good time. They’ll remind you to get silly once in a while — all while teaching you what's important in life.
Regardless of the race, status or sexual orientation of these sitcom families, their shows send messages to people everywhere that real families aren’t perfect or 'normal.' They are phenomenal shows for demonstrating that there are many ways to raise a wonderful family and that you can have fun while doing so. That’s what makes them so powerful.
Which ABC sitcom do you unexpectedly love? Share your favorites with us in the comments!
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Forget about your worries and your strife. If you haven't seen 'The Jungle Book' by now, then cancel all of your plans and go see it tonight. ;)
Listen. I have to admit that I was a skeptic when I first heard there would be a live-action remake of 'The Jungle Book', but all of that doubt quickly dissipated as I watched the film. The film centers around Mowgli (Neel Sethi), an orphaned human boy (man cub) who is raised by wolves and guided by the black panther, Bagheera and the free-spirited bear, Baloo. Mowgli's adventure of self-discovery gets complicated when the fearsome tiger, Shere Khan, starts to hunt him, and his animal guardians join together to keep him safe.
'The Jungle Book' is a visual masterpiece and is a nice hybrid of Rudyard Kipling's 1894 children's book and the Disney 1967 animated classic a lot of us know and love.
The visuals in this movie are breathtaking. The jungle is lush and vibrant, and the animals completely come to life and seem very real. You'd be hard pressed to convince me that those weren't real animals talking and singing, but the rational part of my brain steps in and reminds me that these are just AMAZING special effects. The great thing about 'The Jungle Book' is that while a lot of movies rely too heavily on the special effects and neglect the actual characters/story, this movie excelled in both aspects at the same time.
Voices play a critical role in any film, but in an animated film or a film with talking animals, the stakes are even higher. Every voice in the movie was on point from Sir Ben Kingsley and Bill Murray as Bagheera and Baloo, respectively, to Scarlett Johansson as Kaa the snake and Christopher Walken as King Louie. Lupita Nyong'o and Giancarlo Esposito voiced Mowgli's wolf parents Raksha and Akela. These characters were missing from the original film, and the two of them almost made me weep at one point.
But Idris Elba as Shere Khan? Out-standing.
With this being a live-action film, I wasn't expecting the same song-and-dance aspect like the previous animated movie. But I have to say my heart (along with the hearts of several others) melted a little when Baloo sang "Bare Necessities" and Louie gave a little rendition of "I Wanna Be Like You."
The film has grossed over $147m in eight days, which is no surprise. It's a movie that both children and adults can enjoy, and is something we can watch over and over again. This is how a remake should be done!
And if you need more proof...
Nostalgia is captured like you wouldn't believe in #TheJungleBook pic.twitter.com/AeTznPTQVu
— Black Nerd Problems (@blknrdproblems) April 21, 2016
The Jungle Book was the best movie I've seen in a while!!!😍😍
— Jaydon Grant (@JaydonGrant) April 19, 2016
You guys NEED to see #TheJungleBook.
I haven't seen a movie that good in a WHILE.
— Cynthia F. (@cynfinite) April 20, 2016
But this pretty much sums it up
#TheJungleBook was the shiiiiiiiiiiit
— Daniel José Older (@djolder) April 18, 2016
What are your thoughts on the movie? Did it live up to your expectations?
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Ava DuVernay is back at it again with the directing cap; this time she is set to direct Disney's A Wrinkle In Time. You may remember that title from your elementary/high school reading list, if not, this classic novel follows the journey of a young girl as she attempts to find her father who has gone missing. Her government scientist father had been on a secret project called tesseract and a part of his mission was being transported to a different dimension to explore inhabited planets.
It is quite a bit to take in but do not worry, we know DuVernay with the help of Oscar-winning Frozen script writer Jennifer Lee will break it all down for us in this upcoming film.
But, the good news does not stop here! In early February, we heard a rumor that DuVernay would be directing the highly-anticipated Intelligent Life for Dreamworks, which was said to be possibly featuring Lupita Nyong’o. Well, the rumor has been confirmed! Production of this sci-fi thriller is now underway and will be scripted by Colin Trevorrow and his Jurassic World collaborator Derek Connolly.
Now, it still has not been confirmed which movie will hit the big screen first, but according to Deadline, they believe "A Wrinkle of Time" may be crossing the finish line first; either way, we are super excited and cannot wait to see what will happen next.
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Mo'Nique campaigned against "skinny bitches" and equal representation of plus-sized women during her reign on The Parkers. Monumental for TV, indeed. Promoting a healthy body image is a relevant factor for every age group, especially adolescent girls. Teen dramas in the 1990's and early 2000's hit home with sensitive topics like drugs, premarital sex, rape and sometimes homosexuality. The vanity of life as a teen girl became a recurring theme. We saw a number of scenes with young women unhappy with their looks.
Laura Winslow wanted bigger breasts on Family Matters. Lisa Turtle obsessed over having the latest designer threads to keep up appearances on Saved by the Bell. And, little Rudy just wanted to look old enough to get into a club to see her favorite rapper, JT Freeze on The Cosby Show. Very seldom did audiences hear or see the plight of an overweight, Black girl. Kimberly Parker (Countess Vaughn) was inadvertently regarded as the overweight sidekick on Moesha, but her high school experience was more or less portrayed as delusional and boy crazy. If you're anything like me, your body resembled Kim's and not Moesha. Raven-Symoné brought an unconventional look for main characters to the Disney Channel.
Next Up: Raven Baxter
Witty. Edgy. And at times a bit hood for Disney, That's So Raven presented a quintessential urban teen who just so happened to have psychic abilities. Audacious enough to make a caricature of herself, yet never too timid for shady one-liners, Raven served up comedy for the nonstop misfortune that is accompanied with awkward teenage years.
A diverse squad, two loving parents plus a pesky brother, all the makings of a family sitcom. That's so Raven aired from early 2003 to the fall of 2007. You may remember, this is the age of belly rings, popped collars, jersey dresses and all things denim.
Raven's style kept with the times, always capitalizing on her own added flair.
The story just so happened to be told by a curvaceous teen.
The real life actress, struggled with her weight off-screen admitting to tipping the scales at 180 pounds by the time the show ended. Although Raven was a full figured adult playing a teenager, she represented plenty of girls grappling with the pressures of society to be thin. Skinny is often associated with beauty. The show addressed the effects of fast food and poor eating habits, which continuously plague the American teen diet. One episode in particular discussed the discrimination of voluptuous models in the fashion industry, and the modifications of photos to suit unrealistic glamour standards.
Season 2, Episode 8: "That's Not So Raven"
In this episode, Raven submits an original design to a magazine's young fashion designer contest and becoming an unexpected finalist. Like always, her vision of the future didn't exactly play out as planned. Raven's talent was meant only to be seen on another body and not her own.
The image printed inside the magazine was far from Raven's reality.
Raven confronts the editor about her photoshopped image and her question is met with the ultimate insult.
"My dear we love your design. We just don't love you wearing it." The rationale behind the decision to alter Raven's body is an outdated idea that cover models, particularly for teen magazines are reserved for petite white girls. At one time, this held true. Full figured Black teens weren't hailed as the model standard. One shallow opinion not only crushed Raven's fashion aspirations, but she began to second guess her size, even exploring weight loss options. Luckily, her side kick Chelsea warned against extreme measures just to slim down.
A short scene, but a subtle educational moment. Eating disorders be it bulimia or anorexia are common dangers teens experience each and every day. Even with the most wholesome characters, Disney gets kudos here for highlighting weight issues and self-image.
In the end, Raven stuck to her guns and modeled her dress, her way.
Today, audiences see a variety of beautiful Black girls on television that come in all shapes and sizes from Zendaya to Amber Riley. Magazine covers have evolved and so has the fashion industry. There are bloggers and online communities geared toward curvy girls, dismantling rigid ideology of beauty. Society once excluded women, size 12+ from the spotlight. Those days are over. Raven is one of the first to prove that young women, even with a little extra baggage lead happy and fulfilled lives just like others half their size. Although her real life gets a lot of side-eyes these days, Raven's time at Disney did not go in vain.
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Disney's foot is on the pedal this year and there seems to be no letting up any time soon. The first image for the Mira Nair directed film, The Queen of Katwe, starring Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyewolo, and Madina Nalwanga has been released.
Disney unveils first look at Lupita Nyong'o in 'The Queen of Katwe': https://t.co/6TePfHGIZN pic.twitter.com/BXFP8yVM3a
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) January 6, 2016
The film is based on Tim Crothers' book, bearing the same name, about Ugandan chess prodigy, Phiona Mutesi, played by Madina Nalwanga, with Lupita "I'm in every blockbuster, making Black history right now" Nyong'o as her on-screen mother.
2015 was a banner year for Lupita. She played the role of Maz Kanata in the record breaking Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and has already begun filming the next installment. Disney seems to have a very good working rapport with the actress, because, including this film, she's also in one of Disney's other big titles this year, The Jungle Book.
There is no official date for the release of The Queen of Katwe, other than reports that it will be coming sometime this fall, but it's safe to say that this is going to be one that we all save the date...
Do you remember movies such as Sleeping Beauty or The Princess and the Frog? Now do you really remember them? This poet breaks down the sexist and racist undertones of America's beloved Disney movies in a very real...