You all remember the controversy that the original teaser trailer for The Princess and the Frog rained down on Jim Cummings for his Cajun firefly character, Ray. Jim Cummings himself has stated that the character is his new favorite character on his resume.
But, unfortunately, an extended clip of the film that was displayed at the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) this weekend brought the controversy back to the forefront.
The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, or CODOFIL, a state agency charged with the protection and promotion of French in Louisiana, is taking issue with the portrayal of a Cajun character in the film, a toothless, lovesick firefly voiced by former New Orleans resident and preeminent voiceover actor Jim Cummings.
“It’s a continuation of the stereotyping of Cajun people, which is inaccurate,” CODOFIL President Warren Perrin said of the character this week from his Lafayette law office. “It has been done in so many movies over so much time, people think that’s the way we are — and it’s just wrong. I can list several other movies where they have portrayed us as backward, toothless, illiterate people who fart.”
This week, Perrin sent a letter to Robert Iger, the president and CEO of the Walt Disney Co., expressing his concerns and offering his organization’s free assistance in answering “any questions the movie’s producers, directors and promoters might have regarding the Cajun people, as well as south Louisiana history and culture in general,” according to a draft of the letter provided by Perrin.
Throughout, the letter maintains that same cordial tone, while pointing out that derogatory portrayals of Cajuns wound “the pride and morale of all ethnic groups.”
The movie poster for ‘The Princess and the Frog.’
A studio spokeswoman said the letter had been “referred to the appropriate office at Disney,” although Disney officials had not responded as of Friday.
Of the footage released so far by Disney, the Cajun firefly character — named Ray — figures prominently in only a few seconds of a short teaser trailer. (Watch it at the official “Princess and the Frog” site.)
Set against the backdrop of a beautifully lit French Quarter, he flits into the frame as the movie’s Princess Tiana agonizes over the idea of kissing a frog, prince or no. Ray points a thumb at the couple and says to the camera in a heavy Cajun accent, “Oh, ho! Look like this gonna take some time!”
His jagged, jack-o-lantern smile never shows more than eight or so teeth.
With a Dr. John song as musical accompaniment, the sleepy-eyed Ray then buzzes over to a neighboring building that has a sign emblazoned with the movie’s title. “That’s a catchy title right there,” he says, before a Dr. John lyric — “Dreams do come true in New Orleans” — brings the trailer to a close.
Perrin acknowledged that he is basing his judgment on only a tiny piece of film, but he said if his objections help head off a potential insult to Cajuns, then it’s worth it. “I’m simply saying, ‘Let me help you not make a mistake,'” Perrin said.
The article continues on to discuss the controversies that the lead character is not “black enough” (their words, not mine), the anger over her job as a chambermaid (which Disney has since changed) and the multi-racial couple.
The various organizations involved are petitioning to get Disney to change the character or remove him from the film. While I hope they do not remove his work from the film, if everyone is going to jump all over every new clip, it might be best.
What do you think? Are you offended by the firefly?