A princess must know how to dress for any occasion.
And the opening of Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" certainly was a fancy affair for 4-year-old Makayla Yanogacio.
The Columbia youngster wore her finest, frilliest green princess dress to the movie's showing Friday afternoon at Regal Cinemas at the Village at Sandhill.
However, a blue tiara simply would not do. It didn't match the green, Makayla said. So, her mother, Dria Yanogacio, carried the tiara in her purse.
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Costumes aside, Yanogacio, 33, hoped her two daughters - Mikayla and 13-year-old Nani Williams - understood the significance of Princess Tiana, the main character.
"It's historical," Yanogacio said of the first African-American heroine in Disney's animated catalog.
On Friday afternoon, scores of African-American mothers and daughters filed into the theater to catch "The Princess and the Frog" on opening day. And a few African-American fathers held hands with their daughters as they strolled into the theater.
Stacie Kelly of Columbia said it was about time Disney put an African-American princess on the silver screen.
"Princesses and the reflection in the mirror weren't the same," said Stacie Kelly of Columbia, who took her 6-year-old daughter, Jaila Ishmal. "Finally, the princess looks like me."
For years, Disney's heroines were white: Cinderella, Ariel from "The Little Mermaid," Belle from "Beauty and the Beast," Snow White.
Then, the influential studio began adding a color to their characters with 1995's "Pocahontas," featuring a Native American heroine. That was followed with a Chinese lead character in Mulan and Jasmine, the Arabian heroine in "Aladdin."
African-Americans, however, mostly have been missing in action.
"Clearly, after 70-plus years, Disney is behind the ball. They're late," said Aldo Billingslea, a Santa Clara Universitytheater and dance department professor.
While some may scoff at the relevance of a cartoon character, Billingslea, who has watched his 10-year-old daughter grow up on Disney Channel fare, believes this one is a very big deal.
"Images on a TV or movie screen can communicate value, worth and status," he says. "It's a very powerful moment when you can look up at the screen and say, 'That's me.' That's incredibly meaningful - especially when it doesn't happen all the time."
And it's a powerful message for black females in particular, said Karen Bowdre, a University of Indiana professor who specializes in African-American cinema.
Nikole Williams-Manning of Columbia and her daughter McKenzie Manning knew the film would be a hit for them. After all, they enjoy almost any Disney production, and McKenzie loves princess outfits and decorations.
"I wanted her to see there's a princess that resembles her," Williams-Manning said. "It doesn't matter what your background or ethnicity is, you can still become a princess."