Judging by the snippets of footage released so far, Disney"s forthcoming New Orleans-set animated fairy tale "The Princess and the Frog" would appear to be a lovingly crafted affair, casting the city in a flattering light and giving the world Disney"s first black princess.
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Not everyone is ready to second-line over what they"ve seen, however.
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."
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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 firefly flap isn"t the first controversy to spring up around the movie, which is set for wide release Dec. 5. Shortly after the project was announced, objections were raised over reports that the film"s princess worked as a chambermaid and would be named Maddy, which some saw as a lower-class "slave name."
Soon after, online sources quoted Disney spokeswoman Heidi Trotta as saying that reports on certain details of the movie were incorrect.
"Princess Tiana will be a heroine in the great tradition of Disney"s rich animated fairy tale legacy, and all other characters and aspects of the story will be treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity," she was quoted as saying.
Also, earlier this year, online users expressed concern that the movie"s prince doesn"t appear "black enough."
Princess Tiana and her frog prince, with New Orleans aglow behind them, in a shot from "The Princess and the Frog."
"The Princess and the Frog" will mark Disney"s return to hand-drawn, 2-D animation, its first foray into the format on which the studio was built since 2004"s "Home on the Range."
The score is by Randy Newman, and the voice cast boasts Anika Noni Rose, Terrence Howard, John Goodman and Oprah Winfrey.
Ron Clements and John Musker -- the same team behind Disney"s "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin" -- are directing.
In an interview last fall with The Times-Picayune, Disney animation chief John Lasseter described "The Princess and the Frog" as a break-out-in-song musical that offers a twist on the classic "Frog Prince" story.
In Disney"s retelling, when Princess Tiana kisses a prince imprisoned in a frog"s body by a nasty curse, instead of him turning back into a human, she also turns into a frog.
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Lasseter said Disney animators have made several trips to the city in an effort to make sure they accurately capture the region"s culture and its residents.
"There"s so much wonderful magic in that city," he said in October, "with the combination of the city itself, the Garden District, the French Quarter, the voodoo -- the good voodoo and the bad voodoo -- the music, the jazz, the zydeco. You have the bayous with all the great animals. There"s such richness."