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by Claudine Zap

The new Disney fairy tale movie, ” The Princess and the Frog” has a familiar storyline. (Girl kisses frog. Weird stuff happens.) But the look is new: The debut of Disney’s first African American princess. Ever. The animated musical opens this week in New York and Los Angeles (and everywhere next month) and already Web searches on Yahoo! have grown over 100% in the last 30 days.

The story is set in Jazz Age New Orleans, with this princess-in-the-rough working as a waitress. She is only royal in her mind, and dreams of opening a restaurant in the French Quarter. Check out the preview.

Aside from breaking a race barrier (Disney’s own), the animated flick is a throw-back to another era: The movie is hand-drawn, with zydeco-style songs by Randy Newman and stars Broadway singer Anika Noni Rose as the princess, Tiana, and queen of daytime Oprah Winfrey as the voice of her mom. And, of course, there are the toys. NPR reports that Tiana toys are already extremely popular with the kids. A new cash cow for Disney, perhaps?

Early reviews are positive. Time magazine calls the holiday offering a “start-to-finish delight.” Entertainment Weekly glows that the G-rated movie is “a fresh twist on the classic fairy tale.” notes that while the cartoon is a visual feast, it serves up little along the theme of race or class. However, images might speak stronger than words in this case. As Filmcritic puts it, “If they’re not careful, ‘like a Disney movie’ might once again cease to be a pejorative phrase.”