|Princess Briana Book||Princess Briana's castle|
Washington, DC (BlackNews.com) - The first black princess on the same level as Snow White and Cinderella was not Disney's Princess Tiana, it was Princess Briana. How Disney came up with a name and a look so similar to another black princess story already on the market three years prior to the announcement of Princess Tiana raises serious questions. The questions gain further traction when a Senior Manager of Disney Consumer Products requested and received the Princess Briana book and other supporting materials from the president of Just Like Me, Inc. The senior manager said she would forward all materials to Disney Animation, if Disney Animation was interested in using the character they would call. Disney Animation never called.
Princess Briana was first created in a script in 2003. The script won second runner-up at the Hollywood Black Film Festival. The first Princess Briana book was sold in November 2004, three years prior to the world wide media frenzy about Disney's first black princess. Obviously, a small company like Just Like Me, Inc. could not compete with the media machine that Disney has generating media buzz around the world. However, the Princess Briana book is very successful in its own right. The princess fairytale sold out within the first 15 days of its debut at B. Dalton, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble bookstores located in Union Station in Washington, DC. The book also sold out within 30 days at the Borders bookstore in Largo, Maryland. In addition, Princess Briana was the No. 1 selling children's book in 2005 at Karibu Books, the largest African American bookstore chain in America at that time. Just Like Me, Inc. secured a national distribution deal for the Princess Briana book in 2005. The 2005 Princess Briana book tour was held in Borders bookstores in six major U.S. cites. By 2007, she was so popular that if you entered the term "black princess" in Google or Yahoo, Princess Briana appeared on the 1st page of the #1 and #2 internet search engines in America. Just Like Me, Inc. in 2008 secured an international distribution deal that allows the Princess Briana book in paperback (ISBN: 978-1928889069) to be purchased at any major bookstore upon request in the United States, Europe, or Canada. Princess Briana continues to be an Amazon.com success with astounding testimonials from customers who've purchased the fairytale.
With the success of the Princess Briana book and script, why didn't Disney's legal department discover the Princess Briana character and warn Disney Animation about the possible copyright infringement? If Disney Animation had the Princess Briana book and supporting materials why would they create a character so similar to Princess Briana? Out of the millions of names to choose from, is it just coincidence that Disney chose a name that is almost identical to Princess Briana, the only other successful black princess fairytale on the market? It is not hard to imagine that by having almost identical names, similar looks, and both being black princesses that this will cause considerable confusion with consumers when the Princess Briana movie and licensed products are released.
Disney's response to these questions can be considered odd by some standards. Disney's Legal Department claims that no one at Disney Animation ever viewed any materials pertaining to Princess Briana. The company asserts that the name Tiana was chosen because it means princess in Greek. Disney also claims the senior manager who contacted Just Like Me, Inc. was a temporary employee and was not authorized to do so.
Disney answers to the original set of questions generate more questions. If the Princess Briana character truly had no influence on Disney character's name then why put the title of princess in front of her name? No other Disney Princess had princess before their name when they were introduced; there was never a Princess Cinderella, Princess Ariel, Princess Jasmine, etc. According to Disney, Tiana's name already means princess. The name Princess Tiana translates into Princess Princess? When did major corporations start hiring temps to fill their senior management positions? Under the copyright and trademark laws, companies are under the obligation to conduct extensive research to avoid copyright/trademark infringement. How is it possible for a "temporary" employee of Disney to find Princess Briana on the internet but Disney Animation as well as Disney's legal department, with billions of dollars in resources, could not find Princess Briana to avoid the similarities of these two characters? Surprisingly, Disney's Legal Department by their own admission did have the Princess Briana book and supporting materials several months before the announcement of Disney's Princess Tiana.
Yaba Baker, the creator of Princess Briana, had this to say, "For 6 years I worked day and night, traveled all over the country promoting, acquired loans from family members and banks, and sank every penny I earned back into making the Princess Briana movie. After all my hard work, a big corporation is attempting to take it all away from me. It's just not right. In America, the small businessman is supposed to get a fair shake but this anything but a fair shake." When asked what he would like to happen at this point he responded, "If anyone believes that Disney's Princess Tiana is a copy of Princess Briana, please go to www.princessbriana.com or www.Amazon.com and support my fight against Disney by buying a Princess Briana book. The book is only $9.99 (the regular price is $12.99) on the Princess Briana web site. If you buy at least 5 books, I will take off an additional 10%. If you don't have children or do not have a little girl to purchase the book for, please purchase as many books as possible and donate the books to a good cause this holiday season (Girl Scouts, Brownies, to children in a homeless shelter, etc.)."
Many of the following questions will be answered in the coming months. Which princess will consumers prefer? Will consumers be confused by two Black princesses with such similar names and similar looks? How will the characters differ and how will they be the same? It appears to be a classic battle of David (Princess Briana) and Goliath (Princess Tiana). Will history repeat itself with a victory for David or will a new chapter be written for Goliath?