BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Almost 70 years after "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" -- the first animated feature film -- was first presented on the silver screen Dec. 21, 1937, the Walt Disney Co. has begun production on an animated musical fairy tale titled "The Frog Princess," starring the studio's first black princess.
The film is scheduledfor release in 2009 and is the first hand-drawn film Disney has committed to since pledging last month to return to the traditional animation that made it a worldwide brand.
"The Frog Princess," a musical scored by composer Randy Newman, is "an American fairy tale" featuring a girl named Maddy who lives in the French Quarter in New Orleans, said John Lasseter, chief creative director for Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.
Disney did not provide details of the plot, but the company showed shareholders preliminary drawings from the movie. Newman and a jazz band played a song from the movieí»s score.
Maddy is the ninthof eight Disney princess characters who have generated 3 billion U.S. dollars in global retail sales since 1999. "Snow White" was Hollywood's top-grossing film until "Gone With The Wind" debuted in 1940. Disney Princesses is the fastest-growing brand for the company's Consumer Products division.
Disney's first non-white animated heroine was a Middle Eastern character named Jasmine in 1992's "Aladdin."Three years later an American Indian princess appeared in "Pocahontas."
Six years later Mulan was the Chinese heroine in the film of the same name. Other Disney princesses are the main characters from "Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid."
Disney chief executive Robert Iger said the company wanted to show its support for New Orleans, only partially rebuilt 18 months after it was flooded by Hurricane Katrina, by holding its annual meeting and setting its newest animated film in the city.
"The film's New Orleans setting and strong princess character give the film lots of excitement and texture," Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook said.
John Musker and Ron Clements, who co-directed "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin" and "Hercules" will co-direct the movie. They also wrote the story for the film.