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In 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, the title character’s young friend Vanellope von Schweetz finally crosses the finish line of her racing game, Sugar Rush, not only fixing the game’s corrupted code but also revealing Vanellope as royalty in exile — she has been a princess all along. It’s a sweet moment and a funny one: She prefers to be called “president” for, as she puts it, “democracy’s sake,” but the revelation is a sneakily significant one. Seventy-five years after Snow White became the first Disney princess, the House of Mouse finally added a Jewish character to that cohort.
Didn’t catch that? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, Vanellope’s heritage has gone unremarked by Disney, leaving Sarah Silverman to make the case. The actress fully believes the character she voices to be Jewish, like herself. On International Women’s Day, Disney tweeted photos showcasing its princesses from minority groups. Silverman suggested someone was missing:
When Yahoo Entertainment sat down with Silverman for the new sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet, she confirmed that she does indeed think of Vanellope as Jewish. (Watch the full interview above.)
“I say she is,” said Silverman. “Nobody has said no. So, yeah.”
When we asked what qualities Vanellope possessed that would make her Jewish, Silverman noted that they “have the same coloring. She’s feisty, she says what’s on her mind, she’s a little pushy.”
Silverman’s observation was seconded by Ralph Breaks the Internet directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, who agreed that she’s Jewish.
“I think that very much so,” said Moore.
“A Jewish animated princess, absolutely,” agreed Johnston with a smile.
It’s not insignificant for Disney to have a Jewish princess. Walt Disney gave Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl a tour of his studio in December 1938 one month after Kristallnacht, when thousands of German Jews were attacked, leaving many dead and survivors shipped to concentration camps. Disney was also a prominent member of the notoriously anti-Semitic Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. Although Disney has had many willing defenders insisting he wasn’t an anti-Semite, critics have pointed to the circumstantial evidence to counter the claim and cast a shadow over the Hollywood icon’s legacy.
In any case, decades of exclusively white princesses ended with the introduction of Jasmine in 1992’s Aladdin; Disney’s princess line has welcomed more and more diversity with Mulan, The Princess and the Frog and Moana (whose respective princesses all play a part in Ralph Breaks the Internet). And while the studio’s past practices may have been controversial, there’s no denying Disney is more sensitive than ever to such concerns.
Flashback: Watch the Disney princess voice actresses talk to Yahoo at D23 2017 about teaming up on Ralph Breaks the Internet:
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