BENTONVILLE, Ark. — A classic Disney tale, The Little Mermaid hits theaters Friday, May 26. This edition is live-action, and the lead actress is a woman of color, breaking barriers for many little girls who grew up not looking like their favorite Disney princesses.
In Northwest Arkansas, one woman is getting to be a part of the history being made, with a book that goes with the movie.
Ashley Franklin, a local children’s book author, has always loved writing. “Being an author and motherhood really intertwined for me,” she said.
Franklin had her first son in 2012. When she looked for books to read at bedtime, she realized there weren’t many that featured characters of color.
“Instead of just complaining about it, and being sad there wasn’t anything out there for my kids, I was like, 'Okay let’s see what I can do to be the difference and make the difference,'” said Franklin.
With this mindset, Franklin went on to publish her book “Not Quite Snow White,” following the story of a little girl named Tameika.
“So the premise of the book is her classmates wanting to know if she has what it takes to be Snow White because she’s chubby and has dark skin, because she’s Black, she has long legs, she’s taller, she questions, 'do I have the right or what it takes to be this kind of princess?'” said Franklin.
That book, inspired by a love of Disney princesses, would soon bring an opportunity to write about one.
Franklin was asked by Disney to write the book, ‘The Little Mermaid Makes a Splash,’ which goes with the new live-action movie.
“I’m a part of something that was so pivotal in my childhood it doesn’t seem real sometimes,” she said.
“I want to say it was the most magical of moments, but it was actually a disastrous accident on my part. Because the email I received from Disney went to my spam folder. I saw 'Opportunity from Disney,' and I said, 'Sure it's an opportunity from Disney,'” said Franklin.
“I almost deleted it. Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t,” she said.
It turns out someone from Disney had read her book ‘Not Quite Snow White,' loved it, and suggested she write the book to go alongside the new movie featuring The Little Mermaid.
“It goes to show where your name can reach in rooms you’re not even in," she added.
Franklin said the process was easy. “They actually gave me access to the script and that’s when I was like, 'I’m a part of something bigger than I could ever have imagined,'” Franklin said.
And the book is breaking barriers, just like the movie.
“The illustrator is also Black and so it just feels like we are making history, progress, more reflective of the world we are in. Everyone deserves to feel seen, to feel special,” Franklin said.
The book has been out for a few weeks now… and Franklin tells us the first time she saw her latest book in the store, she squealed.
“I was like, 'Oh my goodness, I wrote that,'” said Franklin. Making her younger self proud.
“Just to know that I'm a part of something that was so pivotal to my childhood doesn’t seem real sometimes,” she said. But it is real and when it comes to your goals, Franklin shared a reminder.
“Your dreams can take you anywhere, so always dream big."
‘The Little Mermaid Make a Splash’ is already out in stores and online, the movie is premiering Friday, May 26.
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