Gather ’round, children, and let us tell you a bedtime fairy tale. Disney is making a movie. A simple movie about simple dreams. It’s a dream many little kids can relate to: wanting to be a princess. In this movie, one devoted father decides to make his child’s dream come true. He ventures to a far-off region of the world, finds a plot of land, and stakes his claim, all in the name of making his daughter a real-life princess. Roll the heartwarming credits, possibly with a song by Melissa Etheridge. Movie magic.
Only, not so much. Late last year, we reported on the real-life Virginia farmer, Jeremiah Heaton, who thought it would be a great idea to go stick a flag in a remote part of Sudan and claim roughly 800 square miles of the country as his own sovereign nation, declaring himself king in the process. This went over about as well as expected, with literally nobody outside of Heaton’s family—and possibly the ghost of Christopher Columbus—thinking it was at all logical. We noted at the time that Disney was making a movie about the story, and had tapped Morgan Spurlock to direct. Disney stressed that the outline of the events are merely a “jumping-off point for a fantastical adventure,” meaning they wouldn’t touch the actual Heaton’s family or ideas with a 50-foot pole.
Well, it was only a matter of time until the internet found out about this movie. Disney decided to title it The Princess Of North Sudan, which is a great idea when you’re hoping to distance yourself from the weirdly colonialist mentality of a lunatic in Virginia trying to render Sudan’s sovereignty null and void. And now, as Jezebel points out, some people aren’t too happy.
That’s one of the nicer tweets.
The screenwriter, Stephany Folsom, took to Twitter to defend the film, pointing out that, hey, obviously the actual events are ridiculous, but maybe don’t go after her Disney movie when there’s not even a finished script yet? Or any indication of how she’s treating the material, the events, or any of it?
The internet is expected to respond to her plea for patience with its usual grace. In the meantime, Heaton, with his usual deft understanding of international law, has decided that since no one has bothered to kick his crazy white ass out, he’s “moving forward” with plans to develop the land. Movie magic!
And that, children, is the story of how Disney didn’t have the foresight to anticipate a PR disaster that Mr. Magoo could have seen coming. Now, who wants some Ovaltine?