The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Voice talents of: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David
Directed by: Ron Clements and John Musker
Written by:Ron Clements, John Musker, and Rob Edwards
Rating: 3 (out of five)
I haven’t thought much of Disney Animation for a long while. I really had to think coming out of the theater about what movies they had released in the last decade. Disney’s partnership with Pixar has far outweighed Disney’s solo releases. Those that I could think of I didn’t particularly enjoy. Whether it’s just my imagination or not, but Disney Animation Studios has had a losing streak for while.
Pixar has proved recently that family-friendly entertainment need not be without a touch of darkness to it. Some of the best children’s story are themselves a little dark. I think that it was this element that Disney’s most recent animated adventures have lacked. (Granted, Lilo & Stitch had some darkness to it.)
The Princess and the Frog is a strong return to animation for Disney. And it brings with it a very effective and dark new villain.
We all know the original story of the “The Frog Princess.” Disney has changed things up by moving the familiar story to Prohibition-era New Orleans, and thereby introducing their first black Princess. Wait, a Princess in 1920’s New Orleans?
Tiana is our hard-working heroine. Her mother has worked as a talented seamstress to the rich upper crust of New Orleans for years, and her father worked incredibly long days to keep his family financially stable. He passed along his dream of owning a beautiful restaurant to his daughter, who has carried on his dream after his passing.
The upper crust childhood friend of Tiana’s, Charlotte, has been pining after a Prince since she could say the word. One day her dream seems like it’s about to come true. A Prince from Maldonia, Prince Naveen, is visiting New Orleans and will be staying with Charlotte and her family.
Enter the scheming voodoo Shadow Man, Dr. Facilier. Seeing an opportunity to swindle Charlotte’s family of their riches and take over the bustling port city, he begins working his magic by turning Naveen and, accidentally but also fortuitously, Tiana, into frogs.
Naveen and Tiana must then race to get themselves restored with the assistance of a great collection of supporting characters (Louis the trumpet playing Alligator, Ray the romantic firefly with his eye on the most beautiful firefly in the sky, and Mama Odie the ancient bayou-dwelling voodoo lady).
There isn’t an amazing new animation technique. There aren’t immense visual landscapes. There aren’t “ooh-aah” 3D effects. This is classic animation, reminding us of Disney’s legacy as the king of animation. This movie shows that someone at Disney still understands the art of hand-drawn animation, which most people in Hollywood dismissed years ago, and shows that it’s still as lovely as ever.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as magical as those previous films. There’s something missing … it’s so close! The soundtrack was sadly a little lacking (especially considering who wrote it!). But I don’t think that’s the reason. I don’t think Disney has lost their magic, but perhaps they should focus on something like The Princess and the Frog instead of making temporary teen sensations. And yes, I’ll say it: maybe they were being overly cautious with the African-American characters, seeing as their last animated attempt is still notorious, 63-years later!
While this film proves that Disney hasn’t lost it, and that hand-drawn animation is still alive and kicking, it does fall short of being a true animated classic.