The Princess and the Frog
Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements
Starring the voices of Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody, Jim Cummings, Jenifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Terrance Howard, and John Goodman.
This film sure has some wild origins. Around six or seven years ago, Disney declared that there was no more money to be made in traditional hand-drawn animation, and they were shutting down their traditional animation units. Shockwaves were sent out through the animation community. Then, a couple years after that, there was a change in management. John Lasetter, the head of Pixar, took charge at Disney animation, looked at the decision to shut down traditional animation, and said, “Nertz to that!” He brought the band back together. He enlisted John Musker and Ron Clements, the directors of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Hercules, to put together a traditionally animated film, and bring it back with a bang. The end product? The Princess and the Frog.
It’s New Orleans in the 1920s, and our heroine is Tiana. Tiana is a hard workin’ career girl, working two jobs and saving all her tips to fulfill her and her father’s dream of opening up her own restaurant someday. The city is all abuzz with the news that Prince Naveen is coming to town. The Prince is notable for having a hard-partying lifestyle, and has come to take in Mardi Gras. Then, while catering a friend’s Mardi Gras party and dressed up as a princess, Tiana encounters a talking frog. The frog claims to be the true Prince Naveen, having been turned into a frog by an evil voodoo sorcerer named Dr. Facilier. Perhaps a kiss from this princess will turn him human again? Tiana kisses him, and turns into a frog herself. So, Tiana and Naveen go off on an odyssey through the bayou, seeking out the voodoo sorceress Mama Odie who might know how to break the curse. Along the way, they hook-up with Louis, a jazz-playing alligator, and Ray, a crazy Cajun firefly, and do battle with Facilier’s minions. And they soon discover that what they want isn’t necessarily what they need.
What I Liked
OK, I always like it when animated films throw something at me different and unexpected. My case study is always the squirrel down the pants gag in The Iron Giant. And, there is a scene in the movie, it’s so unexpected that it BLEW MY MIND. I won’t say what it is, because it is spoiler-ish, but yes, Disney goes there. The traditional animation is amazing, even adding the extra step of changing animation styles and going more stylized during some of the musical numbers. And the voice acting is really, really good. Keith David is an amazing voice actor, but then, since we all watched Gargoyles, we all know that. David voices the evil Dr. Facilier. Facilier’s main power is he can manipulate shadows and use them to control people, and it’s executed in a very creepy, very cool way.
What I Didn’t Like
It’s formulaic as hell. Disney figured out a winning formula back in the 1990s, and they weren’t ready to deviate just yet. Even with their heavily-hyped divergences — mainly, the heroine being African-American and working for a living — it’s all by-the-numbers. The songs were written by Randy Newman, and they were very…Randy Newmany. I half-expected some of the characters to start singing, “Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.” Don’t get me wrong, though, the songs were good, they are just very obviously Randy Newman songs.
If this came out in the mid-1990s, when Disney was pumping out one of these per year, we would say it’s “above average.” So, that’s what I’ll say. It’s an above average Disney animated film.