Dec 2009 11

princessandthefrogThe Princess and the Frog isn’t a return to the brilliant early 90’s heyday of Disney Animation, but it is for sure a huge step in the right direction.

Twisting the classic tale of The Frog Princess on its head this version of the classic fairytale has the “princess” turn into a frog when she kisses the green prince and the two embark on a journey through the New Orleans bayou in hopes of returning to their human form.  The tale is full of voodoo magic, jazz anthems, and talking creatures from the swamps pop up and populate the story that does a nice job of paving its own path while evoking enough of those classic films to create a familiarity with them that this desperately hopes it will be considered with.

The story side of things can be a tad bit repetitive and drags a bit once we hit the swaps.  The film does manage to squeeze some quality jokes into picture though with Prince Naveen and Louis the alligator providing most of the film’s laughs.  The film also does a very good job at creating a beautiful period era New Orleans and the city is bustling with music and character.

The stuff that really works in the film is the music and anything that has to do with voodoo.  Dr. Facilier is a lot of fun and delightfully wicked.  Whether he is calling on evil spirits, spinning a web of deception around Naveen, or scheming in the shadows the character is always interesting.  The good voodoo character, Mama Odie, is a bit too stereotypical but they make the most of her screen time and she gets one of the best songs as well.  All of the songs in fact are quite good and are easy to listen too and Randy Newman has doe a really great job of capturing the jazz vibe of New Orleans and infusing it into catchy Disney songs.

Tiana, the film’s “princess” frog, has a very humble and sweet background as well and the character is one of the more fleshed out and real to come around in a Disney Animation film in sometime.  Her dream of opening her own restaurant is admirable as well and is a dream we can get behind as it is real and not some hokey fairy tale desire.  Naveen is charming and humorous and Bruno Campos infuses an instant liability that could easily dive into conceded and pompous, but instead we root for him and Tiana.  Keith David also deserves note as Dr. Facilier as he is evil yet believable in that he is able to entrance people into his schemes.

The films directors, John Musker and Ron Clements, and their animation team have crafted one of the most beautiful animated films put on screen and should reawaken people to the fact that we don’t need all our animated movies to be computer animated to look spectacular.  I also love how they infuse varying animation looks and styles into certain songs and sequences which help transport us into the characters imagination executed no better than the sequence in Tiana’s future restaurant as she dreams what it could be.  The lightning bug sequence and the voodoo number are also extremely impressive and really demonstrate the beauty of hand drawn animation.

In the end, The Princess and the Frog is a huge step forward for Disney Animation and John Lasseter continues to prove he knows what he is doing with the Mouse House.  Full of fantastic songs, beautiful animation, a few memorable characters, and a real back story we can be behind, the film is an enjoyable affair.  The storytelling could have been a bit more interesting and flowed a bit better, but any fan of animation has to be excited about Disney’s reboot of the hand-drawn style and if it catches fire again we can thank this film for it.

The Princess and the Frog is a B


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