Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

With The Princess and the Frog Disney has returned to traditional 2D animation for the first time in half a decade- and it couldn't have come at a better time. During a market filled with a plethora of similarly styled 3D animated films, The Princess and the Frog is like a breath of fresh air. It's on par with the best of Disney's animated films in the 90's, and easily the best in the past decade. The animation race for the Oscars is going to be interesting this year, with this movie, Miyazaki's Ponyo, Coraline, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox (even though I haven't seen it yet) all contenders. I would not be surprised to see The Princess and the Frog as a front runner.

The movie re imagines the classic fairy tale, setting it in 1920's era New Orleans. We find Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a waitress who dreams of opening her own restaurant. Simultaneously Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) from the fictitious country of Maldona is visiting the city in hopes of finding a rich woman to marry. Both of their plans are waylaid, however, when Naveen is turned into a frog by a voodoo witchdoctor (Keith David). Per the fairy tale, Tiana kisses the frog in hopes of turning him into a prince, but instead she turns into a frog. The rest of the movie is spent with them trying to return to their human form, and of course finding love along the way.

The music is stellar. It's not quite on par with earlier Disney canon, but Randy Newman's songs certainly stand on their own. The gospel and blues based musical numbers seem a little tacked on in places, like they included out of obligation instead of furthering the plot. This is forgivable, however, as the zydeco infused music is so darn fun. Complementing the music is a top notch voice cast. Anika Noni Rose gained notoriety with Dream Girls, and proved herself once again here. And Jim Cummings lends his versatile voice as a Cajun firefly, Ray.

On a whole, The Princess and the Frog is lighter than many of its predecessors. The heavy themes patricide as found in the Lion King, abuse in Beauty and the Beast, and a plethora of cultural conflict found in many movies are abandoned for simpler ideas. One of the fundamental themes of being true to yourself is summed up in one of the best songs- "Dig a Little Deeper". Even the villain of Dr. Facilliar is more goofy than threatening.

With the first black princess, and set in the early 20th century, racial and class differences are touched on briefly, but glossed over. As with most Disney movies, they play up accents and stereotypes, which still leaves a slightly bad taste in my mouth. Likewise, the idea that all you need is a man is tossed around, and never really refuted. Even though it's almost 2010, some of these archaic themes still hold a major role in these movies. Given the light hearted feel of the movie as a whole, these didn't weigh too heavily.

This was one of the movies I was most looking forward to, and it didn't disappoint. Having Ron Clemments and John Musker reboot Disney's 2D department was a wise decision, considering the pair brought us both The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. The Princess and the Frog is not only possibly the best animated movie of the year- it's one of the best movies period.



Sethisto said...

I always preferred their animal movies as opposed to their human/princess movies.

I'm pretty addicted to all this new 3d stuff too.

Juliet Vickio said...

I loved the movie, "The Princess and the Frog"! I am so glad that Disney backtracked and revived the 2-D style for their new princess!

- Juliet Vickio
(The Vickio Twins)