Review: The Princess and the Frog

When this film was first announced, I’ll admit I wasn’t sold on the idea.  I haven’t been interested in a Walt Disney Animation Studios film since 2002’s Lilo & Stitch, and Grimms' "The Frog Prince" isn’t exactly an exciting story.  But then I found out Disney would be going back to traditional 2D hand drawn animation under the direction of Disney veterans John Musker and Ron Clements.  And the film was going to be set in America’s roaring twenties, making it a period film (which I have a slight weakness for because of the costumes and other such creative décor).  The announcements for Princess also attracted a lot of attention (and subsequent controversy) because its star would be Disney’s first African American princess.  But I was fairly confident that this would be a good movie: it goes back to what made Disney the best, and is supported by a wealth of talent.  On top of that, the film, which opened to the general public this past weekend, did not disappoint at all.


As I said, The Princess and the Frog is based off the classic fairy tale where a princess kisses a frog, who consequently transforms into the prince she marries.  A pretty boring story, but Disney fleshes the story out well by drawing not only the rich cultural setting of New Orleans in the 1920s but also a delightful cast of characters.

 



Tiana, our heroine voiced by Anika Rose, becomes inspired by her father (who is implied to have died in World War I, making Tiana yet another Disney character with only one living parent) to own her very own restaurant.  When the main story begins, she is working hard at two jobs trying to raise enough money to buy a building for her dream.  She is finally able to reach this goal when her rich best friend Charlottte (Lottie for short) hires Tiana to cater a masked ball in honor of the visiting Prince Naveen of Maldonia, who is voiced by Bruno Campos.

Of course, just when everything is about to go right, it goes pear shaped instead.  Exploring the streets of the fascinating and colorful New Orleans, Prince Naveen finds himself in the shop of a voodoo practitioner named Doctor Facilier. Facilier is far more malicious than Naveen realizes, and the Doctor turns Naveen into a frog as part of a plot to (somehow) gain financial and spiritual control over the city.

And of course, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know that Naveen ends up mistaking Tiana for a princess and convinces her to kiss him in an attempt to solve his froggy problem the fairy tale way.  But that would be too easy and boring, not to mention make for a rather short film.  So Disney’s twist ends up with Tiana also turning into a frog.

 



That was a rather long winded explanation of the set up for the story, but I wanted to introduce a good part of the cast because they are all just stellar.  Tiana is a believable young lady focused on her dreams but not necessarily wise to her own feelings and the important priorities.  Naveen is not the one-dimensional prince that pops up in other Disney Princess movies: he loves jazz and enjoying life but doesn’t necessarily know how to live sustainably.  And of course, the villain is also well characterized with typical suave malice.  However, it was Tiana's best friend Charlotte who ended up as my favorite character as a hysterically funny energetic but kind-hearted daddy’s little girl.  This was pretty surprising to me since it seemed like Charlotte was going to be Tiana's rival in the film, a la Cinderella's step-sisters.

Thankfully, all the voice characterizations were spot on and nothing feels fake or narrated (a dangerous and all too common error in cartoons).  They also excelled at the songs, which were written by the talented Randy Newman.  While breaking into song can seem a little unnecessarily camp these days, it actually fit with the film’s jazz filled setting.  It also didn’t hurt that these are catchy songs; I found myself tapping my toes along to the beat on more than occasion.  (Although, I must say, the end credit song seemed a bit out of place.)

 



And it won’t just be the songs that will bring a smile to your face.  The plot is original, and has a delightful share of humor.  There are also moments of tension and sadness to balance the movie out.  The art is also wonderful with its consistent quality and fantastic use of color. Taking more of a creative spin in more fanciful sequences (such as when Tiana is thinking about her dream of owning a restaurant), the art is stylized with a simple but trendy look.  All par for course in a movie that draws on Disney’s beloved classic roots- which are actually referenced a couple places in the film.  But without giving spoilers, I'll tell you that Princess doesn't follow all Disney clichés.

By this point you may be wondering if I have any complaints.  I did find the pacing a little fast; even before the credits rolled I was wishing the film was a bit longer.  But animated films have a tendency to be on the shorter side, so I won't pout too much.

So in conclusion?  Well if you can’t tell that I want you to watch this movie, I don’t know what you’ve been reading.  This is Disney at what is does best, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to see it in theaters.  Maybe it's not an instant Disney classic, I think you’ll find this movie delightful entertainment, no matter what age you are.

 

Ratings for The Princess and the Frog
Rating (out of 10 )
9.0
Overall Score
Epic Win

 

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Comments

Guest of Awesomeness's picture

Sure, not main characters, but deserving of acknowledgement I'm positive?

By Guest of Awesomeness (not verified)

I was going to mention them but I felt like I was rambling a little too long already so I cut it out. Ray and Louis do deserve acknowledgment fersure, but I guess I hoped people would see the movie and figure it out for themselves.

Also, I feel like I should mention somewhere since I'm having reviewer's guilt... I feel like I might have inflated the score a little from bias because of my weakness for period films and Parisian facades (which New Orleans has in this film). So it probably should have a rating in the "win" region but I don't feel like changing it now.

By Kim
KaushalGahlot's picture

Hello Friends, I'm an animator. Searching for a good animation studio i can work with. Can someone suggest a professional animation studio ?

By KaushalGahlot (not verified)
Ryan Matsunaga's picture

Pixar?

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