Last night, Mary and I finally had the opportunity to see Disney's latest 2D animated film, The Princess and the Frog. We were enamored with the character of Tiana from the video clips available via the Internet and both looking forward to this film with high anticipation and it did not fail to disappoint. To sum it up .. Disney brilliantly rediscovers what many term as the classic Disney formula, hand-drawn animation and the value of a good story!
The Princess and the Frog really marks Disney's rediscovery of a strong narrative loaded with memorable characters, a story that pulls you in from the beginning and an unforgettable music score. Under the direction of veterans Ron Clements and John Musker (the team behind The Little Mermaid and Aladdin) and the watchful eye of John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Disney Animation, The Princess and the Frog celebrates old and new. It's a musical fairy tale that dates back to the days when Walt Disney was a person, not a brand. Yet it deftly mingles with the new sensibilities in animation where fairy tales must get fractured, settings must be fresh and humor pitched to many age levels.
The story takes place in New Orleans during the Roaring 1920's, and Clements and Musker go crazy with period details drawn from decorative arts, architecture and design styles. This is not just hand-painted animation, it's characters and backgrounds painstakingly drawn by animators in love with New Orleans, the bayous of Louisiana, the black magic of its underworlds and the 1920's themselves. Randy Newman has composed songs and a melodious score that weaves together jazz, blues and gospel.
There is no princess here, but there is a prince, Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos), a n'er-do-well who is penniless because his parents cut him off. The heroine is Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a hardworking servant's daughter carrying out her father's dreams of owning her own waterfront restaurant. There also is a menacing magician (new Disney villain), the cunning Dr. Facilier (Keith David), who lives to thwart happy endings.
The story transports Tiana and the Prince to a mystical, alligator-ridden bayou where good and bad magic battles for their souls. They are aided by the romantic firefly Ray (Jim Cummings), the jazz-loving alligator named Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) and the bayou's own queen, Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis).
Voicing memorable smaller roles are John Goodman as Southern aristocrat Big Daddy, Oprah Winfrey and Terrence Howard as Tiana's loving parents and Jennifer Cody as Big Daddy's spoiled Southern debutante daughter, Charlotte.
Mary ranked this film with Beauty and the Beast, absolutely loving this film. I personally would rank slightly below The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast but par with Aladdin and much better than The Lion King. My only fault with the film, too much time was spent with Tiana and Prince Naveen as frogs.
I liked the relationship between Tiana and Charlotte and how Charlotte gave up her dream for her friend. The substory of Ray and Evangeline, if when Ray joined Evangeline didn't choke you up and/or bring a tear to your eye, you lack heart and/or emotion. Favorite song was "Almost There" and thoroughly enjoyed "Friends on the Other Side" and "Dig a Little Deeper."
If you're a fan of hand-drawn animation, you definitely want to check this film out. If another opportunity presents itself, we'll definitely be seeing again while in theaters, if not, pick up as soon as released on Blu-Ray/DVD.