Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review: 'The Princess and The Frog"


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.

9 comments:

Art Partners Collectibles Inc. said...

I Have to somewhat disagree with you on this.. First the animation is outstanding, the drawing and the backgrounds are second to none. I was amazed at the color and the concept that was done to create this. It is truly another masterpiece of that quality., However i found no bond or connection with the princess, too many hairstyles and costume changes for children to connect to, As an adult i was in heaven with all of it, cute, funny but sorry NO connection, no snappy tunes and no child was walking out of the theater singing anything. I truly feel that this was only done to be politically correct and always those films fail, In 20 years in this industry i have had 2 "Adults" walk in to my gallery and ask for ethnic characters., Children do NOT recognize color...adults do and that is why there is a problem with this film. I would rank this film below Little Mermaid, way below. Have you yet heard anyone singing any snappy tune from it??/
Respectfully yours as always
mark

simba1814 said...

Duckman:

I am sorry but are you crazy. I have to agree with Mark in that the music is nothing like those movies of the past. Everyone can instantly hum a tune from Little Mermaid, Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, and yes The Lion King. I did love Princess and the Frog because of the new characters and animation but it doesnt compare at all to any of the Classics. Maybe one day it will be compared to Hercules or Rescuers Down Under but no way to Mermaid, Beauty, Aladdin or Lion King.

Duckman said...

Mark and Simba1814,

Thanks for your comments/reviews as well. Always enjoy reading others thoughts.

We attended the late afternoon showing, audience was made up only of adults so was unable to see a child's reaction :( Those in theater, like us, all seemed to enjoy the movie. We didn't decide to see the film to see if politically correct, if racial and/or stereotypical characters, we were more interested in seeing a hand-drawn film again with a good story, and the film did not disappoint.

Regarding the music, I reread my review and didn't see anywhere where I compared the music, simply pointed out which songs I liked and/or enjoyed. Given films from The Little Mermaid thru The Lion King have been dubbed the New Age of Disney at the time of their release, I compared my initial reaction after seeing this film to those.

The Lion King I saw in theaters when released and think I've only seen again once since, whereas I see myself watching The Princess and The Frog more. Sorry guys, call me crazy :) but Tiana fulfilling her father's dream for them, Charlotte's unselfishness at the end and Ray and Evangeline gave me a feel good feeling as the credits rolled and isn't that what a film is supposed to do? As Mama Odie sang, Dig a Little Deeper :)

Matthew said...

Don, I found the movie thoroughly enjoyable, quite unique and very touching!
JTCO!
Loved the settings, characters, music.

Art Partners Collectibles Inc. said...

Ok i going to Dig a Little Deeper...and be back to you...

Love this stuff to talk about

dopey926 said...

I absolutely loved this movie! As mentioned, it's so nice to see the hand-drawn animation back!

We loved the characters, and the story line was very touching.

Anika Noni Rose is amazing! She was on a program call Ladies #1 Detective Agency that we watched on Showtime, and we loved her in it. She is a great talent with a beautiful voice.

I truly hope that the movie is not marred by narrow minded people who are looking at the "color" aspect of it. As stated in an earlier blog, children do not recognize color - maybe adults should try to do the same, and appreciate the film as another Disney Classic in the making. JMO

Bob said...

I totally enjoyed this film. I thought the characters were unique and fresh,the animation was amazing and because I enjoy jazz I thought the music hit the spot.

I think this film was a bold move for Disney on two fronts,one being the hand drawn animation and the second using an African American Princess. And I do believe children DO recognize color.

At least now young African American girls can finally relate to a Disney Princess as can Asian American girls with Mulan, Middle Eastern American girls with Aladdin and Native American girls with Pocahontas. So this is not the first time Disney has visited the multicultural arena.

I just hope the film generates enough income to allow Disney to keep producing hand drawn films.

Koen said...

It's not yet released in my country, i'll have to wait untill february 3th... but thanks to Enesco (!!!!!), they offered my dealer a change to let their customers see the movie in avant premiere next monday... looking forward to it. Just hoping it'll be the English version and not the Dutch dubbed version...

Koen said...

So finally saw it. It was amazing. I didn't love the songs as much as the other disneyfilms, but still great story, great setting, great animation.

And i love, adore Charlotte. She's my favourite character. Would love to have a wdcc of her.