The Princess and The Frog

The Princess and the Frog

 

This is certainly a different kind of New Orleans than Werner Herzog’s. This is a cleaner, happier place, averse to acknowledging any racial tensions or upheaval. This is a more timeless, joyous, singing place. Well, that’s what kind of film that it is.

It triumphantly brings back the colorful cel animation that Disney made famous, and which has delighted generation upon generation of fans. In an age of Pixar and 3D, traditional animation seems to have been all up forgotten in the cinemas (by Disney included), but hopefully all that is changing with this release, which brings animation back to the days of old skool!

The flick starts out with two tiny chil’un of Nawlins (Tiana and her friend) being read “The Frog Prince,” the story of a Princess who kisses a frog who then becomes a Prince, and happily ever after. We’ve all heard of it in some form or another.

Well, flash forward twenty years as the film does during its title sequence, and we again meet our lil’ gal Tiana, all growns up, and nowhere near being a princess. She’s is working herself to death in an effort to save up her money to fulfill her daddy’s dream (he’s since passed) of opening up a wonderful restaurant: Tiana’s Place.

Tiana gets so close to her dream, when the rug is pulled out from underneath her. In desperation she tries everything, including wishing upon a star (something her pops told her never to take too much to heart—things in life you have to earn) and when a frog shows up at her doorstep, she kisses it. Not blindly, you must see, but rather because this frog talks—it is, in fact a prince. Except, complications arise and instead of him returning to human form, she instead becomes a frog and a great journey begins in which the two froggies wish to again become human and stop evil deeds from being done.

This is a wonderful little fairy tale, and a great, fun journey for all of the family. Disney pulls out all of the stops and includes a bevy of interesting characters, including trumpet blowing alligators, and Cajun fireflies that are in love with stars. Best of all, the human characters are no slouches either.

There is something about the story, the fairy tale, and the way that the filmmakers have animated it that felt like a breath of fresh air to me. We journey with our characters traveling along the bayou and I could have hung out with them forever. I laughed, I smiled, I even enjoyed the musical numbers which I felt went in well (Take that “Nine!”—this is a much better musical).

The film deals with the black arts, and with it being a children’s picture, we are never really put in much fear or exposed to its darker implications. This is fine (albeit too bad, the sickness within me says), but what the creators manage to do is make the film absolutely phantasmal and fantastic (fantasia?) with colors and masks, and creative camera (or lack thereof) moves. You’re not afraid, no not at all, even though ghosts and darkness is involved, but you are fascinated.

There is some interesting talent in here too. John Goodman; Terrence Howard; even Oprah stops by. Best of all, while you notice the familiarity of the voices, they don’t burden the film in ways I find too often in animation—where you are distracted from the movie’s story by playing “Name that Voice.”

I’ll be the first to admit that both Disney animation and musicals are my bright shining weakness in film criticism. I’m happy to admit that now I am excited about a whole new potential window of entertainment that this film may have exposed me to. So, I’m about to kidnap some children to give me an excuse to catch up on some great lost flicks.

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