Posted by: David Stewart | December 27, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

It’s a bad admission, but I tend to be a sentimental guy for a few things. I still have a collection of 12-inch laserdiscs, after all.

The Princess and the Frog is a sentimental throw-back to that older style of making animated movies.

  • It is simply a beautiful piece of art. Tiana, who is Disney’s first black animated heroine, sings her “dream song” early in the movie about how she aspires to run her own restaurant some day, and the style of art changes too. It becomes a glowing 20s-style Art Nouveau fantasy sequence. There are several other sequences like this, where the very style of the art changes for the service of the story. A technique missing from the computer-generated features, which strive for realism.
  • The structure of the story flows like some of Disney’s best animated movies of the past: the Hero/Heroine’s “aspirational” song, the big-time show-stopping production number, the hero-cycle quest for transformation. You can see this theme in some of their best such as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin and others.
  • I am quite sentimental about New Orleans and this movie captures it beautifully from the French Quarter to the St Charles streetcars to Mardi Gras parades.
  • I got a lump in my throat several times due to the story. This hasn’t happened in an animated movie, Disney or otherwise, since The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

But the movie breaks a few rules too, which keeps it from being just a tired retread of an old art form:

  • Other than a few notable minor roles, the voice cast is made up of unknowns. Most animated movies these days seem to be more of a game of “guess the celebrity voice.” In this case, I could stop trying to figure out who’s who and focus on the movie instead.
  • I can’t give it away, but it’s fair to say that typical Disney happy ending was remixed in an unusual way.
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