When I found out Disney had reopened their hand-drawn animation studios and announced plans to do another 2D feature in the tradition of their old classics, I was SUPER excited. So I braved the weekend crowds on Saturday to check out The Princess and the Frog, Disney's first 2D feature since 2004's Home on the Range, and was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had watching a movie whose target audience is about 15 years my junior.
Tiana is the 'princess' in question, but she's not really a princess. She's a normal girl! With regular parents who love her! And she's got career aspirations! See, Tiana wants to open a restaurant and carry on the dreams her father never got to see come true (just because he was alive and supportive for part of the movie doesn't mean he didn't have to die violently later -- this is Disney, after all). Tiana also works for a wealthy, crazy Southern belle named Charlotte, who wants desperately to meet a prince to sweep her off her feet. And of course, a playboy prince of a totally made-up country rolls into town, looking for some rich woman to make him a kept man (his royal parents have just cut him off).
Some trickery ensues, Prince Naveen gets turned into a frog, Tiana accidentally turns into a frog, too, and they have to go on a long journey through the bayou to find a voodoo lady named Mama Odie who can set them both straight again. The whole thing didn't make a lot of sense, but if you can get past the plot holes that are pretty standard in kids' movies, you can just sit there and appreciate the animation. It is incredibly gorgeous -- the 3D crowd just can't compete with good old-fashioned hand-drawn. It was also fun to see how excited the kids in the audience were. When my friends and I couldn't find our theater, one little girl ran over and yelled, 'Theater six is this way! Over here!' like she couldn't believe people were actually going to see other movies that day.
The songs are not quite up to par with old classics like 'Under the Sea,' but there were so many other great things about the movie that I couldn't complain. The voice actors are mostly not famous and so were pretty awesome -- Anika Noni Rose (the Dreamgirl that's not Beyoncé or J-Hud) was stellar as Tiana, and Jennifer Cody was absolutely hilarious as the man-crazy Charlotte. I won't give away the ending, but I will say this: Tiana's ending is a lot more progressive than many of the other Disney princess finales we've seen before. Basically, The Princess and the Frog isn't perfect, but it's definitely a step in the right direction for a children's movie giant that used to deal in thinly veiled stories about domestic violence (come on ladies, you totally know that's what Beauty and the Beast is).
Photos courtesy Onion AV Club and Fandango
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