Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Walt Disney Animation Studios: Part 49: Princess and the Frog

Series Intro: This is Part 49 of a multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors.

Official Title: The Princess and the Frog
Release: December 11, 2009
Running Time: 97 minutes
Estimated Cost: $105 million (nearly $50 million less than Bolt)
Estimated Revenue: $267.05 million
Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Since childhood, it has been Tiana’s dream to open a restaurant. And she is close during this Marti Gras. She has been working two or three jobs, never having fun since her childhood days of playing with Charlotte La Bouff (who’s life-long dream is to become a princess).

At the same time, Prince Naveen (disowned by his parents) comes to New Orleans to find a rich wife to return to the life he has grown accustomed to. Charlotte has her daddy throw Naveen a party. But in the streets of the French Quarter, Naveen is tricked by Dr. Faciller, who wants to rule New Orleans, and this can be done by killing Charlotte’s farther (the king of the Marti Gras parade). Dr. Facilier turns Naveen into a frog and Naveen’s manservant, Lawrence, into a copy of Naveen.

Frog Naveen gets away and meets Tiana at the party (where Lawrence is masquerading as Naveen), and convinces Tiana to kiss him (mistaking her costume grown for a real thing). This turns Tiana into a frog and thus begins their misadventure on the bayou to solve their problems.

Along the way they meet Louis (a trumpet playing alligator) and Ray (a firefly). The four go to look for Mama Odie to help solve Tiana and Naveen’s frog issue. Tiana and Naveen fight a lot (he’s free loving, she’s rule following).

Mama Odie sends them back to the Marti Gras parade for Naveen to be kissed by Charlotte (princess of the parade). Dr. Facilier sends shadow creatures to keep the frogs away. Only at the last moment, does Dr. Facilier get taken by the shadow creatures (after killing Ray). Charolette is told the entire saga and tries to kiss Naveen, but the clock strikes midnight and is too late.

Frog Naveen marries Frog Tiana (they had learned to love each other along the Bayou), and when they kissed they were both turned into human (when he married her, Tiana became a princess).

Naveen, now settle down, is welcomed back into his family, and they help Tiana open her restaurant, where Louis is the main entertainment. Charlotte thinks she will marry Naveen’s brother (she will wait until he’s much older than 6). And Ray joins his love, a star, in the night sky.

I’m so happy to have this section back!
1. Never Knew I Needed
2. Down in New Orleans (Prologue)
3. Down in New Orleans
4. Almost there
5. Friends on the Other Side
6. When We’re Human
7. Gonna Take You There
8. Ma Belle Evangeline
9. Dig a Little Deeper
10. Down in New Orleans (Finale)

I found it odd that WDAS didn’t bring in Alan Menken (of Mermaid, Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Hunchback, Hercules, and Home On The Range) considering how successful so many of his previous scores have been. Yes, Randy Newman wrote the score to Pixar’s Toy Story, Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monster’s Inc, and Car but none of these were musicals. I think Menken would have given the score more “umph.”

Plot Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
The movie has all the elements for success, but it just didn’t do it for me. As I said above, the score wasn’t enough (save for Almost There). I liked the idea of Dr. Facilier using voo-doo and I thought it was interesting that this movie took place in New Orleans. I just didn’t enjoy the leads begin frogs for most of the movie.

Animation Rating: 4 out of 5
It was so nice to see the gorgeous hand drawings again. Although WDAS had claimed that Home on the Range was to be the last hand-drawn animated feature, I am happy they were wrong. The backgrounds were still too CG’d for my tastes, and there were several moments when I had to reflect on how little growth WDAS had made in making their characters look natural in the settings. Of course the CG settings mimicked those of Bolt that they looked like paintings, but just the way the character interacted with the settings seemed too forced.

Above I mentioned the song Almost There, this song (both musically and stylistically) was the standout moment of this movie. The art deco design and oil pastel colors beautifully matched the jazz music.

The Test of Time:
Tiana has been forced down our throats as a princess equal to the status of her predecessors. I can’t help but wonder, is she only there because she’s African American. Yes, she was the star of a good movie, but I don’t think we know if she has the staying power.

Through the Modern Lens
Isn’t this modern? This section is now closed.

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