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The Princess and the Frog

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 28-04-2011

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Disney celebrates a modern-day classic from the directors of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. Discover what really happened after the princess kissed the frog in an inspired twist on the world’s most famous kiss. This hilarious adventure leaps off the screen with stunning animation, irresistible music and an unforgettable cast of characters. Enter Princess Tiana’s world of talking frogs, singing alligators and lovesick fireflies as she embarks on an incredible journe… More >>

The Princess and the Frog

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Comments (5)

Bam! It’s appropriate that Emeril Lagasse plays a (bit) character in The Princess and the Frog, voicing Marlon the `gator. This film proves that Disney’s once-vaunted hand-drawn animation is back with a vengeance.

The film has gorgeous visuals, engaging characters, a palpably evil villain and gags galore. Randy Newman’s New Orleans-influenced score perfectly complements the story. It is laugh-out-loud funny. The romance between leads Tiana and Prince Naveen is touching and believable. The film’s strong, down-to-earth message: You can’t just wish upon a star for your dreams to come true. You’ll have to work. Hard.

Folks looking for a quality, old-school Disney film will not be disappointed. Like all the best Disney classics, The Princess and the Frog adapts a classic fairy tale and adds twists and wit. This story of hardworking Tiana, aspiring New Orleans restauranteur, and her froggy adventures will engage children and charm their parents. It’s a movie that both kids and adults will enjoy.

The supporting characters nearly steal the show. Tiana’s friend Charlotte is a hoot: “I’m sweating like a sinner in church!” as she sops up the armpits of her Cinderella-esque ballgown. A trumpet-playing alligator, a jowly old lady steeped in hoo-doo, and, especially, a cajun firefly named Ray are originals. Ray’s fantasy girlfriend: Evangeline, the evening star.

The visuals have such power. One shot of dandelions covered with droplets of dew is as sumptuous as anything in Disney’s Fantasia from 1940. Psychedelic scenes with villain Dr. Facilier rival the bizarre scenes in 1944’s The Three Caballeros or 1941’s Dumbo. A silent funeral in a swamp has a misty, magical beauty.

As the first major Disney movie with African-American lead characters since 1946’s The Song of the South, the film doesn’t sidestep the race and class issue. At the beginning of the movie, young Tiana and her seamstress mother leave the opulent home of Big Daddy La Bouff to travel to their tiny tract home. Tiana’s daddy has to work multiple jobs to support his family; as does the grown-up Tiana, trying to save up enough money to realize her dream of opening a restaurant. Later bankers tell Tiana that a girl of her “background” may be better off not having such a dream.

Where have these gifted Disney animators been all these years? It seems they’ve picked up right where they left off, adding another thoroughbred to the stable of modern-day Disney classics such as 1989’s The Little Mermaid, 1991’s Beauty and the Beast and 1994’s The Lion King. Maybe it’s producer John Lasseter’s influence, with his insistence on excellence, especially with story and visuals. Whatever the reason, Walt Disney himself must be smiling in the heavens. Right next to Evangeline.

— Julie Neal, author of The Complete Walt Disney World 2010.
Rating: 5 / 5

I don’t understand why people complain about the lack of good family fair and then shy away from going to see “The Princess and the Frog”, the new traditionally animated film from Disney. This is a good film and the lack of business it is creating may cause Disney to rethink their current change in course.

A few years ago, John Lasseter, the force behind all of the Pixar hits, was promoted to oversee many different aspects of Disney. He did something I don’t think a lot of people expected. He restarted production of traditionally animated, hand drawn feature films, a type of filmmaking all but abandoned (due to cost; computer animation is a lot cheaper) at a studio now making digital animation. He hired the team behind “The Little Mermaid” and they chose to make “The Princess and the Frog”, the first Disney film featuring an African American heroine.

New Orleans, the 20s. Tiana (Anika Nani Rose, “Dreamgirls”, “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency”) is a practical girl. As a child, she accompanies her mom (Oprah Winfrey) when she goes to Big Daddy’s House (John Goodman) to make a dress for his daughter, Charlotte. Tiana and Charlotte are best friends and listen enraptured as Tiana’s mom tells them the story of “The Frog Prince”. Charlotte immediately announces she will kiss every frog and find her prince, but Tiana can’t stomach the thought of kissing a frog. Tiana also shares her hard working dad’s (Terrence Howard) dream of opening a restaurant. Flash forward ten years and we rejoin Tiana as she works multiple jobs trying to save enough money to open her first restaurant. She wants to keep her dad’s dream alive and has found a spot she knows will be perfect, an abandoned waterfront warehouse. Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos, lots of parts on TV shows), the prince of Moldavia, arrives in town with his aide, Lawrence. Naveen wants to play jazz and has all but given up his ties to the throne of his country. A witch doctor, Dr. Facilier (Keith David) spots an opportunity. If he gets Charlotte to marry a fake Prince Naveen, he can take over Big Daddy’s fortune. But first, he has to turn the prince into a frog and find a replacement to play Prince Naveen. Charlotte hears of the prince’s arrival and gets her dad to throw a costume ball during Mardi Gras. Big Daddy is only too happy to oblige for two reasons; he has been chosen the King of Mardi Gras again and anything his Charlotte wants, she gets. Throw in Louis, an alligator who also wants to play jazz and Ray, a wise Cajun firefly and everything starts to get complicated.

Written and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the team behind “The Little Mermaid”, “The Princess and the Frog” bnngs the same sort of magic and beauty back to the silver screen.

There are a lot of things to like and celebrate about “The Princess and the Frog”. The animation style seems almost romantic, in a way, perhaps because it has been so long since we have seen this type of animation used to any great extent. It also allows the film to look softer, almost as though it is glowing, which helps evoke the rose colored portrait of New Orleans the film puts forth. Everything about the film helps to give a romanticized vision of the great city and it is nice to see this celebrated.

One of the best and most consistent things about Disney animation is the music. In a time when there were virtually no other musicals being created, Disney Animated features continued the legacy, allowing some of the best and brightest performers, composers and writers to work, to continue their craft. In the last few years, live action musicals have started to enjoy a small renaissance at a time when animated features began to cycle away from using music. In “Princess”, each song seems to celebrate a different kind of music which is fitting and a great idea as New Orleans is also a melting pot of music. In this way, the filmmakers celebrate and pay tribute to all of the different musical influences of this city, zydeco, ragtime, jazz, Cajun and more.

The characters are all funny, memorable and interesting. A few years ago, someone in the Disney Marketing Machine came up with the idea of marketing all of the “Princesses” from the different films plastering their pictures on every conceivable piece of merchandise. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine, Belle, Snow White and the Little Mermaid are extremely popular so putting them all together is an even bigger draw for the millions of little girls who snap up their merchandise. So, any new animated film with a Princess is going to be considered a boon to the ongoing marketing machine that is Disney. Add Tiana to the group and everything can be redesigned, remade and resold. But Tiana is also the first African-American princess providing even more attractive marketing possibilities. She is a great marketing tool. When you become a fan of Disney, you quickly realize that everything in the kingdom is about marketing: if a film is a success, the characters go on to live in television, theme park rides & attractions, video games, clothing, DVDs, costumes and so much more. When you realize this, you can quickly move on and allow the films to create memories and magic. And Tiana is a very good addition to the Disney family.

Tiana is head strong, independent, goal-oriented and very busy. From her early days, listening to her dad talk about his dreams of opening a restaurant, she quickly adopted the same dreams. Now that he has gone on, she continues to press forward, working two jobs, saving every penny for a down payment. Only when the two men who promised to sell her an abandoned warehouse for her restaurant threaten to pull out, does she become desperate and start to look for some more money. Early on, Tiana brings her mom to the space and they sing a song about what the restaurant will become. Throughout this number, there are references to the sacrifices the young woman has made and it becomes a celebration but also a poignant illustration of this character’s strong will.

Anika Nani Rose is very good as the voice of Tiana, giving her a lot of energy, a lot of pluck and a lot of intelligence. When Tiana meets the Frog Prince at Charlotte’s house, she is reluctant to believe the talking frog, but her need for financial help gives her the little push she needs. She reluctantly bends down to give him a smooch

Bruno Campos is good as Naveen, providing a soft accent for his character. But he is unremarkable. So many others could have done the role, his performance isn’t distinctive enough.

Keith David is fantastic as the voice of Dr. Facilier, the witch doctor who hatches a plan to steal Big Daddy’s fortune. His big musical number helps to illustrate his connection to the dark arts of voodoo. His character brings to mind some of the elements of Jafar from “Aladdin” and his number brings back memories of Oogie Boogie in “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.

As “Frog” is a Disney animated film, there are talking animals. When Naveen is turned into a frog, he talks and Tiana understands him. Later, they meet Louis, an alligator who just wants to play music for people. Voiced by Michael Leon-Wooley, the character is funny and fun to watch, especially every time he tries to sneak into a jazz band and begin to play, trying to remain unnoticed.

Ray, a Cajun firefly, has been dubbed the Cajun Jiminy Cricket. I guess there is a little truth to that. Ray is the guide for Tiana, Naveen and Louis, helping them navigate their way out of the swamp and back to New Orleans. Voiced by Jim Cummings, Ray is funny and touching.

While in the swamp, the team decides to try to get Mama Odie to help them. Odie is a Cajun woman who lives in the heart of the Bayou with her pet python and is basically the good counterpart to Doctor Facilier. Voiced by Jennifer Lewis (the original “Dreamgirls”), she provides a couple of funny moments and even some sage advice.

John Goodman is also very good as Big Daddy. A New Orleans native, he clearly understands and has met people similar to Big Daddy.

I am only touching the barebones of the story. There are a number of twists and turns that should even keep the adults entertained. In fact, it might be a little too complicated for most kids. And because there is a lot of story, it seems slightly rushed at times, like they are trying to get too much story into a running time of 100 minutes.

But these are small complaints for a film that is this much fun to watch, to listen to, to experience.
Rating: 4 / 5

Being in my mid-twenties, I think I’m much older than the intended audience for this movie, but I have fond childhood memories of Disney, so the rave reviews for this one led me to see it in the theatre. And I absolutely loved it! It had everything I wanted in a Disney movie: fun songs, a creepy villain, and a touching plot that made me cry at least once but ultimately left me fully satisfied.

The best part for me, though, was the rich historical setting–1912 New Orleans. Disney has been praised for taking a bold step with a black heroine, but even more important for me was the fact that her station in life was portrayed realistically. Rather than trying to hide historical injustices, The Princess and the Frog faces them head on and shows that it’s possible to achieve happiness despite all difficulties.

Tiana is not only black but poor, working multiple jobs in the hopes of one day saving enough money to start her own business. The ditzy white Charlotte, on the other hand, has plenty of money and gets everything she wants from her indulgent father. We see at the very beginning that white people lived in fancy mansions, while black people lived in tiny shacks. And yet we also see that Tiana’s childhood was a happy one, with a loving family and a close-knit community. There are some powerful messages throughout the movie about how hard work is important, but a loving family is more important by far.

I don’t want to spend too much time summarizing the plot; suffice it to say that one character’s greedy attempt to use voodoo for personal gain results in both Tiana and a foreign prince being turned into frogs. The majority of the movie consists of their travels through the bayou, searching for a voodoo priestess to turn them back. Of course, they encounter all sorts of interesting creatures in their travels–the firefly Ray was possibly my favourite character in the movie–and learn some valuable lessons about themselves on the way.

I was really intrigued by the whole voodoo aspect; it’s a belief system that I don’t know anything about, but just being aware that the magic system of the movie had a whole history behind it gave the story a satisfying sense of depth. I came away from the movie wanting to learn more about both voodoo and the general history of race relations in the American south (and have, in fact, purchased books about both topics since then). This, to me, is the mark of a good story: The Princess and the Frog not only is rewarding in its own right, but leaves the viewer inspired to explore related areas. I’ll definitely be purchasing this movie once it becomes available, because I know it’s one that I’ll want to see again.
Rating: 5 / 5

The Disney Studio has made a return to its hand-drawn roots (with the aid of some computer technology of course) with its first hand-drawn animated fairy tale in many years. It is also the first time the studio has set one of their fairytales in America. Tiana (voiced expertly by Anika Noni Rose of Dreamgirls[Blu-ray]) is a young girl in 1920’s New Orleans. She is focused on making her late father’s dream come true of opening her own restaurant; this leaves no time for love or fun. Enter Naveen of Maldonia, a handsome prince who has been disinherited by his family for his laziness. Tiana and Naveen are brought together even though they are polar opposites because of the black voodoo magic of the evil Doctor Facilier. The two are forced to journey together to get what they both think they want…which naturally changes along the way. No plot spoilers here…this rich movie needs to be experienced personally. Although I am generally not a Randy Newman fan, his music here is memorable and toe-tapping. New Orleans provides the perfect atmosphere for the music showcased here: love songs, blues, jazz, and more. You will end up singing more than a few of the wonderful tunes you hear. My very favorite number is “Almost There,” which is sung by Anika’s Tiana as she helps her mother (voiced by Oprah Winfrey) envision her dream restaurant. This sequence is done in an art deco poster style and just blew me away.

The hand animation is also memorable; the frogs come to life and you believe the emotion that they express; the eyes…the smiles…the movements, all delicately rendered with time and love by the Disney animation team. New characters also join the classic library of Disney: Mama Odie (the blind voodoo priestess), Charlotte (a rich girl looking for her prince voiced by Jennifer Cody), Ray (a firefly in love with Evangeline the Evening Star), and Louis (trumpet-playing alligator). A trumpet playing alligator? Sure sounds stupid, but the animation team pulls off every unbelieveable thing you could imagine with their talents. On Blu-ray, the lush painted backgrounds bounce off the screen, and the music will make your speakers rock. Note of caution; as with almost every Disney movie, there are some dark and very sad elements. Parents should definitely be nearby for the young ones.

Specs:

Bluray is 1080p High Definition/1:78:1 with English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio (48kHz/24-bit) * French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital * English SDH and English 2.0 DVS, French and Spanish Subtitles. Bonus features on bluray are 1080p High Definition/1:78:1 with English 5.1 Dolby Digital * English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles.

Bonus Features: Quite a few here shown in high definition on blu-ray; interestingly enough though, the clips from the older Disney library are still in low pixelized quality.

-Deleted/Alternate Scenes: with introductions by co-writers/directors Ron Clements & John Musker. These are shown in rough storyboard form with “scratch dialogue” (not voiced by the actors in the movie). 4 scenes are shown: “Advice from Mama,” alternative version of Louis’ introduction, “Stop and smell the roses,” and “Naveen confides in Ray.” The last one is the only one that I would say is missed; it is a different version of what is scene on screen of how Naveen reveals his feelings to Ray (and the audience) about Tiana. It is more touching and tender than the final version. The other deletions were made wisely!

-Music and More: “Never Knew I Needed” music video by Ne-Yo. Shot in New Orleans, this really has very little if anything to do with the movie. Ne-Yo is shown romancing a girl, and other than them eating beignets and seeing the evening star at the end, there is not much of a connection to the film. This is the one musical number that really doesn’t fit stylistically; mercifully it is shown over the credits at the end.

-Bringing Life to Animation: live action reference footage is shown and introduced by Clements & Musker. They stress that this footage was not traced, but used as an aid and point of departure especially for the dance numbers. See the live footage for “Dig a little Deeper” (Mama Odie’s showstopping number) and Charlotte’s proposal scene. Very interesting to see how the movements of the live dancers and actors inspired nuances that translated to the animation. Sherry Butler, in her 20’s, takes on the role of dancing Mama Odie the voodoo priestess.

-Audio Commentary by Musker, Clements, and producer Peter Del Vecho

-Magic in the Bayou: The Making of a Princess (22:11): Excellent featurette! Executive Producer John Lasseter tells of how he wanted to bring back hand-drawn animation to the Disney Studio, and accomplished this by bringing back Musker & Clements. Don Hall, in charge of the story, relates how the classic elements of a fairy tale were twisted here, such as the typical fairy godmother becoming Mama Odie, the sassy voodoo priestess. Mark Henn, Tiana’s supervising animator, tells how difficult it was to convey a frog without having the frog look ugly. A similar situation was handled back in 1940 with Jiminy Cricket in “Pinocchio.” New Orleans is a character itself, although the animation team stylizes it as well. Because of the choice of New Orleans, the rich “gumbo” music (a plethora of styles) fits like a glove here. Animator Eric Goldberg tells how they painted what it “feels like” to be in New Orleans, capturing its essence rather than some of the uglier details. Anika Noni Rose is pleased to be part of the production that uses African-American characters; she correctly feels that it’s important for ALL people to be able to feel the “fairy dust” fall on them too. Thrilled to work for Disney, she talks about how they have a way of teaching children about hope, dreams, and perseverance. She also wisely tells us how this movie isn’t necessarily about finding a prince as it is about finding love, whatever that is for each person. You’ll also see Betsy Baytos, the choreographer responsible for the “eccentric dance” (comedy in dance) of Mama Odie and the other memorable characters. Most of all in this featurette you’ll learn that hand-drawn animation is an art form that is back with style!

-The Return to Hand-Drawn Animation (2:43): Andreas Deja leads off with a recreation of his victory dance that he performed when it was announced that the studio was returning to hand-drawn animation with “The Princess and The Frog.” Making drawings come to life is the ultimate magic and illusion. As animator Bruce Smith says, “We’re back!”

-The Disney Legacy (2:31): very short featurette about the influences of the Nine Old Men on the younger animators who are carrying on the legacy for Disney, “The Rolls Royce of Animation.”

-Disney’s Newest Princess (2:51): Princess Tiana’s supervising animator Mark Henn is interviewed here as well as Anika Noni Rose who says that working on this picture “was a dream come true.”

-The Princess and the Animator (2:26): featurette about Mark Henn, who has animated other famous Disney princesses such as Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Mulan. “I carry a soft spot in my heart for princesses.” Tiana is a strong character because she is proactive; rather than waiting for her dream, she works hard and is determined to get it on her own.

-Conjuring the Villain (1:50): Animated by Bruce Smith and powerfully voiced by Keith David, Dr. Facilier is Disney’s latest villain.

-A Return to the Animated Musical (3:13): Randy Newman is the man behind the music of this film. Having spent summers as a youth in New Orleans, the music there is in his blood. Local talent from the area was used in the movie, including Dr. Johnny. It is related that the theme of gumbo in the movie also applies to the music’s diverse mix of songs: gospel, blues, cajun waltz, and romance.

-Art Galleries: quite a few images to see here; the only disappointment is their size. Plenty of room to have made them bigger. Galleries are: Visual Development, Character Design, Layouts & Background, Storyboard Art

-Game: What do you see? Princess Portraits: Guess which princess (or non-princess) the lightning bugs (Ray’s family) are creating bug-by-bug.

-Sneak Peeks: Genuine Treasure: Tinker Bell, Disney Movie Rewards, Old Dogs, James & The Giant Peach Special Edition, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Treasure, Fantasia & Fantasia 2000 Diamond Edition, Disney Parks, Beauty & The Beast Diamond Edition, Toy Story 1, 2, and 3

Final summary: hands-down no-brainer – get this Disney Animated Classic TODAY!
Rating: 5 / 5

I took my 4-year-old and 7-year-old girls to see this at the theater. It is great that the movie teaches that you can’t get what you want from just wishing on a star. The movie has outstanding visuals, too, and many funny moments. IMO, however, many of the songs are just so-so. Both of my daughters absolutely loved it, more than Enchanted, more than Sleeping Beauty and more than Snow White. For my kids it ranks up there with Beauty and the Beast.
Rating: 5 / 5

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