I love the atmosphere of New Orleans, the food of New Orleans, and the architecture of New Orleans. So, when I heard back in early 2009 that Disney was setting their next animated film in New Orleans, I was excited.
The Princess and the Frog starts out giving a little backstory about our main character, Tiana (voiced admirably by Anika Noni Rose). Her father had always dreamed of owning a restaurant where he could make good food to help bring people together, but he died before he was able to realize his dream. Tiana has taken it upon herself to realize the dream for her father, and finally earns enough to put a down payment on a building for the restaurant.
Unfortunately, she gets outbid due to the sleazy business tactics of the land agents, so she’s desperately trying to find a way to outbid them. When a frog tells her he is a prince and only her kiss can change him back, she relents and kisses him. Instead of turning the prince human, however, Tiana is transformed into a frog, and the film revolves around their efforts to be changed back into humans before they are stuck as frogs forever.
My favorite aspect of The Princess and the Frog is the music. Randy Newman did an excellent job bringing out the flavor of New Orleans (which isn’t surprising since he lived there every summer when he was young, according to one of the extras on the video release). Most of the music has a fun, toe-tapping, foot-stomping energy to it which just made me smile. There are also a couple songs which capture the romantic, magical feel of the bayou at night (with miles of fireflies, Spanish moss curtains hanging off the trees, and the light of the moon shimmering on the water).
The animation was well done, with my favorite part being that during the “Almost There” song (masterfully sung by Rose). The Art Deco style of animation used was simply amazing, and arguably my favorite part of the whole film. Even though it’s quite different than the animation used in the rest of the film, it fit perfectly into the film (especially since the film is set in the roaring 1920s).
The main drawback to the film was the story being somewhat predictable, and some of the voodoo imagery was quite frightening, given the target audience of the film. It still amazes me how Disney gets “G” ratings for some of its animated features, and this one had enough frightening thematic elements in it to garner a PG rating.
Regardless, The Princess and the Frog was still a solid and enjoyable film. While some may be put off by the dark voodoo imagery and themes in parts of the film, I thought they worked together with the setting of the film to make an interesting and enjoyable whole. It’s nice to see Disney back in its stride with this film.
Release Date: December 11, 2009 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G
Nudity: 0 (though the frogs ain’t wearin’ a stitch)
Violence: 2 (voodoo shadow attacks, some intense scary images, comic violence)