I had come to take their offerings for granted, not realizing just how good hey were. I believe that many people out there felt the same way. It did not help that Disney cell-animated films were in something of a decline. Despite that, there is something warm and welcoming about a Disney film that makes you smile. So, when it was announced that the cell-animation department was being rebuilt following the Disney's merger with Pixar, there was reason to celebrate.
The idea that Disney was returning to its roots, somewhat, was great news to animation fans. I have fond memories of their films. Pinocchio was the first movie my parents ever took me too as a child (yes, it was a re-release). I remember my grandmother taking me to The Black Cauldron and The Fox and the Hound. I have a special place for The Lion King, I took my sister to see it just prior to having back surgery. There are countless people have happy memory landmarks based around their numerous classics. Now we will hopefully get back on track with new classics to great new memories for a new generation.
I guess this all begs the question of whether or not The Princes and the Frog is any good. The answer lies somewhere in the middle. The movie is a lot of fun, has some memorable characters, some good tunes, and has a nicely fluid and stylized look. However, while it brings to mind the classics of the Disney Princess films it does not step out on its own as a classic of its own merit. I guess we need to start somewhere, it has been five years since they released a movie like this, seven years since they released one I like, and fifteen years since a certifiable classic was on the screen (this may be debatable).
Most of you are likely familiar with the tale of The Frog Prince. A handsome prince is cursed and turned into a frog and the curse can only be broken by the kiss of a princess. This story takes it out of the fairy-tale land of the story and into the world of 1920's New Orleans and a couple of young girls who believe, to varying degrees, in fairy-tales. It presents the fairy-tale as such in the film, but goes on to show that it is much more than a mere story.
We are introduced to Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a young girl whose family is poor but happy. She and her father (voiced by Terrence Howard) share a dream of opening a restaurant that will draw all sorts of people from all around. Tiana is also friends with Charlotte, the spoiled daughter of a rich man nicknamed Big Daddy.
Tiana's dream is not to be realized as we jump ahead a few years, Tiana's father has passed and she is working two jobs while saving for the restaurant. We also learn that Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) is in town looking for his princess. His search does not get very far as he is intercepted by the film's villain, the voodoo witch doctor Dr. Facilier who turns our fun loving prince into a frog.
What follows is a case of mistaken identity and the journey of a pair of human frogs through the bayou. The two are looking for a way to return to their former selves and on the way the goal takes a sidestep as both Tiana and Naveen learn about themselves and what they are really looking for.
The Princess and the Frog is a predictable story that follows the usual fairy-tale conventions en route to its predictable conclusion. There are the songs, fun but not terribly memorable, comedic sidekicks, heartfelt moments, and some nice animation.
This release had the potential to be an out and out classic, but instead it primarily serves to conjure up memories of the past. You know, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Disney leans heavily on its past and what better way to get you back on board with cell-animation than to remind you of past success? Fortunately, the movie is still a lot of fun.
The Princess and the Frog is fun. It is a delightful film that will hold your attention all the way through. You probably won't leave humming the tunes, but you will remember what Disney has been so good at for decades. It is good to see.
Bottonline. Bright colors, smooth animation, fun music, touching moments, all wrapped up under the Disney banner. I admit that I was won over by the film and while it does not stand up next to the classics, it is a movie that will make you smile and is well worth spending time with.