The latest and greatest animated film to the Disney collection has just recently been released on Blu-ray and DVD March 16th, as we can welcome Tiana and her lovable tale The Princess and the Frog to our homes. The film marks Disney’s triumphant return to the realm of traditional animation, it’s first in the field since Home on the Range in 2004. Once Toy Story hit theaters in 1995, so many animated projects have drifted towards the computerized CG world that Pixar, and later DreamWorks and Sony amongst others, made so popular. Returning to it’s roots, and taking cues from Snow White, the movie that started it all, the House of Mouse has a true gem with The Princess and the Frog! But the tale can’t be all that easy, can it…?
The story stars Tiana, a small-time worker in the heart of New Orleans, whose family life is of high, loving importance. Even while the city is set ablaze with the news of Prince Naveen’s arrival, Tiana has her focus elsewhere, as she finally saved enough money to buy a restaurant of her own, and pay homage to her father’s love of cooking.
Naveen is very much Tiana’s opposite, coming from the lap of luxury and embracing the world of fun and dance, where as Tiana has a meager background and buries herself in hard work. But their paths cross with a series of misfortune; Tiana finds out she’s not as close as she thought with the restaurant, and still just “almost there…”, while Naveen’s innocence brings him under a wicked spell by the local voodoo “Shadwoman”, Dr. Facilier. It’s there that we see Tiana down in the dumps, and Naveen down …in the lily pads, as a frog. And just when either thinks things couldn’t get worse, the long fabled “Kiss a frog, turn him into a prince” storyline is shattered to bits, as Tiana’s kiss transforms her into a frog, as well. Double the ribbit!
So, here they are, two complete opposites now in the same exact position; hopping around on the floor, and suddenly hungry for bugs. That’s where the Disney-magic of love kicks in, with the prince and Tiana beginning to form a relationship that only grows over the next few days – grows by “leaps and bounds”, of course. Now the pair is avoiding hunters, dangers crocodiles, as well as Dr. Facilier and his shadow demons. Their only hope is to combat bad magic with good, and they must seek out the old voodoo mystic Mama Odie, down in the Bayou swamps. It’s there that the two meet up with Louis and Ray, a jazz loving crocodile and a who-dat firefly.
The setup is classic Disney — even beyond the lovable feelings! The film truly does seem to take a few pages out of the animated blockbusters of year’s past, with cues from the historic lineup. Facilier’s evil magic is straight out of Ursula’s playbook, from The Little Mermaid, where as Mama Odie’s is lighter, like Aladdin’s Genie. Naveen and Tiana’s transformation is purely reminiscent of the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, and the unlikely combo of Louis and Ray brought back some fond memories of The Lion King’s Timon and Pumba. All great inspirations to draw from.
The animation is bold, slick, and powerful, and truly stands above the Lilo & Stitch era films that came a decade or so before this. And the musical score, takes a few cues from Randy Newman, tying together some of the Pixar greats, as well as the zydeco, jazz, blues, and gospel style that befits the movie’s Louisiana settings.
The fragile friendship-turned-true romance relationship between Tiana and Naveen (Anika Noni Rose and Bruno Campos, respectively) is a love story of Disney legend, truly affixing Tiana’s status as one of the elite Disney Princesses. The moral also rings sweetly through out the film, noting that you should always strive for your dreams, but not by sacrificing the love of what you have around you.
All in all, the film is a beautiful story, told in a beautiful way. It’s simple, but tender, with phenomenal animation and a wonderful addition to the Disney catalog, all thanks to Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. Welcome back, traditional animation – you were missed!