Following the staggering success of Pixar and computer-generated feature films, Disney moved away from the more hand-drawn ˜traditional’ style of animation for many years. They returned to it in 2009 with their own unique take on the classic children’s story The Princess and the Frog.
Set in New Orleans, The Princess and the Frog follows Tiana (Anika Noni-Rose) a hard-working waitress who, inspired by the cooking of her departed father, dreams of owning her own restaurant. She is friends with Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), the daughter of wealthy local businessman Big Daddy (John Goodman). During an event designed to introduce Charlotte to a Prince, Tiana encounters a frog by the name of Naveen (Bruno Campos), who was once a Prince who sadly sold his lot to a Voodoo Priest called Dr. Facilier (Keith David) and who cursed him to turn into a frog. Offering her enough money to buy her restaurant if she helps him, Tiana agrees to kiss him in hopes that it will turn him back into a human. However because she’s not a princess, the plan backfires and she also turns into a frog.
The most obvious things to mention about The Princess and the Frog are the following: The drawing, the music and the central characters. Visually, this is one of the cleanest-looking animated films around. The lines are thick and sumptuous and the colours explode from the screen as the animation hops for normal, to stylised to art deco and all within the confines of the story. It’s classic Disney at it’s best. The wonderful look is supported by a jazz soundtrack with some great sing-along songs and the influence of Randy Newman cannot be understated.
Despite these positives, it is in the central characters where The Princess and the Frog is at its strongest. Aside from the prestigious nature of having the first ever black central duo (even if they spend more time green), the characters are also different from the norm. Tiana is smart and sassy, but also extremely hard-working, while the more traditional Prince is lazy and keen to avoid work and responsibility in order to indulge himself with women, wine and most importantly jazz. Their interplay, ably supported by the Baloo-a-like Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) a trumpet-playing alligator and the Cajun-drawl infused Raymond (Jim Cummings). It is the latter who surprisingly provides the emotional oompf that is somewhat lacking from Tiana and Naveen.
Proving that hand-drawn animation is still a viable artistic outlet for Disney, The Princess and the Frog ticks all the traditional boxes for a Disney film, with great music, lovely artistic direction and lovable characters. It may use the ethnicity of its characters as proof that it’s something different and new, but in reality, this is as classic a Disney film as it gets.