Y’know what? I don’t think I’ve reviewed a traditional Disney non-CGI film on this blog. Whilst I’m sure the reaction to this will be a huge, resounding “So fucking what?!”, I personally believe this to be a massive oversight. Allow me to set things right with a review of Disney’s recent return to classical animation, The Princess and the Frog. And watch your language.
The film follows the life of hard-working New Orleans waitress Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) who dreams of having her own restaurant. However, after a fateful kiss with a recently frogified human prince, Prince Naveen, (Bruno Campos), Tiana finds herself turned into a frog as well and the two must try and find a way to be human again, all the time avoiding evil Voodoo shadowman, Dr. Facilier (Keith David). The plot itself is your classic Disney escapade, borrowing elements from The Brothers Grimm’s The Frog Prince as well as the much more recent novel, The Frog Princess. The voice cast are fantastic without exception, as you would expect from a highly polished production such as this. The songs are also a return to form, with some really memorable toe-tappin’ numbers. The characters are well rounded too. Our heroine is spunky and hard-working and the supposed Prince Charming is actually a bit of a spoiled, cretinous dick with no real world skills. It’s an interesting subversion and definitely a welcome one.
So, let’s get the main talking points out of the way. Yes, the main character is African American. Yes, this is a return to beautiful, traditional cell animation. Thing is, I’m not tripping over myself to congratulate Disney. It all smacks of the whole “New Coke” fiasco back in the 80s. It’s a handy allegory as just like Coke, Disney felt it knew what the public wanted and got it wrong (excluding the Pixar films) with output like Chicken Little. Now they’ve returned with their tail between their legs and expect everyone to start frosting their underwear over the fact that they’re back to where they were in 2004. The whole “racial” issue is bullshit as well. It’s fantastic to not have a typical Caucasian lead, but it was made in 2009- this should have happened back in the ’70s or the ’80s at the latest. It just seems so backward that it took this long.
The surrounding issues aside, the actual film is very good. The characters are funny and likeable, the musical numbers are fantastic, especially Dr. Facilier’s Friends on the Other Side piece, which is coupled with some truly amazing and surprisingly creepy animation. It’s definitely in the top five Disney villain songs of all time. In terms of scene-stealing though, it has to be the Cajun firefly Ray, who gets a lot of the best lines and has a great love story arc involving Evangeline, a suspiciously absent firefly. The conclusion of which is just the right amount of sweet without tipping over into vomit-inducing, saccharine territory. Talking of conclusions, (Invisotexted- highlight to read) Dr. Facilier’s death is easily one of the scariest demises ever in a Disney film, second only to Frollo’s terrifying end in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
So, The Princess and the Frog. To be honest, it’s tough to really criticise because it’s a solid Disney film. They’re a genre of their own and The Princess and the Frog fits snugly into it. It’s not one of the all-time greats like The Lion King, but it’s in the upper echelon of the Disney ranks. A word of warning though- it may be a bit too scary for the young’uns in places and from a purely financial standpoint, the years of therapy will cost significantly more than the £6.99 impulse buy in Morrisons. Still, the film is ridiculously entertaining and certainly worthy of a viewing.