Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Princess and the Frog: Almost There?

I've always loved the saying "You've got kiss a hundred frogs to find your prince." Who hasn't. But sometimes one gets the feeling that you're the frog waiting to get kissed. If you haven't, then you're a better person than the rest of us. Get your diploma in life at the front of the line please. For the rest of us, it sucks doesn't it?
Disney's newest animated, 2d film explores this theme... kinda. Joining the sorority of Disney Princesses is Tiana, a waitress in New Orleans trying to own her own restaurant. Her life turns around while dresses up as princess at her friend Charlotte's costume party. A talking frog claiming to be a visiting prince says that if she kisses him, he'll make her wealthy, so of course she kisses him, what could she lose? Well Miss Tiana, since you weren't really a princess, instead of turning the frog into a prince, you have turned yourself into a frog. Thus begins Tiana's journey into turning back into a human girl so she could own that restaurant she's been dreaming of. On the way, she befriends a trumpet blowing alligator named Louis, a firefly named Ray and a voodoo woman named Mama Odie who is voiced by Jenifer Lewis. If you don't know Jennifer Lewis, google her right now. Trust me, you know her.
Being a Disney movie, of course it's also a musical. Most Disney movies with talking animals are. With songs written by the best. "Princess and the Frog" has songs by Randy Newman. His style is undeniable and catchy. These songs are destined to live forever like "Wish Upon a Star" and "A Whole New World."

It's a great movie and destined to be a classic.
I do have one gripe though. Throughout the movie, the characters refer to the fairy tale, "The Frog Prince." I could've done without the references. It would've been like if Belle was walking around "Beauty and the Beast" saying "This is just like that story where the girl turns the beast into a prince." It takes you out of the film.
Also, if you haven't noticed, in my above review I have ignored all of the controversy surrounding this movie:
1) Why is Tiana, who is black, a servant?
2) Why is Naveen's race ambigouos?
3) Why is our heroine, who is black, spending most of the time in the movie as a frog?

There's really nothing I can say about this movie that hasn't been said yet, good or bad. "Princess and the Frog" has been highly anticipated for two main reasons:

1) Disney's first 2d animated feature since "Home on the Range."
2) Disney's first African American Princess.

For these two reasons, this movie has been the victim of both controversy and renewed faith in the Disney animation empire which recently has only been releasing tween musicals, comedies and CGI family friendly films.
But how does it's female hero, Tiana, stack up to the other classical female heroes that Disney has immortalized through DVD/Blu Ray sales, doll sales, etc. ?
Tiana is voiced by Anika Noni Rose who is a Tony Award Winning singer and has been featured in the movie version of "Dreamgirls" and the musical flop "From Justin to Kelly." She was only supporting in those previous films, but in "Princess and the Frog" she really gets to shine. She brings a very classical yet modern feel to Tiana.
Tiana reminds me of Belle in a way. She's very headstrong, independent and does not fall immediately for our main hero. She also has a very close relationship with her singular parent, this time a mother, Eudora, who is voice by Oprah Winfrey.

Like Ariel, Tiana has a set goal. While Ariel's goal was to explore the human world, as stated in her 'want song,' "Part of Your World," Tiana's goal is to own her own restaurant.

Like Cinderella, Tiana is a servant, but unlike Cinderella, Tiana gets paid. I say that's a step up.

With her group of talking animal friends, I'd say that Tiana is very much a classical Disney hero already.
I highly recommend this movie, so ignore the hype, ignore the controversy, and just back and enjoy a movie done in the good old fashioned Disney tradition because their next movie is in CGI with a white girl as the main character.
Meet Disney's Rapunzel, due out in November 2010


  1. I don't see why you had to spoil an otherwise-pleasant critique with that bit at the end: "Enjoy it, because Disney's next film... (has) a white girl as the main character."

    There is NOTHING WRONG with white people! Reverse racism, much? Who cares? The character in Rapunzel HAS to be white because in the story she has ALWAYS, historically, had golden hair.

    I'm truly disappointed to see that even one of the few who is telling others not to take issue with the "race issue" in Disney movies just HAS to stick that in at the end.

    Personally, I want to see a Jew or a redhead next--and no, I am neither.

  2. That comment was just weird. Your comments were not 'reverse racism'. And actually if you said something offensive about white people it would just be racism, there isn't any such thing as reverse racism.
    Also just saying but Rapunzel doesn't/didn't have to be white or blonde. Any story can be adapted with whatever race or color or species. The best thing about Disney is putting a new spin on a classic.


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