We are spoiled by Pixar, Dreamworks, and BlueSky (okay, for those guys, maybe sometimes). These animation titans are leading the charge when it comes to computer animation, with their vibrant worlds created with mouse clicks and keyboards. They may be inspired by the hand-drawn animation classics, but they have contributed in putting that form of entertainment to the wayside, or at least, to the straight-to-DVD arena. This is not the fate with Disney's latest movie, The Princess and the Frog, a 2-D animated film that echoes those classics that we can only experience when they're released from the "vault," like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King. It isn't in 3-D, it doesn't have a cast with too many big names, and most importantly, it has a princess character that is (finally) African-American.
How would Disney fare with all of these elements in a Pixar/Dreamworks/BlueSky dominated cinema? Find out in our latest edition of He Said - She Said, where we discuss the film (with plot spoilers intact, watchout!)
Plot: A young woman in New Orleans works hard to attain her dream of owning a restaurant. Unfortunately, she gets sidetracked by a layabout Prince in the form of a frog. Soon they’re looking for a way to turn back human with a horn-playing gator and a lovelorn firefly.
He Said (Nick Allen)
The Princess and the Frog, Disney's return to hand-drawn animation, is partly a success because the formula it uses is pretty much timeless. The components that make this new film so enjoyable can be experienced in any movie like Aladdin or The Lion King. Here, the most adventurous aspect of the film seems to be its opting to finally produce an African American princess for the masses. The aura of Frog compared to the movies before it is nearly the same, but this isn't a bad thing at all.
On its own, The Princess and the Frog is a very entertaining film, with catchy musical numbers and a great amount of humor. It has clever storytelling and the animation ain't too bad, either (of course we are spoiled by computers, but this is nostalgic in the best way possible). New Orleans hasn't been shown to be this lively in years, and the film really hooks onto the soul of the Bayou, along with the energy of Dixie jazz. With such a success, it's a wonder why they stopped making these kinds of films in the first place.
She Said (Megan Lehar)
I don't think they stopped on purpose, more that they forgot how. But now that they're back in the saddle, I admit that I, too, enjoyed The Princess and the Frog more than I had expected and am really glad to see Disney back making films that they're good at. But I disagree that there's nothing new, I feel like Tiana's a new kind of heroine. She has a plan for a career! And no, being a soldier to keep your Dad from going to war and cleaning up after an ungrateful step-family, those aren't jobs. Not dream jobs anyway. Tiana revels in being a hard worker and her dreams aren't about romance but about career fulfillment. That's new and kind of exciting. What's funny is that part of the point of the film is that Tiana needs to hold off on her career goals and think about her love life. I don't think it's a bad message within the context of the film, but it's a little annoying that Disney finally focuses on a career girl and ends up showing her that love and marriage should come first.
That's a good point about the career aspect of this princess. Even if Tiana is an example of love and marriage before work, perhaps one could reason that the film at least promotes an ethic of hard work (and also with a good attitude, as we see her always smiling while slaving away at that restaurant).
As for considering the other impressions it might leave on children, I thought that the black shadows from Dr. Facilier's voodoo were pretty creepy, especially in his final moments. In fact, the character may be kind of disturbing to children as he has the ability to appear in the shadows. Plus, he cuts Prince Naveen at least twice to get his blood. Along with the many other familiar parts, it seems that Disney has no difficulty in creating another eerie villain who is more terrifying or evil than one may think (but credit to Keith David's fantastic voicing of this character who is as baaad as Scar or Jafar).
One thing I really enjoyed about this film was the music. I think Randy Newman did an excellent job here. "When We're Human" is a very catchy song, and was complimented by some great visuals. I'm hoping there's an Academy Award for Best Original Song somewhere on this soundtrack.
What songs did you like? Was there anything about the movie that bothered you? Or rather, did you think the shadow creatures could be seen as quite scary?
I agree that Dr. Facilier seemed totally creepy, the scene where he gets dragged to the "other side" aka hell would probably have scared me as a kid. But then again, I didn't notice any of the kids in the theater acting upset so maybe I'm too sensitive. And I agree about the music. Newman did a great job of making music that used the style of jazz but still sounded like good Disney music. My favorite songs were "Friends on the Other Side" and "Dig a Little Deeper." I'm a sucker for the big, rousing showstopper-type tune.
My friend who I saw the movie with mentioned afterwards that she thought the movie was kind of racist, specifically the scenes with the country-bumpkin hill folk who are trapping frogs. And I could see her point. Ray seemed like he could offend some Cajuns. Sure he had a kind heart, but his teeth were awful. Plus he seemed to be missing a few screws. I know he got vindicated in the end, but still.
Overall though, I have to say that I really enjoyed this film, certainly more than I thought I would. I don't know if the credit goes to John Lasseter for taking over the Disney animation department or to other members of the Disney team, but it's a great return to form and just a really enjoyable movie.
Agreed. And it seems that the rest of the country shares our opinion, as the film earned $27 million this weekend. With this type of response it, we now know that 2-D has more life in it. In an age of full-on computer animation, hand-drawn characters can still move us, their songs can still get us to tap our feet, and their stories can remain timeless. Don't believe me? Just watch Aladdin again.