Movie 49: The Princess and the Frog

The_Princess_and_the_Frog_posterWhen Princess and the Frog came out I was so excited! A Disney princess movie and hand drawn animation and a musical!!!  It had been since Mulan that a non-Pixar Disney movie had really moved me so we are talking over a decade!

I also thought it was cool there was an African American princess; although, a side of me wondered if it was stunt casting but I hoped it would be like Mulan and be a great story with a non-Caucasian leading lady. So full of enthusiasm I went to the theater and walked out underwhelmed.

Was I too excited? Expectations too high?  I don’t think so because the next year I’d see Tangled and be borderline obsessed with it but I may have been a little harder on it than I should because it was more middle-of-the-road than perfect.  Don’t know.

At the time I felt it was too cluttered.  Too many side characters.  Too much going on that it became kind of boring (kind of like you get to know so many people you don’t really know anyone).  Also I felt like every character was shouting at me all the time. All the songs were big and shouty and the dialogue too.

tiana as princess

So now 5 years later what did I think? Well, I was nicer in a lot of ways but it still has some of the same issues. A mixed bag, but overall, I liked it better this go-around.

Production-

In 2004 Disney announced Home on the Range was going to be their last hand drawn animated film.  I remember hearing that when I came home from my mission and feeling so sad it was all over.  However, in 2006 when John Lasseter came on board he reversed that decision, and they started work on the Princess and the Frog.

New animators had to be hired and the department rebuilt and Ron Clements and John Musker from Aladdin, Hercules and Treasure Planet were brought back to helm the new film.

I was hoping in the audio commentary the directors would elaborate on why they wanted an African American heroine for this particular project but they didn’t.  I guess they just did which is neat.  They did say that Oprah was pitched early storyboards and was so excited she ended up speaking the voice of Eudora, Tiana’s mother.

From the beginning there was controversy.  They had to change her name from Maddy because of slave connotations and her job became a waitress after a maid was deemed derogatory.  People even had issues with New Orleans being the setting because of the treatment of African- Americans during Hurricane  Katrina…(geesh!).

But they changed it around and it took 4 years to complete with hand drawn backdrops, characters, everything and it looks gorgeous.

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Their goal in writing Princess and the Frog was to create a ‘princess movie for people who don’t like Princess movies’.  The Prince is poor and powerless. Tiana is a uber-hard worker who’s dream is to own a restaurant not find her Prince so in those ways it is very unique.

The voice cast is all excellent. In addition to Oprah, Anika Noni Rose plays Tiana, Bruno Campos is Prince Naveen, Keith David as Dr Facilier, Jon Goodman as Big Daddy and Jennifer Cody as Charlotte. The music is done by Randy Newman and Musker and Clements said they picked him because ‘he is Americana’.  There are 2 good songs in the movie but the rest are kind of so-so.

I still think they are kind of shouty and I’m a jazz fan.  If it were me I would have gotten Harry Connick Jr to do the music because he is New Orleans and is fabulous at doing soundtracks.  Still, Newman’s music isn’t terrible but most of the songs I can’t even remember.

The Story-

The story starts with Tiana and Charlotte as little girls hearing the story of The Frog Prince.  girlsCharlotte is my favorite character in the movie.  So funny in every scene even when she is little.  I think she is one of the most likable rich characters ever in a movie.  Charlotte is a dreamer and wants her prince where Tiana is a realist and will work instead of wish for her dream. 05_princess_and_the_frog_blurayTiana works very hard at 2 jobs and finds out she has enough for the down-payment on her dream spot for her restaurant. TianaTiana is an extremely likable character and I love the example of hard work for little girls.  We also get my favorite song as Tiana excitedly announces ‘she’s almost there’.

Again, the animation is gorgeous

Charlotte finds out she is going to be the princess of Mardi Gras parade and that a prince is coming for the event.  We then get introduced to the foppish Prince Naveen and his manservant Lawrence. I’m not sure if Naveen is ever quite worthy of Tiana but I guess hard to know since he’s a frog for half the movie. naveen naveen and girls They meet shadowman Dr Facilier who is a voodoo witch doctor and this is where I start to have problems.  Dr Facilier is very well drawn and Friends on the Other Side is very well animated.  I also get the links between New Orleans and voodoo.

Nevertheless, I am still uncomfortable with this movie’s embrace of the occult and demonic.  I recognize that is my own personal religious convictions and others may not see a problem but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me uncomfortable.  I just avoid things like ouijia boards or tarot cards. But like I said it is a very well done number.

Prince Naveen becomes a frog and through a long drawn out sequence at a ball he thinks Tiana is a princess and asks for a kiss (if I explain every detail in this movie we will be here forever).  Initially repulsed she agrees hoping to get money out of the deal. Princess-And-The-Frog-movie-705124 But since Tiana is not really a prince and just playing the part for Charlotte she also get’s turned into a frog. frogsThen we get the next segment of the movie where I started to get more of that cluttered feeling back in 2009.

Tiana and Naveen go on a road trip of sorts to find Mama Odie who can change them back.  Along the way we meet a redneck fly named Ray, and Louis a jazz playing alligator along with other creatures, chases and races.

I wish there was a little more dialogue between Tiana and Naveen in these scenes and less of the music but still a lot for a Disney movie. No instant love here!

princess-and-the-frog-cast At the same time you have a plotline of Dr Facilier needing Naveen’s blood in order to keep Lawrence looking like Naveen so he can marry Charlotte and become King of Mardi Gras (or something like that). It get’s very complicated!

Along the way there is a funeral and a wedding and it is nice our happily ever after is post-wedding when Tiana gets her restaurant.

That’s the best I can do to explain it.

Movie Review/Conclusion-

I clearly have mixed feelings.  I still think it is a little cluttered and the music for the most part is shouty and I don’t like the voodoo occult elements. That said it looks gorgeous.

All of the animation is a joy to watch.  It’s positive and teaches a great lesson on hard work and the right kind of dreams.

I also like It introduces an actual culture to kids as opposed to a vague European land like most Princess movies.  A culture right here in America, which is great.

All the voicecast is superb (better than the music deserves to be honest).  It’s cheerful and upbeat and I enjoyed watching it even with my misgivings.  (I actually watched it 3 times for this review!).

I still haven’t decided if it is one I would want my little girls to see but for older kids who can understand the use of voodoo as a storytelling device it should be fine.

That said, it would be fun to watch and then go to New Orleans Square, order beignets and gumbo.

A lot of people claim racism as the reason Princess and the Frog didn’t do better (it did ok but not the mammoth hit of say Beauty and the Beast or Frozen) but I think most people had high expectations like I did which it did not quite meet.

This go-around I had lower expectations so I enjoyed it more.  (I should probably always have low expectations for movies but it had been a freakin decade!!). The story is very convoluted and complicated but it does teach a nice message and like I said it looks stunning.

It’s certainly a huge step up from the dreck I’ve been watching so I’m inclined to be forgiving!

Overall Grade- C+ 

Tangled up next and I’ll give you a hint, I like it!!!

32 thoughts on “Movie 49: The Princess and the Frog

  1. The plot is just to convoluted (plus, I can’t stand Naveen. Not because he is spoiled, I adore Lottie after all, who is easily the best part of the movie. But because he is spoiled and actually complains about it. And he is a womanizer of the worst kind…in real live, he would be gone in a couple of years with the content of the cash register and a waitress).

    I think racism is the reason why the movie did so badly, but not the way people think. It did badly, because the story was rewritten again and again in order to avoid it being called racist, because so many complainers just couldn’t shut up and wait for actually seeing the movie before claiming that there was racism in it. When the movie was announced, I was excited. When it hit the theatres, the constant complains had already sucked out all of my joy and interest.

    Plus, the score is really nothing to write home about. I am not a jazz fan, but then, I don’t care about the music genre as long as the song is good. The songs in this movie are mostly forgettable, and, even worse, badly used. Most of them don’t add anything to the story, instead they bring the plot to a grinding stop.

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    1. I think you and I are actually on the same page on this and agree on the problems. I do like Tiana’s dream and hard work and I love Charlotte. There’s real heart to her that you usually don’t get in that kind of character. And I do love the look of it.

      I hadnt thought about that with the editing being the racism but you make a solid point. I agree. There are pages of changes and still people weren’t happy!

      I do think many were like me and so excited that it was a let down. In all that editing they forgot to tell a simple story. And I agree about Naveen completely.

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  2. I agree that this movie is a mixed bag. It’s not really good, it’s not really bad, it’s a mix. But, there’s one reason and one reason alone why I would watch this movie over and over again: the gorgeous 2D animation!!!

    Up until this movie, I personally never had an opinion as to which I liked better: 2D animation or CGI animation. I loved them both. But, when this movie came out, this made me realize how much I loved (and missed) the beautiful 2D Disney animation and I FINALLY joined one side of the debate.

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    1. I agree it is stunning to look at. It brought us back to animation as art. In the end it all goes back to the story for my enjoyment of any animation but I’m with you in preferring the hand drawn. That’s what I love about the miyazaki movies. They are still such stunning hand drawn works of art.

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  3. I know what you meant with the kiss scene, and after re watching it last month for a review of my own, I came to realize that it is prostitution, though not in the context that would be associated with it.

    There are some good songs, and some songs that really don’t need to be there, and my biggest issue with the music is that it reminds me of all the other soundtracks and scores of the early Pixar films (Toy Story 1-2, Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc), and they all pretty much sound the same.

    The story definitely needed to be simpler, but it carried the message it wanted to very well, and the characters are very strong characters in their own right. I don’t see how this film is so horrible or bad. While it is definitely not the best, it is far from the worst. I honestly think it is better than Frozen.

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    1. I’ll have to read your review. Sounds like an interesting take on it.

      I don’t think it is the worst either. Middle of the road for me. Some things I liked, some didn’t. I personally disagree on Frozen, which i loved.

      I agree though they are effective in telling the message they want to tell about hard work and a positive attitude. I love that, so mixed feelings from me.

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    2. It is true that she kisses him for money and money alone…Never thought about it that way but it is true.

      What’d you think of Charlotte? That was such a fun character IMO

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  4. Awesome review once again. Although, I have to say, I’d probably give this one a B, maybe B+. I mean, while it’s not exactly perfect by any sense, it certainly was better than most of the films that came out earlier in that decade. As for the songs, they’re not as good by Disney Renaissance standards, but I’d say they’re close, as is the case for the movie overall, at least in my opinion. It was a little too dark for children as well, sure, but when compared to films like maybe The Black Cauldron and maybe even Hunchback, it’s not as bad darkness wise. With the exception of maybe Gonna Take You There and Ma Belle Evangeline, I thought the songs were rather enjoyable. In fact, I thought that the majority of them actually did contribute to the story and helped develop the characters a little more. But that’s at least my opinion.

    Alright, so I mentioned in your Atlantis review that I had a mini-story to tell regarding Quest For Camelot, did I not? Well anyway, it was just both my parents and I that saw Quest For Camelot, Brother Bear, & this film. Other animated films it would range from me seeing them with maybe my cousins to even a couple friends of mine to my parents, plus me, plus my sister. Anyway, this past Christmas, I got both Little Mermaid (which you forgot to mention at the beginning of your review that John Musker & Ron Clements also directed that one) and Princess & The Frog for Christmas. Shortly after getting both, I had a couple special movie sections set up: one that had The Little Mermaid, Lion King, Tarzan, and Frozen (which was added after I got that one for my birthday this past April) and one below that consisted of Quest For Camelot, Brother Bear, & Princess & The Frog (those three at least which were in front of an old Mancala set). Anyway, the top four I had set up mainly because my favorite Disney film is a tie between those four.

    Well, great review once again. Now on to the last four to five in the Disney Canon library, eh?

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  5. Thanks for sharing that (and for the correction on Little Mermaid, as a die hard LM fan I should have gotten that right!) . I’m trying to think of any movie I have seen with both my mother and father . They are not movie people but I can certainly think of movies that are special to me like that . Did you read my post ‘The Best Movie I’ve Ever Seen?

    https://54disneyreviews.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/the-best-movie-ive-ever-seen/.

    It kind of explains that moment when a movie becomes a life changer not just entertainment . Little Mermaid was that way growing up. Up was that way too. When I saw it I was reminded of the people I love who are still an active presence and part of my life.

    Perks of Being a Wallflower and Saving Mr Banks also did that for me. They spoke to my soul!

    I’m actually kind of sad the project is nearing an end. I will have a bunch of rankings, lists, and posts for you all to enjoy and that I’m sure will be very controversial. Nothing invites discussion like a list! But, it’s perfect in time for Big Hero 6 and for the beginning of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) which I do every year (50,000 word novel in 30 days! Luckily I’m a fast writer but this year I don’t have a great idea so not sure what I’m going to do but it is really fun).

    Then hopefully it will be on to a new project because I have enjoyed this so much (although maybe more sporadically post now my knee is improving). I was thinking of reviewing a bunch of different Christmas Carol adaptations in December because I love the story. I would do Pixar but what am I going to say for first 11 films ‘oh, it’s a masterpiece too…’. Not exactly great reading. I could do Dreamworks but that would require me watching all 4 Shrek movies…Groan.

    I can see giving Princess and the Frog a B. In fact, I debated myself because what I like, I really like but honestly only Friends from the Other Side and Almost There stand out as songs. When I say I had issues with the darkness it isn’t because it is so much worse than other movies, it is it’s subject matter. Where other fairytales deal with fantasy and darkness (ghost, witches, haunted spirits, evil people), Princess and the Frog’s darkness is centered around voodoo and the occult, which my religious believes has always been taught to avoid as it is Satanic and evil. Things like voodoo, exorcisms, Ouija boards, deal directly with the devil and that makes me uncomfortable.

    I recognize this is just my religious beliefs but it is my review so how can I leave it out? I tried to not let it affect my review that much and if the rest of the story had been solid I would have been ok giving it an A. That said I just don’t know if I could say to my young daughter ‘here you go. Watch this movie about a shadow man who plays with voodoo and curses…’ Don’t know if that makes sense but it was just how I was brought up.

    But Princess and the Frog has a lot to like. I love Tiana and wish she ended up with a better guy in the end. I love the drawing and 2D look. I love Charlotte. So there you go! Overall a good time at the movies even with it’s flaws.

    You see what you do- inspire the longest comment ever😉

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    1. I understand! If the film centered around the voodoo culture and religious occult practices, then that would definitely be a red flag for me (as I’m also a Christian). However, since it focuses more on just being as good of a story as possible, then I’ll give it a pass. Oh, and just to be safe, I’ll go ahead and make my grade I. This film a B+. Oh, and for the record, I can see sny scenes with voodoo witchcraft bothering you or anyone else even though the film doesn’t necessarily revolve around that all too much.

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  6. By the way, did you know that Princess & The Frog started the new Disney Revival Era (which is of course still going on today)? How interesting, first Little Mermaid started the Disney Renaissance era and then, 20 years later, Princess & The Frog starts the Revival Era. Anyway, just thought I’d bring that up in case you were interested to know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I recently heard that somewhere recently and love it! As long as good movies are being made I’m a fan of any label they want to give it!

      It would be kind of fun to see them try hand drawn one more time but the time and money probably don’t make sense, and they are running out of fairytales to adapt.

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  7. Oh right, it kind of is centered around voodoo and the occult, but I wouldn’t say so much so that even Christians couldn’t enjoy it. But that’s at least my opinion. I’d say it makes up for it with the almost great storyline and what I consider to be good and enjoyable songs for the most part.

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    1. It didn’t affect my grade that much just maybe a B- into a C+ so I agree Christians can still enjoy Princess and the Frog. It just made me a little uncomfortable. Not a lot, just a little.

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  8. So, you mentioned that you wish Tiana had ended up with a better person at the end. Maybe it’s just my opinion, but I’d say Naveen became a better person by the end of the film. Would you have felt a little better if say maybe she had ended up with a white person or someone like that? Just curious.

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    1. No not at all. Race has nothing to do with my opinion. Just didnt see much growth in Naveen. Tiana is very special and I just don’t think Naveen is her equal in work ethic, character, determination etc.

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      1. Wel, if he had remained a party animal even by the end of the film, I would definitely agree. However, I would say there definitely was some growth in him. I mean think about the song “Dig A Little Deeper.” During that number, if you look closely, Naveen dropped the coin he was holding when he saw Tiana dancing (hence part of why I think that song contributed to the film). Also, while they’re riding back to New Orleans on the boat, Naveen promises that he will help Tiana’s dream come true by any means necessary and likely means it this time (possibly unlike in the beginning). Not to mention Naveen helps her run the new built restaurant at the end. Anyway, just curious, would you rather Naveen ended up with Charlotte at the end instead?

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      2. No I don’t see him as a match for Charlotte either. You make good points about Naveen. For some reason I saw more of a change in Flynn in Tangled than Naveen. Maybe nobody is really Tiana’s equal? She is a character with very few flaws. Her big flaw is being a workaholic which is a good thing in a way.
        Hmmm…interesting

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    1. Totally agree. I like it for a lot of reasons and Tiana is one of my favorite Princesses. I think a C+ is a pretty good grade. If I hated it I would have given it a D. It’s right there in the middle for me.🙂

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