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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review: THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG


Lets get this out of the way; I had been waiting for this film since the day I first heard rumor about it back in 2005. Disney hadn't done a traditionally animated film since 2004s Home on the Range which was awful and after that the studio that started the art form of animation shut its doors and threw out all their machinery, set on only making trendy computer generated films from that point on.



Then some executives got shifted around and after the acquisition of Pixar, Pixar's own John Lasseter took over Walt Disney Feature Animation. Finally, a fantastic animator and very successful filmmaker had taken control of the company again. He promptly shut down all the crapola that Disney had been and was continuing to make, and said that they were going to start making good, traditionally animated films again.

The Princess and the Frog is the first film made entirely under the reign of Lasseter, and believe me - he delivered on his promise.

Now, waiting 4 years for a movie, one builds up expectations in their head - expectations that are not usually matched when the film comes out - and with all the controversy that went on over the four years, on occasion I was not sure how the movie would turn out. The two biggest events that the film faced were 1) the fact that this would be Disney's first black (yes that is the correct term) princess (people often accuse Disney of not portraying races accurately) and 2) the change of composer from Disney favorite Alan Menken to Pixar favorite Randy Newman (who doesn't usually deliver on the same scale or quality that Menken does).

So now, set in 1920s New Orleans, Tiana is a waitress who is saving everyday to complete her daddy's dream of opening a restaurant. This is all going pretty well until one day, Prince Naveen waltzes into town and accidentally gets himself cursed by Dr. Facilier, a local voodoo practitioner. Naveen mistakes Tiana for a princess and upon convincing her to kiss him to break the spell "Please Princess, it will make me human again!" accidentally turns Tiana into a frog as well. Now the two of them, along with a Jazz-Playing alligator named Louis, and a hopelessly romantic firefly named Ray, must find Mama Odie, the Voodoo witch of the Bayou, to hopefully turn themselves human again.

The voice acting in the film is amazing, and it's really nice to finally see a Disney movie (Since Beauty and the Beast) where you see how the characters fall for each other, as opposed to just 'love at first sight'. Also, the supporting cast is excellent. Every character has motivation and you feel for most all of them. Dr. Facilier is an excellently strong villain, with a very evil plot and a sad tormented soul - while Louis is an alligator with hopes and dreams, who like Tiana has trouble achieving his goals simply because of the skin he was born into.

Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, The Great Mouse Detective, Aladdin, Hercules, and Treasure Planet), the film falls nothing short of excellent. The visuals that can be achieved by traditional animation have been greatly improved since 2004 and Ron and John make the most possible out of each technological advancement that has arisen, and it really pays off.

The only major problem I have with the film is the fact that the songs are a little unbalanced, repetitive, and lacking. Only one or two of them actually serve the story, but none of them seem to develop fully as songs. Especially when it comes to Dr. Facilier's song "Friends on the Otherside", while an excellent scene, the song never becomes as amazing as Disney songs have been in the past.

Overall, I give The Princess and the Frog 3 stars. It is an amazing improvement over the past years of Disney, and heavily foreshadows a fantastic decade of Disney on the near-horizon, that, like Tiana herself says is "Almost There".




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