Disney’s The Princess and the Frog is amongst their last hand-drawn animated features and what’s all the more saddening about such is how amongst their most recent fare it feels so rarely heard about even with what recognition it received upon release. But knowing what the studio was best at during their Renaissance era when it came to what they have turned well-known tales into for the screen, it was only all the more of a pleasure to see what Ron Clements and John Musker of The Little Mermaid fame have brought to the screen for not only is it their most underrated work but it also happens to be my favourite film of theirs since the end of the Renaissance era.
One knows already how the story of the frog prince goes, for we have a frog prince whom after aided by true love returns to his human form. In this tale, a new spin is given to the old perception of its own premise for now the “princess” is just a waitress seeking more out of life and the “prince,” with one set of expectations after the kiss for his own assumptions only become the source of a new adventure. If there were something about the Disney Renaissance that I had always loved, it would stem from what more can such films bring out from seemingly familiar stories and seeing what they managed to provide with The Princess and the Frog, so many of its own finest moments ring towards what defined such a period and to see that the best qualities were coming back for a modern audience once again only made me much happier with what I was witnessing.
It’s often noted that The Princess and the Frog is credited for giving Disney their first African-American princess although a number of the biggest roles in the film also have their voices provided by African-American actors themselves. Yet at the exact same time, this is also room for a more progressive female protagonist which is something that I have always admired about Disney Princess roles that have come along ever since Ariel and Belle. When Mulan hit, there was a different form of progression that had come along which ultimately set in motion something new when it came to their calling for other cultures and what Tiana represents that places her at a great height.
Yet there’s something more entrancing coming along when one looks at the details which are put into the New Orleans setting, for at this point it turns itself into something that wants to move apart from the typical setting for the Disney Renaissance titles. There was a clear call that Disney was attempting to make that wanted to ring towards a more modern audience while at the same time attuning them to an old-fashioned style of animation. What more can ever come along, Randy Newman’s scoring and lyrics only make for something more charming for even if they may never reach the heights that Alan Menken’s writing has provided to create many of Disney’s most memorable musical numbers, for the energy coming along within the African-American influences within its style only liven the film all the more.
With all the phenomenal voice acting coming on all ends whether it be from Anika Noni Rose’s part as Tiana or Jim Cummings as Ray the firefly, nothing would ever hold a light to Keith David’s role as the film’s main antagonist in Dr. Facilier. For as much as I admire what more is coming out of what values Tiana is representative of, Dr. Facilier has always struck me as one of my favourite Disney villains in recent memory for his eccentric personality has always left behind something frightening which is something that I have long sought from any Disney villain. What also helps is that he creates a completely ambiguous presence inside of his appearance for he never makes clear his motivations right away, for when it is mixed together with Keith David’s distinguishable voice – it creates a perfect blend altogether, and something all the more satisfying when his fate comes by.
It has always saddened me that The Princess and the Frog seems as if it has been forgotten when looked at alongside the many other recognizable animated Disney films to have come around the period. It hits alongside what we have already come to love about films from the Disney Renaissance period and brings only the best out from a form of animation that has become uncommon at this rate. What I would ever want to see from Disney more than anything once again is another hand-drawn animated film for even though they still have so much to admire within their 3D animation, nothing has come by as a perfect reintroduction the way The Princess and the Frog has done so. For many reasons along these lines, it is truly my favourite of Disney’s animated films after their Renaissance era had ended.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Disney.
Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker
Screenplay by Ron Clements, John Musker, Rob Edwards, from the stories The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker and The Frog Prince by the Brothers Grimm
Produced by Peter Del Vecho, John Lasseter
Starring Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jim Cummings, Jennifer Cody, Peter Bartlett, Jenifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, John Goodman
Release Year: 2009
Running Time: 97 minutes