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The Princess and the Frog’ hops its way into hearts

Caitlin Ferraro | Wednesday, January 27, 2010

After years of domination by 3-D animation, Disney attempted to return to classic 2-D animation with their film “The Princess and the Frog.” Creatively, Disney was wholly successful as the film is charming and fun. In the fact, the 2-D animation is refreshing as a welcome return to the past. Furthermore, the film can be enjoyed by all ages.

Some may have been doubtful after discovering Disney wanted to add a new princess to their canon. However, the protagonist of the film, Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose), is very worthy. Tiana is the first African-American princess and also a working class girl. “The Princess and the Frog” sends a valuable message that you should work hard for your dream. Inspired by her father, Tiana‘s dream is to open her own restaurant, and she works hard to save her tip money from waitressing to buy her own property.

Unfortunately, the carefree Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) complicates her life and her dream after being turned into a frog by the evil, scheming voodoo man Dr. Facilier (Keith David). Unlike the traditional fairytale, when Tiana kisses Prince Naveen in his frog form she turns into an amphibian as well. While she teaches him about hard work and responsibility, along the way Naveen may also teach Tiana a thing or two about enjoying life.

The two go on a wild adventure down the Louisiana bayou encountering friends and foes along the way. The cast of characters includes the fun-loving, trumpet-playing alligator Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley), the lovesick Cajun firefly Ray (Jim Cummings), and the blind Voodoo woman Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis) who might be able to help the two frogs turn back into humans. Louis simply wants to play his music for audiences to enjoy, but that is difficult as an alligator. And Ray desires to be reunited with his love, which is also a challenge since she is a brilliant star in the midnight sky. The cast of voice actors is excellent and is rounded out by Oprah, Jennifer Cody, Terrence Howardand John Goodman in supporting roles.

The film is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in the roaring 20s and the setting itself becomes another character. The film demonstrates all sides of the historic city, from the dilapidated cottages of the poorer area, where Tiana is from, to the extremely wealthy mansions of her friend Lottie.

In addition, the mixture of jazz, zydeco, blues and gospel music only aids in transporting the viewers to New Orleans. When Prince Naveen dances on the city’s streets, you can almost smell the gumbo and crawfish. Rose, of “Dreamgirls” fame, has an incredible voice, and the musical numbers in the film are fun and reminiscent of other Disney classics. The soundtrack includes 10 original songs and seven instrumental pieces.

Dr. Facilier’s musical number, however, is downright scary. He calls upon evil spirits to help him with his magic, and also to track down Naveen and it would be unsurprising to discover that he might frighten some children. He is a menacing figure, who deserves to be in the ranks of other nefarious Disney villains such as Jafar, Cruella de Vil, Gaston and Captain Hook. But, his evil is counteracted by the love and humor of Tiana and her new friends.
“The Princess and the Frog” tries to send a message of working hard to achieve your dreams. And it encourages its young viewers to dream big. However, Tiana may in the end get help from her wealthy beau, which makes the ending slightly unrelatable for every little girl.

Unfortunately, the film did not receive the record movie sales it deserved. But Disney will likely make up for that with all the new Disney merchandise as Tiana joins other princesses Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, Briar Rose, Jasmine and Pocahontas. And this strong independent heroine deserves that.

In the end, “The Princess and the Frog” is a fantastic movie that should delight all audiences. It has the fun and goofiness for children, and the wittiness and heart for older audiences. Disney deserves to hop away with the prize of best comeback with this 2-D pleaser.