Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Review: Princess and The Frog

All my hopes for hand-drawn 2-D animation hinges on this movie. How do I feel after seeing it? I kinda still have my fingers crossed. It's no secret that I loathe the new 3-D craze. Does every animated movie have to be shown in 3-d? According to movie studios, that's a big whoppin' "YES!". Personally, I think those studio bigwigs should be put out to pasture. However, at least Disney allowed a new 2-D hand-drawn animated film to come along with The Princess and The Frog.

The story is about Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a waitress who longs to own a restaurant, as was her dead father's dream. She works two jobs to save up the money to buy a place, never having the time to do anything else. At the same time, Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos), is looking for a rich wife, as his parents have cut him off, and he refuses to work. When a Shadow Man (Keith David) hears this, he tricks the prince and his manservant into a deal. Little did they know that it included making the prince a frog and the manservant turning into the prince so that the Shadow Man could get rich off the prince's wishes. Well, Tiana ends up kissing the frog and turning into one herself, so the two frogs go on a wild journey through the bayous to look for an old-lady witch doctor to help them, meeting a few friends and randomly bursting out into song along the way. In Disney fashion, the movie includes a wishing star, an evil magic man, catchy songs, and a happy ending.

So what's wrong with that picture? Well, for one, the songs may be catchy, but they are not memorable. It's one of the same problems that I thought Enchanted had a few years ago. I do not remember the tune to one song in this movie, even though I saw it yesterday. I remember I liked most of them, but I don't remember the words or tunes anymore.

Also, the movie didn't feel Disney enough. As I watched the movie, I felt that it had more in common with the animated version of Anastasia that came out in the late nineties from 20th Century Fox than with Disney. Now, Anastasia was a animated movie TRYING to be a Disney movie. This is a Disney movie trying to be a Disney movie. The Disney of today is not the Disney of fifteen years ago. Today it's all about little girls and tweens. Those are Disney's primary audience outside of Pixar. Fifteen years ago, Disney was for the whole family. This movie is a microcosm of Disney's entire problem. The movie is so girly that I doubt boys will go for it. All the men in the story have large character flaws, whereas all the girls are good. It's almost sexist really. Well, I suppose that at least the princess didn't have to be rescued by the prince... Well, not entirely. Anyways, if Disney wants to make money, they need to go back to being for the whole family.... both genders. Disney Animation needs to look at Pixar for inspiration.

Now I do not mean to say that this is a bad movie. No, in fact I found it to be a good movie. It was entertaining, funny, and whimsical. It was great to see hand-drawn animation again. The story was also an interesting spin on a classic story, as Disney is famous for. The movie may not be another Cinderella, Aladdin, Lion King, or even a Dumbo, but it's not down there with Tarzan, Home On The Range, or Treasure Planet. In other words, it's not a classic nor a masterpiece, but it is a solid, entertaining, warm animated film.

The movie has also been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Animated Film. I feel that it has a good chance of winning, though I hope that Fantastic Mr. Fox or Up gets it.

I'd put this one on the same par as Peter Pan, Hercules, Alice In Wonderland, and Sword In The Stone. It's not for everyone, but it's another Disney animated film in a long line of them. Therefore, it's automatically remembered and loved by many.

*** 1/2 out of ***** (3 1/2 out of 5)


  1. If you never caught Ponyo, Miyazaki's latest, I highly suggest catching that when you get the chance because I found it to be some of the best 2D animation I have seen in a long, long time. Although it may not say anything really for the future of 2D animation in America (being Japanese and all), it at least leaves a good hope for the international market.

    And am I really the only one from this generation to put Hercules on the bottom tier of Disney animated films (released to theaters)?

  2. Hercules really hasn't aged well for me. It's really the point where Disney started trying to be more hip and cool, and it just feel embarrassing in hindsight.