Princess and the Frog
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Princess and the Frog

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Fairy tales have been around probably for most of recorded history. In one form or another parents have been enthralling their children with tales of fantasy, adventure and romance. We all grew up listening to these stories and in most cases have seen them brought to life though the magic of Disney studio animation. If you look at the original stories they are usually extremely dark and downright frightening. One contribution to fairy tales made by Disney was to remake many of these stories into good old fashion family fun. The removed the darker aspects replacing them with brightly colored song and dance routines and clearly defined heroes and villains. You can practically tell the age of a person by the first Disney animated film they remember. For my generation it was 101 Dalmatians while my now adult daughter was part of the little Mermaid generation. For some of the kids today perhaps their first memories of Disney animation might just be the one considered here;’ The Princess and the Frog’. Admittedly this is not the best representative of the famous Disney canon but then again it is up against some of the greatest classic animation ever devised. For us old timers "The Princess and the Frog’ is in many way a blast form the past; a return to the style and warmth that propelled the Disney Studios to their unbeatable place in family entertainment. Most recent films are done almost entirely on computer with a sleek; three dimensional look rapidly becoming standard. This movie restores that hand drawn look and feel of the traditional style but without coming across as dated. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the new CGI 3D style; for the last two years running my favorite film of the year have come from Pixar but it is refreshing to see a story like this told in an ‘old school’ fashion.

With the advent of Pixar’s computerized style and new 3D there was a major shake-up in the long lauded animation department. When computer scientist Dr. Ed Catmull and Pixar animator John Lasseter took charge of the unit they rehired many of the traditional animations in an effort to keep this time honored art form viable. The bottom line message clearly given by these decisions is that there is room in the entertainment industry for many different styles and approach to telling stories. With this film there is also a movement to bringing back plot and character development. Disney has been keeping those essentials an integral part of their movies but this film returns animation to the almost stage production values and tempo. The fact is when you combine magic, music, adventure and talking animal you know there will be the next generation Disney princess. This is your standard rags to riches story where the down trodden finally gets an opportunity to make a decent life.

Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) works as a waitress in a predominately black section of post war New Orleans. He father always wanted to see her owning a restaurant instead of just waiting tables. Tiana is so determined to make her dream a reality she even takes own a second job to save up for the right location. In the more upscale part of the city Prince Naveen of Maldonia (voiced by Bruno Campos) has come to town planning on reversing his recent economic down turn by marrying a rich Southern girl. After his parents cut off his trust fund this was the only alternative since he really isn’t the type for work. Dreams usually do come true in a Disney movie but first there has to be a heroic journey worthy of Joseph Campbell. As with a lot of such stories the misuse of magic provides just the right sinister foundation. Voodoo high Priest Dr. Facilier (voiced by Keith David) deeply resents the disrespectful and demeaning fashion the rich and powerful display towards him. To prove his power and strike a blow against the upper class he weaves a spell that turns the Prince into a frog and his lamentable assistant Lawrence into a likeness of the newly green Prince. The plan is to have the disguised Lawrence marry the rich Charlotte (voiced by Jennifer Cody) and split the fortune. Things go awry when an off handed kiss looses the restaurant for Tiana turning her into a frog. The frog prince makes a deal with the amphibian beauty that if she helps him he will buy her the restaurant. The set off across the bayou accompanied by Louis (voiced by Michael-Leon Wooley) the alligator and Ray the firefly. Through the arduous trek the mismatched couple reevaluates their lives and begins a timeless romance. In all this is a wonderful return to traditional animated story telling that will give the entire family a lot of fun. Give your kids a little taste of the warmth and humanity this style of animation affords.

Posted 03/03/2010

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