The Princess and the Frog transports the majesty of Disney’s glory days into its latest animated release. Who doesn’t remember with fondness, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Cinderella from their childhood? What about the more recent Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King ? These films are rich in colour and detail; their stories are sophisticated and characters interesting; and the songs catching.
Its these toe tapping tunes in The Princess and the Frog that instantly awaken within you that giddy, childish joy of being entertained, all the while having either the story transitioned or the character developed, or in the best examples, both.
Set in New Orleans in the Jazz Age of the 1920s, the filmmakers have given themselves a rich well of music from which to draw their inspiration. The incomparable Randy Newman who has scored many, many films, including the successful Toy Story, is at the top of his form here. He provides instantly memorable hits such as “When we’re human” and “Friends on the Other Side” in a range of jazz, blues, gospel and Dixieland styles.
The hard working and practical African-American Tiana (voice of Anika Rose) works two jobs so that she can save up enough money to open “the finest restaurant in all of New Orleans”. She is very much in the spirit of Disney’s other successful, independent female characters, Ariel, Belle and Jasmine.
The care-free Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) meddles with the black magic of Dr Facilier (Keith David) the easily identified villain of the film, and instead of marrying the blonde princess Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), is himself turned into a frog.
Naveen-the-frog entices Tiana to kiss him through the promise of him a real life prince and instead of the fairy-tale coming true, the unthinkable happens and Tiana herself turns into a frog. This sets up the film’s driving force as both Tiana and Naveen journey through the mystical Louisiana bayous looking for Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis) who can transform them back into their original selves. On the way they meet anthromorphised characters Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley), a trumpet-toting alligator, and Ray (Jim Cummings), a chilled out and love-struck Cajun firefly.
There is never a dull moment as directors Ron Clements and John Musker have either a song or an action set-piece at every turn to entertain us. The hand drawn animation is just as beautifully rendered as any of the modern computer animated blockbusters however, ultimately, the story works because we have characters we care for and a story that engages us so that children and parents alike can sit back and enjoy.