Monday, December 14, 2009

Movie Review - The Princess and the Frog

When I heard that John Lasseter had become had of Disney animation and Imagineering during the Pixar buy, I was thrilled. The man knows quality entertainment.

When I heard that John Lasseter had re-opened Disney's 2-D Animation department, I was ecstatic! I love traditional animation. I think that 3-D computer animation, while an interesting and valid art form, is not inherently better or worse than traditional, and I prefer traditional in this case.

When I heard that Musker and Clements, the directors of The Little Mermaid and an umber of other excellent animated Disney films, were going to be producing a movie that was going to be the beginning Disney's new 2-D Animation Renaissance, I was...well...I was interested, but skeptical. That was a lot to live up to. And the Frog Princess? Um...okay.

Slowly, the details came...New Orleans, Randy Newman writing jazz and zydeco...okay, that sounded good. An African-American Princess? About time. A twist on a classic fairy-tale? Hmm, okay. Drama over the main character's name? Odd. Title is now The Princess and the Frog? Ooookay? What's going on over there?

Then a teaser came out, showing a primarily toothless firefly with a thick Cajun accent.

I was prepared to hate this movie.

Then other teasers came out, showing details. Looked nice. Music seemed good. But that firefly was still in there somewhere...

Then I saw an extended preview...the first 10 minutes or so of the film, some of it still in roughs. You could see that this film had heart and a couple of intriguing messages: Yes, you can wish on a star, but you need to help those wishes along with hard work. And while your dreams are important, they're nothing if you don't have love. I was starting to like this movie, and it was still months from coming out.

Cut to a week ago. While visiting Disneyland, we got to hear an extended preview of the music. Gooood music. Really getting interested now. But that firefly was still in there somewhere, wasn't he?

Cut to last night, we finally saw it. Saw it with the Roo, the Tiger, the Otter, and two other friends.

That frickin' firefly was awesome. He made me cry, damn it!

Really, this is a wonderful Disney instant classic, as we say. The music is fantastic, and the animation looked as good or better than Disney's work ever has. There's a stylized sequence towards the beginning that is literally jaw-dropping. It's filled with colorful characters (including that dang firefly), sequences that're funny, sad, heart-breaking, jubilant...oh yeah. Emotional gamut, for sure.

Tiana, the princess of the title, is a great addition to the panoply of Disney princesses, easily equal to any of the previous princesses, and better than many of them, because she's self-sufficient and gutsy.

Naveen, the charming prince, really is charming.

Dr. Facilier, the villainous witch doctor who puts the plot in motion, is a great Disney villain. His sequences are some of the best in the film, and he is genuinely creepy. He does not die by falling from a high place. ;)

Even Louis and Ray, the obligatory animal sidekicks (here an alligator and the aforementioned firefly) are excellent characters, with actual motivations, personalities, and wants and needs of their own. Ray's devotion to the ideals of love, and to his own love, Evangeline, is one of the most beautiful and ultimately heartbreaking aspects of the film.

See this film. Go in with an open mind. It is truly worth seeing.

- The Happy Bear

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