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151 of 166 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish upon a star. Then get to work!
Bam! It's appropriate that Emeril Lagasse plays a (bit) character in The Princess and the Frog, voicing Marlon the `gator. This film proves that Disney's once-vaunted hand-drawn animation is back with a vengeance.

The film has gorgeous visuals, engaging characters, a palpably evil villain and gags galore. Randy Newman's New Orleans-influenced score perfectly...
Published on December 12, 2009 by Julie Neal

versus
51 of 65 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great
I'm very lucky to have been the perfect age to experience, firsthand, Disney's early 90's Renaissance. I remember finding out about Aladdin for the first time in the previews of the VHS copy of Beauty and the Beast. I remember hearing the song "Circle of Life" for the first time in the groundbreaking (at the time) trailer for "The Lion King," before anyone had ever seen a...
Published on October 16, 2010 by TheShabiWabi


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151 of 166 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish upon a star. Then get to work!, December 12, 2009
Bam! It's appropriate that Emeril Lagasse plays a (bit) character in The Princess and the Frog, voicing Marlon the `gator. This film proves that Disney's once-vaunted hand-drawn animation is back with a vengeance.

The film has gorgeous visuals, engaging characters, a palpably evil villain and gags galore. Randy Newman's New Orleans-influenced score perfectly complements the story. It is laugh-out-loud funny. The romance between leads Tiana and Prince Naveen is touching and believable. The film's strong, down-to-earth message: You can't just wish upon a star for your dreams to come true. You'll have to work. Hard.

Folks looking for a quality, old-school Disney film will not be disappointed. Like all the best Disney classics, The Princess and the Frog adapts a classic fairy tale and adds twists and wit. This story of hardworking Tiana, aspiring New Orleans restauranteur, and her froggy adventures will engage children and charm their parents. It's a movie that both kids and adults will enjoy.

The supporting characters nearly steal the show. Tiana's friend Charlotte is a hoot: "I'm sweating like a sinner in church!" as she sops up the armpits of her Cinderella-esque ballgown. A trumpet-playing alligator, a jowly old lady steeped in hoo-doo, and, especially, a cajun firefly named Ray are originals. Ray's fantasy girlfriend: Evangeline, the evening star.

The visuals have such power. One shot of dandelions covered with droplets of dew is as sumptuous as anything in Disney's Fantasia from 1940. Psychedelic scenes with villain Dr. Facilier rival the bizarre scenes in 1944's The Three Caballeros or 1941's Dumbo. A silent funeral in a swamp has a misty, magical beauty.

As the first major Disney movie with African-American lead characters since 1946's The Song of the South, the film doesn't sidestep the race and class issue. At the beginning of the movie, young Tiana and her seamstress mother leave the opulent home of Big Daddy La Bouff to travel to their tiny tract home. Tiana's daddy has to work multiple jobs to support his family; as does the grown-up Tiana, trying to save up enough money to realize her dream of opening a restaurant. Later bankers tell Tiana that a girl of her "background" may be better off not having such a dream.

Where have these gifted Disney animators been all these years? It seems they've picked up right where they left off, adding another thoroughbred to the stable of modern-day Disney classics such as 1989's The Little Mermaid, 1991's Beauty and the Beast and 1994's The Lion King. Maybe it's producer John Lasseter's influence, with his insistence on excellence, especially with story and visuals. Whatever the reason, Walt Disney himself must be smiling in the heavens. Right next to Evangeline.

-- Julie Neal, author of The Complete Walt Disney World 2010.
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101 of 120 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Disney Magic is Back!, February 1, 2010
By 
thornhillatthemovies.com (Venice, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I don't understand why people complain about the lack of good family fair and then shy away from going to see "The Princess and the Frog", the new traditionally animated film from Disney. This is a good film and the lack of business it is creating may cause Disney to rethink their current change in course.

A few years ago, John Lasseter, the force behind all of the Pixar hits, was promoted to oversee many different aspects of Disney. He did something I don't think a lot of people expected. He restarted production of traditionally animated, hand drawn feature films, a type of filmmaking all but abandoned (due to cost; computer animation is a lot cheaper) at a studio now making digital animation. He hired the team behind "The Little Mermaid" and they chose to make "The Princess and the Frog", the first Disney film featuring an African American heroine.

New Orleans, the 20s. Tiana (Anika Nani Rose, "Dreamgirls", "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency") is a practical girl. As a child, she accompanies her mom (Oprah Winfrey) when she goes to Big Daddy's House (John Goodman) to make a dress for his daughter, Charlotte. Tiana and Charlotte are best friends and listen enraptured as Tiana's mom tells them the story of "The Frog Prince". Charlotte immediately announces she will kiss every frog and find her prince, but Tiana can't stomach the thought of kissing a frog. Tiana also shares her hard working dad's (Terrence Howard) dream of opening a restaurant. Flash forward ten years and we rejoin Tiana as she works multiple jobs trying to save enough money to open her first restaurant. She wants to keep her dad's dream alive and has found a spot she knows will be perfect, an abandoned waterfront warehouse. Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos, lots of parts on TV shows), the prince of Moldavia, arrives in town with his aide, Lawrence. Naveen wants to play jazz and has all but given up his ties to the throne of his country. A witch doctor, Dr. Facilier (Keith David) spots an opportunity. If he gets Charlotte to marry a fake Prince Naveen, he can take over Big Daddy's fortune. But first, he has to turn the prince into a frog and find a replacement to play Prince Naveen. Charlotte hears of the prince's arrival and gets her dad to throw a costume ball during Mardi Gras. Big Daddy is only too happy to oblige for two reasons; he has been chosen the King of Mardi Gras again and anything his Charlotte wants, she gets. Throw in Louis, an alligator who also wants to play jazz and Ray, a wise Cajun firefly and everything starts to get complicated.

Written and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the team behind "The Little Mermaid", "The Princess and the Frog" bnngs the same sort of magic and beauty back to the silver screen.

There are a lot of things to like and celebrate about "The Princess and the Frog". The animation style seems almost romantic, in a way, perhaps because it has been so long since we have seen this type of animation used to any great extent. It also allows the film to look softer, almost as though it is glowing, which helps evoke the rose colored portrait of New Orleans the film puts forth. Everything about the film helps to give a romanticized vision of the great city and it is nice to see this celebrated.

One of the best and most consistent things about Disney animation is the music. In a time when there were virtually no other musicals being created, Disney Animated features continued the legacy, allowing some of the best and brightest performers, composers and writers to work, to continue their craft. In the last few years, live action musicals have started to enjoy a small renaissance at a time when animated features began to cycle away from using music. In "Princess", each song seems to celebrate a different kind of music which is fitting and a great idea as New Orleans is also a melting pot of music. In this way, the filmmakers celebrate and pay tribute to all of the different musical influences of this city, zydeco, ragtime, jazz, Cajun and more.

The characters are all funny, memorable and interesting. A few years ago, someone in the Disney Marketing Machine came up with the idea of marketing all of the "Princesses" from the different films plastering their pictures on every conceivable piece of merchandise. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine, Belle, Snow White and the Little Mermaid are extremely popular so putting them all together is an even bigger draw for the millions of little girls who snap up their merchandise. So, any new animated film with a Princess is going to be considered a boon to the ongoing marketing machine that is Disney. Add Tiana to the group and everything can be redesigned, remade and resold. But Tiana is also the first African-American princess providing even more attractive marketing possibilities. She is a great marketing tool. When you become a fan of Disney, you quickly realize that everything in the kingdom is about marketing: if a film is a success, the characters go on to live in television, theme park rides & attractions, video games, clothing, DVDs, costumes and so much more. When you realize this, you can quickly move on and allow the films to create memories and magic. And Tiana is a very good addition to the Disney family.

Tiana is head strong, independent, goal-oriented and very busy. From her early days, listening to her dad talk about his dreams of opening a restaurant, she quickly adopted the same dreams. Now that he has gone on, she continues to press forward, working two jobs, saving every penny for a down payment. Only when the two men who promised to sell her an abandoned warehouse for her restaurant threaten to pull out, does she become desperate and start to look for some more money. Early on, Tiana brings her mom to the space and they sing a song about what the restaurant will become. Throughout this number, there are references to the sacrifices the young woman has made and it becomes a celebration but also a poignant illustration of this character's strong will.

Anika Nani Rose is very good as the voice of Tiana, giving her a lot of energy, a lot of pluck and a lot of intelligence. When Tiana meets the Frog Prince at Charlotte's house, she is reluctant to believe the talking frog, but her need for financial help gives her the little push she needs. She reluctantly bends down to give him a smooch

Bruno Campos is good as Naveen, providing a soft accent for his character. But he is unremarkable. So many others could have done the role, his performance isn't distinctive enough.

Keith David is fantastic as the voice of Dr. Facilier, the witch doctor who hatches a plan to steal Big Daddy's fortune. His big musical number helps to illustrate his connection to the dark arts of voodoo. His character brings to mind some of the elements of Jafar from "Aladdin" and his number brings back memories of Oogie Boogie in "The Nightmare Before Christmas".

As "Frog" is a Disney animated film, there are talking animals. When Naveen is turned into a frog, he talks and Tiana understands him. Later, they meet Louis, an alligator who just wants to play music for people. Voiced by Michael Leon-Wooley, the character is funny and fun to watch, especially every time he tries to sneak into a jazz band and begin to play, trying to remain unnoticed.

Ray, a Cajun firefly, has been dubbed the Cajun Jiminy Cricket. I guess there is a little truth to that. Ray is the guide for Tiana, Naveen and Louis, helping them navigate their way out of the swamp and back to New Orleans. Voiced by Jim Cummings, Ray is funny and touching.

While in the swamp, the team decides to try to get Mama Odie to help them. Odie is a Cajun woman who lives in the heart of the Bayou with her pet python and is basically the good counterpart to Doctor Facilier. Voiced by Jennifer Lewis (the original "Dreamgirls"), she provides a couple of funny moments and even some sage advice.

John Goodman is also very good as Big Daddy. A New Orleans native, he clearly understands and has met people similar to Big Daddy.

I am only touching the barebones of the story. There are a number of twists and turns that should even keep the adults entertained. In fact, it might be a little too complicated for most kids. And because there is a lot of story, it seems slightly rushed at times, like they are trying to get too much story into a running time of 100 minutes.

But these are small complaints for a film that is this much fun to watch, to listen to, to experience.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disney's first American classic fairytale, March 7, 2010
The Disney Studio has made a return to its hand-drawn roots (with the aid of some computer technology of course) with its first hand-drawn animated fairy tale in many years. It is also the first time the studio has set one of their fairytales in America. Tiana (voiced expertly by Anika Noni Rose of Dreamgirls[Blu-ray]) is a young girl in 1920's New Orleans. She is focused on making her late father's dream come true of opening her own restaurant; this leaves no time for love or fun. Enter Naveen of Maldonia, a handsome prince who has been disinherited by his family for his laziness. Tiana and Naveen are brought together even though they are polar opposites because of the black voodoo magic of the evil Doctor Facilier. The two are forced to journey together to get what they both think they want...which naturally changes along the way. No plot spoilers here...this rich movie needs to be experienced personally. Although I am generally not a Randy Newman fan, his music here is memorable and toe-tapping. New Orleans provides the perfect atmosphere for the music showcased here: love songs, blues, jazz, and more. You will end up singing more than a few of the wonderful tunes you hear. My very favorite number is "Almost There," which is sung by Anika's Tiana as she helps her mother (voiced by Oprah Winfrey) envision her dream restaurant. This sequence is done in an art deco poster style and just blew me away.

The hand animation is also memorable; the frogs come to life and you believe the emotion that they express; the eyes...the smiles...the movements, all delicately rendered with time and love by the Disney animation team. New characters also join the classic library of Disney: Mama Odie (the blind voodoo priestess), Charlotte (a rich girl looking for her prince voiced by Jennifer Cody), Ray (a firefly in love with Evangeline the Evening Star), and Louis (trumpet-playing alligator). A trumpet playing alligator? Sure sounds stupid, but the animation team pulls off every unbelieveable thing you could imagine with their talents. On Blu-ray, the lush painted backgrounds bounce off the screen, and the music will make your speakers rock. Note of caution; as with almost every Disney movie, there are some dark and very sad elements. Parents should definitely be nearby for the young ones.

Specs:

Bluray is 1080p High Definition/1:78:1 with English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio (48kHz/24-bit) * French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital * English SDH and English 2.0 DVS, French and Spanish Subtitles. Bonus features on bluray are 1080p High Definition/1:78:1 with English 5.1 Dolby Digital * English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles.

Bonus Features: Quite a few here shown in high definition on blu-ray; interestingly enough though, the clips from the older Disney library are still in low pixelized quality.

-Deleted/Alternate Scenes: with introductions by co-writers/directors Ron Clements & John Musker. These are shown in rough storyboard form with "scratch dialogue" (not voiced by the actors in the movie). 4 scenes are shown: "Advice from Mama," alternative version of Louis' introduction, "Stop and smell the roses," and "Naveen confides in Ray." The last one is the only one that I would say is missed; it is a different version of what is scene on screen of how Naveen reveals his feelings to Ray (and the audience) about Tiana. It is more touching and tender than the final version. The other deletions were made wisely!

-Music and More: "Never Knew I Needed" music video by Ne-Yo. Shot in New Orleans, this really has very little if anything to do with the movie. Ne-Yo is shown romancing a girl, and other than them eating beignets and seeing the evening star at the end, there is not much of a connection to the film. This is the one musical number that really doesn't fit stylistically; mercifully it is shown over the credits at the end.

-Bringing Life to Animation: live action reference footage is shown and introduced by Clements & Musker. They stress that this footage was not traced, but used as an aid and point of departure especially for the dance numbers. See the live footage for "Dig a little Deeper" (Mama Odie's showstopping number) and Charlotte's proposal scene. Very interesting to see how the movements of the live dancers and actors inspired nuances that translated to the animation. Sherry Butler, in her 20's, takes on the role of dancing Mama Odie the voodoo priestess.

-Audio Commentary by Musker, Clements, and producer Peter Del Vecho

-Magic in the Bayou: The Making of a Princess (22:11): Excellent featurette! Executive Producer John Lasseter tells of how he wanted to bring back hand-drawn animation to the Disney Studio, and accomplished this by bringing back Musker & Clements. Don Hall, in charge of the story, relates how the classic elements of a fairy tale were twisted here, such as the typical fairy godmother becoming Mama Odie, the sassy voodoo priestess. Mark Henn, Tiana's supervising animator, tells how difficult it was to convey a frog without having the frog look ugly. A similar situation was handled back in 1940 with Jiminy Cricket in "Pinocchio." New Orleans is a character itself, although the animation team stylizes it as well. Because of the choice of New Orleans, the rich "gumbo" music (a plethora of styles) fits like a glove here. Animator Eric Goldberg tells how they painted what it "feels like" to be in New Orleans, capturing its essence rather than some of the uglier details. Anika Noni Rose is pleased to be part of the production that uses African-American characters; she correctly feels that it's important for ALL people to be able to feel the "fairy dust" fall on them too. Thrilled to work for Disney, she talks about how they have a way of teaching children about hope, dreams, and perseverance. She also wisely tells us how this movie isn't necessarily about finding a prince as it is about finding love, whatever that is for each person. You'll also see Betsy Baytos, the choreographer responsible for the "eccentric dance" (comedy in dance) of Mama Odie and the other memorable characters. Most of all in this featurette you'll learn that hand-drawn animation is an art form that is back with style!

-The Return to Hand-Drawn Animation (2:43): Andreas Deja leads off with a recreation of his victory dance that he performed when it was announced that the studio was returning to hand-drawn animation with "The Princess and The Frog." Making drawings come to life is the ultimate magic and illusion. As animator Bruce Smith says, "We're back!"

-The Disney Legacy (2:31): very short featurette about the influences of the Nine Old Men on the younger animators who are carrying on the legacy for Disney, "The Rolls Royce of Animation."

-Disney's Newest Princess (2:51): Princess Tiana's supervising animator Mark Henn is interviewed here as well as Anika Noni Rose who says that working on this picture "was a dream come true."

-The Princess and the Animator (2:26): featurette about Mark Henn, who has animated other famous Disney princesses such as Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Mulan. "I carry a soft spot in my heart for princesses." Tiana is a strong character because she is proactive; rather than waiting for her dream, she works hard and is determined to get it on her own.

-Conjuring the Villain (1:50): Animated by Bruce Smith and powerfully voiced by Keith David, Dr. Facilier is Disney's latest villain.

-A Return to the Animated Musical (3:13): Randy Newman is the man behind the music of this film. Having spent summers as a youth in New Orleans, the music there is in his blood. Local talent from the area was used in the movie, including Dr. Johnny. It is related that the theme of gumbo in the movie also applies to the music's diverse mix of songs: gospel, blues, cajun waltz, and romance.

-Art Galleries: quite a few images to see here; the only disappointment is their size. Plenty of room to have made them bigger. Galleries are: Visual Development, Character Design, Layouts & Background, Storyboard Art

-Game: What do you see? Princess Portraits: Guess which princess (or non-princess) the lightning bugs (Ray's family) are creating bug-by-bug.

-Sneak Peeks: Genuine Treasure: Tinker Bell, Disney Movie Rewards, Old Dogs, James & The Giant Peach Special Edition, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Treasure, Fantasia & Fantasia 2000 Diamond Edition, Disney Parks, Beauty & The Beast Diamond Edition, Toy Story 1, 2, and 3

Final summary: hands-down no-brainer - get this Disney Animated Classic TODAY!
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than just a fairy tale, February 11, 2010
By 
Being in my mid-twenties, I think I'm much older than the intended audience for this movie, but I have fond childhood memories of Disney, so the rave reviews for this one led me to see it in the theatre. And I absolutely loved it! It had everything I wanted in a Disney movie: fun songs, a creepy villain, and a touching plot that made me cry at least once but ultimately left me fully satisfied.

The best part for me, though, was the rich historical setting--1912 New Orleans. Disney has been praised for taking a bold step with a black heroine, but even more important for me was the fact that her station in life was portrayed realistically. Rather than trying to hide historical injustices, The Princess and the Frog faces them head on and shows that it's possible to achieve happiness despite all difficulties.

Tiana is not only black but poor, working multiple jobs in the hopes of one day saving enough money to start her own business. The ditzy white Charlotte, on the other hand, has plenty of money and gets everything she wants from her indulgent father. We see at the very beginning that white people lived in fancy mansions, while black people lived in tiny shacks. And yet we also see that Tiana's childhood was a happy one, with a loving family and a close-knit community. There are some powerful messages throughout the movie about how hard work is important, but a loving family is more important by far.

I don't want to spend too much time summarizing the plot; suffice it to say that one character's greedy attempt to use voodoo for personal gain results in both Tiana and a foreign prince being turned into frogs. The majority of the movie consists of their travels through the bayou, searching for a voodoo priestess to turn them back. Of course, they encounter all sorts of interesting creatures in their travels--the firefly Ray was possibly my favourite character in the movie--and learn some valuable lessons about themselves on the way.

I was really intrigued by the whole voodoo aspect; it's a belief system that I don't know anything about, but just being aware that the magic system of the movie had a whole history behind it gave the story a satisfying sense of depth. I came away from the movie wanting to learn more about both voodoo and the general history of race relations in the American south (and have, in fact, purchased books about both topics since then). This, to me, is the mark of a good story: The Princess and the Frog not only is rewarding in its own right, but leaves the viewer inspired to explore related areas. I'll definitely be purchasing this movie once it becomes available, because I know it's one that I'll want to see again.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LOVE IT!, February 22, 2010
Most of the reviews both by Disney fans and critics alike are all focusing on the wrong viewpoint of this film.
The point is not that Tiana is African American (my children don't notice because children don't see "colors"on skin) or that this is not exactly traditional Disney fare. The point is that a modern character faced modern problems and that love and the timeless story of The Princess and the Frog prevailed. Tiana is a frog for nearly the entirety of the film because that is who she was in life. In fact, she's a frog from the beginning until the last 15 minutes of the film and becomes human long before the surprise ending of the Dr. Facilier's frog spell. True it was Prince Naveen who "transformed" her but Tiana's refusal to see love or friendship was caused by ambition. This ambition wasn't bad or for selfish reasons, but in pursuit of her fathers dream she ignored everything he had tried to teach her. If you look past the political correctness or the "coloring issues" within the movie you can see this clear as day! My four year old got it and when Tiana goes in search of Naveen to tell him that she's fallen for him, my son declared loudly in the middle of the theater, "he love her mama!". When the Charlotte tries to break the spell without "getting her prince" he was ecstatic and when he saw the impostor prince "marrying" Charlotte he was heartbroken.

The magic is not Disney fare but it fits in perfectly with a cultural immersion of New Orleans. It goes without saying that the animation is GORGEOUS and the music is good too. The gospel number with Mama Odie is by far my favorite!

The secondary characters almost steal the show. Charlotte in all her spoiled glory is actually a big-hearted, cute and hilarious Southern Belle. Mama Odie is lovable and zany and goes around nearly killing her beloved pet snake and smacking "young 'uns" on the arm for their "stupidity". Big Louis is funny and gives the movie a faster pace. Ray is by far my VERY favorite "supporting actor" and will belong in the same pantheon with Jimminy Cricket and Tinker Bell. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but Disney's second star to the right will be immortalized forever thanks to Ray.

All in all the modern retelling of the fairy tale is needed for this generation. Times are hard, we have to work harder and our dreams may not come true in the way we thought they would, but LOVE is still worth fighting for. Disney thinks that Love is worth the revival of hand drawn animation, actual orchestra's composing the soundtrack and YEARS working on a modern story board.
This is not the revival of hand drawn animation, it is the revival of the Love story for a generation who forgot how to fall in Love. It's a modern example of what poets, writers and legends have been in pursuit of for centuries. The idea of Love without bounds that can defeat any obstacle.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's About Time..., March 29, 2010
By 
Amazon Customer (ROCHESTER, NEW YORK, United States) - See all my reviews
I absolutely LOVED this movie! I'm writing from the standpoint of a young adult, African American man(since some people think it's offensive to blacks). The colors were vibrant and the animation is so very familiar of how Disney used in their classic animated films. I'm very happy Disney did something different than the typical Broadway type of song. Great jazz feel to the whole thing with the colors, accents, dialogue etc. It seems Disney did a lot of research on Louisiana culture before doing this movie, which made it incredibly believable.

To some, the voodoo aspect may be "too dark" for kids. However, not everyone grows up the same. Voodoo is a part of Louisiana culture, and maybe the kids in that area grow up learning about it. All in all, great movie for EVERYONE and gives people an open and none judgmental feel of how others grow up/perceive the world
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51 of 65 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great, October 16, 2010
I'm very lucky to have been the perfect age to experience, firsthand, Disney's early 90's Renaissance. I remember finding out about Aladdin for the first time in the previews of the VHS copy of Beauty and the Beast. I remember hearing the song "Circle of Life" for the first time in the groundbreaking (at the time) trailer for "The Lion King," before anyone had ever seen a mandrill holding a lion cub on top of a rock over kneeling animals. I actually remember wondering what Sebastian was saying when he sang "Unda-da-sea," and whether King Triton was a good guy or a bad guy. These movies shaped the consciousness of my generation. Just go up to anyone between the ages of 22 and 28 who grew up in the Western World, any frat boy, any prissy girl, any former cheerleader, any computer nerd, and find me one who doesn't know the lyrics to Hakuna Matata. From 1989 to 1995, the question of next year's Disney movie was an exciting topic for everyone I knew. What would the next one be about? And, more importantly, would it be as good, both in my eyes and at the box office, as the one before? And (allowing for the less well-known Rescuers Down Under in 1990) the answer was always "yes," until 1995 when suddenly Pocahontas hit the screens, leaving everyone to think, for the first time, "Meh."

Starting with Pocahontas, with the exception of Mulan, the films showed a slow and steady decline, trying too hard to be zany (Hercules), dark (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, possibly the worst subject choice ever for a Disney movie), action-packed (Tarzan), expensive (Dinosaur), or offbeat (Lilo and Stitch)... In short, trying too hard to be anything but the instant classics of the early 90's. Things went from bad to worse (in a curiously correlated decline of quality and box office performance), until finally, following the fiasco of "Home on the Range" (am I the only one who saw it?), Disney announced it would no longer make traditional animated films, in a move that, to me, still sounds like Ferrari announcing it's going to keep making everything except cars. Yes, there were still Pixar movies, but for all their wit and beauty, these always felt like high-tech consolation prizes for anyone who grew up with magic carpets and singing candelabras. With the end of 2-D animation came the end of a collective, global childhood, and for a few years it looked as if, much like the real one, the Disney childhood was gone for good.

Until John Lasseter, the brilliant visionary behind Pixar, announced a new dawn of hope for Disney animation. The first project for the newly revived traditional feature animation department would be a real fairy tale, hand-drawn for the screen, with an old-school villain, a love interest, a fairy-godmother figure, talking animals, and, yes, even song-and-dance numbers in which the characters suddenly break into music. In short: a real Disney movie. And the result, ladies and gentlemen, titled "The Princess and the Frog," just came out in theaters yesterday, following a two-week limited release in NY and LA. Of course, as anyone who's read this post so far must have already guessed, I wasted no time in seeing it the day it came to my city.

And here's what I thought:

"The Princess and the Frog" is good. Yes, it's actually good, and anyone who's prayed for the return of traditional hand-drawn animation should see it without fear of disappointment. The movie looks beautiful, without even a hint of CGI (though I'm sure there must be some lurking here and there below the surface). The characters and backgrounds exist, seamlessly and breathlessly, in the wonderfully lawless physical universe where Ariel sang under water of her longing for the human world, where Mrs. Potts managed to look plump and made of porcelain at the same time. The movie is a visual journey through the glorious folklore of New Orleans, making ample use of the mythological arsenal at its disposal, from the dangers of the bayou to the double-edged dealings of voodoo, from Mardi Gras to gumbo. All the best Disney movies create self-contained universes where you simply want to immerse yourself, and "The Princess and the Frog" achieves this with class and charm. The stylized characters who walk down the street and into the restaurant where the heroine works wouldn't belong in any other movie, not even Aladdin or The Little Mermaid, and yet they're unmistakably Disney.

The entire feel of the movie is as bouncy and buoyant as its visuals, thanks in great part to its hardworking and determined heroine, Tiana. Much has already been said about her historical role as Disney's first African-American leading woman, but few reviewers seem to mention another very important aspect of the character: she's an exceptionally admirable protagonist. Regardless of race, color, or background, few Disney leads of either gender show as much pluck, energy, and perseverance as Tiana. As the movie points out, she's been so busy working all her life that she can't even dance! Why does no one consider that to be innovative for a Disney princess? Yes, Tiana's black, but that's just one of several reasons for which she's such a great addition to the canon. The characters around her are all serviceable, at the very least, but the movie's most memorable character is undoubtedly Tiana.

Now, I've mentioned my two favorite aspects of the movie, but I chose my words carefully when saying "The Princess and the Frog" is good. Sadly, it's not great. It's obviously head and shoulders above any hand-drawn feature the studio has released in the past 10 years, but it's little more than halfway to the brilliance of the early 90's pictures. One very noticeable difference lies in the music. The movie has numerous songs, and they all contribute to its overall stylistic cohesion, but they sadly justified my misgivings when I first heard they would be written by Randy Newman (of the "Toy Story" soundtrack) instead of Alan Menken (of everyone's favorite songs ever). What can you tell me about the song "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story? How does it compare, say, with "Part of that World," "Kiss the Girl," "Prince Ali," or "A Whole New World?" Fatally, the show-stopping production numbers in "The Princess and the Frog" invite comparisons the music just can't live up to. This isn't a statement about the quality of the composer's work, but there's something distinctly lyrical, memorable, and infectious about other Disney soundtracks that just doesn't happen in this movie.

There are also some weaknesses in the story and character department. Most of the great Disney stories can be summarized in a very short sentence that every character's motivations can be deployed around. Though it's very clear what Tiana's conflict is (she wants to open a restaurant but doesn't have enough money), the balance of the plot is surprisingly complicated. Even the bad guy, Doctor Facilier, who's been given all the trappings of a great Disney villain (and score: even a song!), has too many agendas, too many tricks, and too many issues of his own, to seep under the viewers' skin. The love interest raises more questions than he answers (Where's he from? Why, if he's a Prince, does he have no money? Whom does he want to marry? Why?). For all the crap good old Prince Charming in Snow White received for having no personality, at least everyone knew exactly what he was about. The movie's comic relief is, though it pains me to say so, unfunny and forgettable, and it's instantly obvious why these characters are there. The genie, for example, had soul beneath all the jokes, and, from a purely pragmatic point of view, there'd be no Aladdin story without him.

Characters' motivations are not the only issue in the story department. The plot involves many deals, many conditions, many detours, many distractions. For example, before anything has even happened to her, Tiana finds that she can afford the down payment on the building she wants for her restaurant by selling cakes to her friend Charlotte, who wants the cakes in order to win the Prince's affections - but then Tiana is outbid and she must match the other prospective buyer's offer before it's too late. What happened to straight up "Belle needs to break the spell!" or "Simba needs to reclaim the kingdom?" There are so many technicalities in this movie that I'm still not sure what exactly sealed the characters' fates at the end (for both the good guys and the villain). And the vast majority of the plot seems to rest on the shoulders of Charlotte, the ditzy rich childhood friend, who's unwittingly at the center of several convoluted schemes simply because her dad has a lot of money. Again, the simple universality of Ariel's dream, or Cinderella's, for that matter, is far more engaging, not to say intelligible (especially for children, while we're at it).

Nonetheless, the Princess and the Frog is pure, well-intentioned, and fun. It's not grand, it's not spectacular, it's not haunting, and it's trying to resume the legacy of movies that were all of these things. But in spite of its shortcomings, its release is still the best news that's come out of Disney in a long time.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why the Princess and the Frog is great, July 30, 2010
In the World, its been 70 years in the making. In my world, its been 34.

I have heard all of the criticism: prince Naveen is too light skinned (what a light skinned man can love a Black woman?), that it shouldn't have been set in New Orleans (that person is an idiot) and should not have had voodoo (uh hello, have you ever been there?!)

As a Black (well, biracial) woman whose adored father died before he could see her transition to greatness, this film delivers.

Disney has the grace to go old school with gorgeous hand drawn sets that made me smile huge. When they get on the street car, I got excited. When they drove past mansions, I thought, "hey, I've been there!" and when they showed a loving family sharing dinner with their neighbors, it gave me a warm glow.

One of the messages of the movie is clear: sometimes what we want and what we need are different. Oh and sadly, sometimes hard work is not enough. The former is a lesson I know well. The latter, I'm still working on.

The vivid, vibrant colors, the voice of Anika Noni Rose and the characters Tiana encounters are fun and just what you would expect from a Disney feature. The Shadow Man, played with style by Keith David, is a tip of the hat to that Voodoo Trickster god Papa Legba (and if I was you, I'd stop talking smack.)

Personally, I loved it. The vibrancy and spirit of this film fits not only one of my favorite places on Earth, but works with 1920's vivid cultural panarama. One of the characters I truly loved is Lotte: say what you will, but I promise you, I know many a Southern girl just like her. Funny, vivicious and spoiled rotten! I thought Lotte was pure fun.

At the very end, Tiana sings the final line of the movie "Dreams come true in New Orleans" and my heart simply welled up and overflowed: because dreams do come true in New Orleans and that is why the movie was set there.

Focusing on it being the site of a terrible tragedy and overlooking its rich and magnificent history is a travesty.

Don't focus on how long it took to get a Black princess or any of the silly, trivial little things that people jumped on (really? the prince is too light skinned? *rolls eyes*)

Instead, celebrate a return to real classic animation, to a beautiful new young princess and her prince finding true love. To New Orleans being featured in all her glory, proving that Nola is alive and well. Celebrate the magical, musical, colorful, delight that is the Princess and the Frog.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My girls say as good as Beauty and the Beast, December 14, 2009
By 
I took my 4-year-old and 7-year-old girls to see this at the theater. It is great that the movie teaches that you can't get what you want from just wishing on a star. The movie has outstanding visuals, too, and many funny moments. IMO, however, many of the songs are just so-so. Both of my daughters absolutely loved it, more than Enchanted, more than Sleeping Beauty and more than Snow White. For my kids it ranks up there with Beauty and the Beast.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DINSEY ANIMATION IS BACK!!!!!!, January 31, 2010
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After the "Third Golden Age" of Disney Animation ended a decade ago with "Tarzan" and then with the "end of hand drawn animation" with "Home on the Range," many thought Disney had abandoned the medium that it basically created and built up. Then came a number of things that lead to this film: Michael Eisner was fired, Disney acquired Pixar and Pixar lead man John Lasiter was put in charge of Pixar AND Disney animation. The best move that could have been made.

The result ultimately was this film, Disney's return to hand drawn animation, the way Walt did it. But, it wasn't just a return to classic animation, but also to good old fashioned Disney-style story telling, complete with Princess, Prince, evil villain, cute side kicks and show stopping songs you'll never get out of your head!

Best part about this film was that Disney updated their message and it works. From now on, wishing on a start alone will not be enough, you have to work hard to achieve your dreams. But, you do still need to wish, you can't just leave it to work alone. It's a hand in hand kind of thing, you need both. A VERY positive message to children today.

As for the Blu-Ray or DVD, both seem rather skimpy on extras. Clearly the DVD is skimpy because Disney wants people to buy Blu-Ray (which is ridicules in my estimation), however the Blu-Ray could have had more to it itself. I predict a double dip later on down the line with this title, which sadly is also a classic Disney tradition.

But extras aside, if you enjoy classic Disney animation, this film is for you! If you enjoy good movies you can watch with or without your family, this film is for you! I highly recommend it!
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