I finally got around to watching The Princess and the Frog a few days ago. Considering how excited I was about the Disney return to hand-drawn animation when the movie was released last fall, I'm pretty shocked at myself that I waited till the DVD release. To this day, I'd rank films like Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmations, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin (just to name a few) as some of my all-time favorite films. There's a warmth and a vibrancy to that manner of storytelling that for my money just can't be beat.
That said, there's a lot I liked abotu The Princess and the Frog, and then there's a lot that left me rather underwhelmed. Let's start with that I liked. First of all, the look of the movie is just spectacular. Everything from the color palette to the detail with which the animation team brings 1920s New Orleans to life is a veritable feast for the eyes. I really appreciated the out-of-the-box thinking that brought the fairy tale of the princess kissing a frog to life in a "real world" setting like New Orleans. The relatively modern setting and the multi-cultural cast really set this movie apart in a great way. Also, seeing as I'm a long-standing fan of "warped" fairy tale retellings, anything to change a traditional story up and bring a new life or perspective to it, I will also say it was nice to see "tweaks" the script team brought to the traditional story, setting being just a part of the puzzle.
The songs are probably my biggest disappointment with the film. There's no denying Randy Newman's musical abilities, but personally they're just not my cup of tea. And I feel like his style of music has really been done to death when it comes to Disney/Pixar films. Everything just screams "sameness" to me. There wasn't a single song that really proved memorable, nothing that ranked up there with the likes of "Part of Your World," "A Whole New World," or the "Circle of Life." Also, the voo-doo villain just didn't work for me. I can't quite put my finger on - maybe it's the marriage of baddie voo-doo spirits operating in the relatively modern setting? Or just the voo-doo in general? Still mulling that over, obviously. The threat facing Tiana and Naveen just didn't flow as well as I would've liked with the way the rest of the story was set up, I guess. Speaking of Prince Naveen, it was a little annoying to have such a reality-based setting and then into that you plunk down a prince from some fictitious land? Oh well, c'est la vie.
The vocal talent is just terrific here. Anika Noni Rose does a fantastic job as Tiana - I think she's got a gorgeous voice. And one point in favor of the songs (*grin*), the melodies really do fit the setting well. Also, when Naveen is introduced I was sure I wouldn't like him - he's just so silly. But his character arc ended up being pretty well done, all things considered.
I think my expectations for The Princess and the Frog were unrealistically high, an equal mix of expectation and nostalgia. Because I don't think it's quite "as good" as "classic" animated Disney efforts, I ended up being rather ambivalent about it all, but upon reflection I'll end by saying this was definitely a step in the right direction for this type of film. No one can make animated magic happen quite like Disney - and I'm really looking forward to seeing their next animated film this fall, Tangled (the movie formerly known as Rapunzel, haha!!). It also helps that Zachary Levi, a.k.a. CHUCK (!!) is lending his voice to the film.