Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Princess and the Frog **


Director: Ron Clements, John Musker

The differences between "usual" Disney princesses and the new multi-cultural approach they want to take is expressed quite clearly to us in the first scene of "The Princess and the Frog".
New Orleans seamstress Eudora (voiced by Oprah Winfrey) works on a dress for little Charlotte La Bouff (Breanna Brooks) while she tells her and her daughter Tiana (Elizabeth M. Dampier) a fairy tale.
While the perky, and white, Charlotte glows at the idea of frogs that turn into magical princes, Tiana yuks and proclaims there's no way she would ever kiss a frog.
Her dreams involve opening her very own restaurant with her father (Terrence Howard) and Disney love is something foreign to her system.
Flash forward a few years and Tiana (voiced later by Anika Noni Rose) is working as a waitress while saving to make the first down payment on her restaurant. Charlotte (voiced as an adult by Jennifer Cody) is still the same and has set her eye on the upcoming arrival of Prince Naveen of Maldovia (voiced by Bruno Campos) to become the princess she always wanted to be.
The fact that during these first few scenes we're actually suggested to think of Charlotte as some sort of antagonist- making life impossible for girls who want to work hard like Tiana- is ironic considering how the whole plot turns against itself later on.
Free spirited Naveen is transformed into a frog by evil witch doctor Facilier (Keith David) A.K.A "the Shadow Man" who has a plan to get Charlotte's father (John Goodman) wealth.
Naveen, who obviously read the fairy tale, confuses Tiana for a princess and asks her to kiss him in exchange of being granted anything she wishes for.
She does, ending up a frog herself. It's impossible not to question here if she's being punished for going against her integrity (and expecting to make her wishes come true out of magic) or because she dared think of herself as a fairy tale princess.
Soon Naveen and Tiana find themselves crossing the bayou to find Mama Odie, a witch (Jenifer Lewis) that might know how to turn them back into humans.
Along the way they befriend anthropomorphic creatures that show us-by way of Randy Newman's catchy but repetivie songs- not all reptiles and insects are nasty creatures.
Large part of the plot is shaped around the idea that we shouldn't want to be something we're not. Giant alligator Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) wishes he could be a jazz trumpet player, while Cajun firefly Ray (Jim Cummings) is in love with a star he calls Evangeline.
Half the movie we endure a debate going on between what the film is saying literally and what it's revealing in a sub-level.
We come to understand that dreams like the one Ray has not only are impossible to achieve but are slightly delusional and it might be said that by stressing out how these predominantly African American characters endure all kinds of trouble to reach things the heroine doesn't even believe in, the filmmakers are not evolving as they suppose, but retaining traditional characteristics to assure young audiences that maybe Disney's status quo isn't so bad as it seems.
The twists have more smug-self-indulgence than wonder and while handsomely drawn and animated the film never haves the magic of 2D classics the studio delivered so proficiently during its golden age.
"It serves me right for wishing on a star" sighs Tiana, when "the only way to get what you want in this world is to work hard for it".
This might come off as a positive message on Disney's part but the movie takes such great lengths to take us to Charlotte's side, that children might just assume old studio princesses who merely wait for a prince to solve their lives are better off than poor Tiana.

4 comments:

watch avatar online said...

i like the story of the movie the princess and the frog..I will watch it..

watch movie online said...

Pretty nice post. I just came across your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really liked reading your posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Ouch. Ah well. We can't agree on everything, that would be weird.

Luke said...

Yeah, wowza! As soon as I saw the "two stars" up there, I was a little worried. You do raise some excellent points, but I just can't help but enjoy the visual, aural, and endearing aspects of the film (considering it's first and foremost a children's movie) before deep analysis.