My opinion right after watching film
My opinion of the film is that it is a great way to end a lackluster at best era (I do not think this film is in the Revival Era, and I will explain why later). There are still some issues with this film, with certain things coming off as rushed, and with the movie seeming like it was being made off of a formula checklist, but they tell the message they are trying to give us well, and there is a lot of charm and heart into this film. You could definitely see some of Pixar’s influence in this film, and I like that there is a more subtle gender equality between the two characters.
Production for this film started in Early 2006 (soon after the acquisition with WDAS and Pixar becoming finalized), as apparently both WDAS and Pixar were planning on making films based off The Frog Prince (probably around the time that both were planing to split from one another), and one of the pitches inspired by the 2002 book called The Frog Prince. This is the very first film to have its entire production start after the acquisition, as Bolt was in the beginning stages when it happened, Tangled (called Rapunzel then) was struggling to come off the ground, and Meet the Robinsons was already starting to animate and write.
John Musker and Ron Clements were brought back to the studio by John Lasseter himself, as they know how to make a magnificent Disney film, and told them that it is their choice, whether the film is going to be in traditional animation, or in CGI, with the directors choosing the former. A lot of the animators that were fired in 2003 (after Brother Bear and Home on the Range were finished production) were hired back to help out with this film.
They also decided to make the film take place in New Orleans since it has magical qualities, and it is Lasseter’s favorite city. It was announced to the public in 2006, and when they had a shareholders meeting in March 2007, many in the African American community were not pleased with the main story, and things were changed.
Apparently, they wanted to base the animation off of a style from Lady and the Tramp, and a lot more stylized, Instead of the CAPS system (which was out of date), they got a new animation system called Toon Boom’s Harmony Software. For the music, Alan Menken was initially handle the soundtrack, but Lasseter took him off, because he has been used many times, and it would be repetitive, and he replaced him with Randy Newman (who handled many soundtracks from Pixar’s films; incorporating something from Pixar into WDAS).
So the film starts in 1912 in the LaBoeff house, with a little Tiana (Elizabeth Dampier and Anika Noni Rose) and a little Charlotte (Breanna Brooks and Jennifer Cody) being read The Frog Pirncess by Tiana’s mother Eudora (Oprah Winfrey), who is there to finish making a dress for Charlotte. I have to say, just from this scene with the two girls and their parents, it is so realistic that a black woman would be a seamstress for a rich family like the LaBoefas, but I like how Big Daddy LaBoeuf (John Goodman) treats Eudora and Tiana with actual respect.
Tiana and Eudora go home to her father James (Terrence Howard), and Tiana helps him make some gumbo, which they feed the entire neighborhood. I like that he says he likes to cook because it brings people together. He tells Tiana to not lose sight of what is important, and you have to work hard as well to wish to get where you want. This is good because they are not saying to the older films “Fuck You” (like some of its successors), but still acknowledges some of those lessons.
Tiana literally goes from her night waitress job, to her morning waitress job, which she rejects her friend’s offer to go out to a club (which they knew sh would not come), and the LaBoeuffs show up to tell them that Prince Naveen is in New Orleans, and is gonna stay with them, so Naveen and Charlotte can “jump the broom”, and that she will need Tiana to make her beignets at the masquerade party. She pays Tiana the money, and it is enough money for Tiana to purchase her restaurant, which excites her. She goes with her mother to the place where she is planning to build her restaurant, and sings Almost There, which shows her passion for her restaurant, and she went through a lot of trials and tribulations to get there. It really shows her character.
It is time for the Masquerade party at the LaBoeff’s home, and Tiana is serving the food, and when the Realtors Mr. Fenner, and Mr Fenner (Corey Burton) come by, she says she is ready to sign the papers new (because they said they would earlier), but they tell her that they already sold the place to someone that outbid her, and that someone her “background” would have been too overwhelmed. They do tell her that she has Wednesday to outbid the person or she loses the place forever. That is literally the only mention of race in this film, and I appreciate that they added this line, because if they pretended like there was NO segregation, that would be an issue, but they cannot show how it really was in 1920s’ New Orleans with that.
Tiana is sad (and food is all over her), so Charlotte stops dancing with “Naveen” to change Tiana and to somewhat cheer her up in her room. When Charlotte, Tiana is sad that her dream went right out of her hands, and wishes on a star in disbelief, but a frog shows up. She sarcastically asks if he wants a kiss, which it replies absolutely. She freaks out on him, and tumbles on a bookshelf, throwing a bunch of things at her. He sees that she has the Frog Prince book, and realizes that she needs to kiss him in order for him to turn human. He tells her that he is the real Prince Naveen and that Doctor Facilier tricked him. He says that he will give her money if she kisses him…..
Facilier rushes to the fake Naveen (who is really a disguised Lawrence) and is and at him for letting the lid open, and that as long as the blood of Naveen is in the talisman he is wearing, than they can go on with his plan. I will discuss Facilier’s relationships with the others in the film as being an issue.
So the frogs Naveen and Tiana escape from the party, an are floating on balloons, where they are arguing about why the kiss did not work, Tiana not being a princes,s and Naveen being broke, but they don’t have the time, as a bunch of larger animals are willing to eat them. After they land in a safe area, Naveen tries to sleep with her, but she refuses.
The next morning, Tiana makes a raft to get them back to New Orleans, and is annoyed with Naveen being completely useless. Soon enough, a crocodile named Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) approaches them because of the tune Naveen is playing, and he is soon told that they are humans, and are going to find a way to be humans again, with Louis telling them that he knows how they can be human. We get the next song When We’re Human, which is complete filler. We already know what Tiana and Naveen wants, and what Louis wants is not important to the plot at all, and did not need to be warranted into a song.
It is night time, and the three of them are still wandering around. Naveen is trying to catch a fly, and Tiana’s instincts try to catch one, but she refuses to eat a frog and eat a bug on the same day (they were actually on different days Tiana). Naveen and Tiana accidentally kiss again, and their tongues are stuck in a knot, which Louis makes worse when eh tries to untangle them. We are introduced to Ray (Jim Cummings) the firefly, and he ends up untangling them. They tell him that they are heading for Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis), but Ray tells them they are heading the wrong way. So he gets his firefly family to show them the way, and they sing some Bayou song.
After that ends, Ray tells them all about his lover Evangeline, and Naveel tells him to not settle for one so quickly. Tiana and Naveen decide to get some food, and he tells her that he figured out her issue; she cannot have fun and is a stick in the mud, while she tells him that she figured out his problem; he is a lazy philanderer. Naveen is taken by frog catchers, where Tiana saves him. Tiana then gets trapped, and Naveen saves her.
Tiana plans to make them some swamp gumbo, and Naveen tells her that he will wait for the good meal, but she tells him that he is going to mince the mushrooms (but not in an angry or a sarcastic tone, but a soothing one). He does not know how to mince mushrooms, and she takes over, where he is impressed. As he minces, he tells her that he realized after he got cut off, that he does not know how to do anything, and she feels bad for him. When these two are joking around with their banter, they are very fun to watch. Everyone is having a good time, and Naveen tells her that she has a gift, causing her to blush.
Ray sees his “girlfriend in the sky”, and starts to sing Evangeline, which is an eh song. Naveen wants to dance with her, but she pulls away, embarrassed that she never knew how to dance. He pulls her in, and they start to dance romantically, almost kissing. She pulls away and says that Charlotte is going to have a lucky husband. Honestly, the relationship with Tiana and Naveen is a bit rushed. A few scenes ago, they were arguing, and now they are having sexual tension? It is a bit too sudden.
Facilier’s spirits (which he got from the other side, and told them that when he takes out the LaBoeff’s, he will give all of the spirits the bodies of the living people in New Orleans) kidnap Naveen for a bit, but is saved by Mama Odie. She takes them to her hut, and gets ready to tell them what they need to do to be human, but they need to figure out what they need, leading up to Dig A Little Deeper. This is a pretty good song, and they actually tell us what they need. A bit preachy, and not as good as the first 3 songs, but it still holds up. You can really see how in this song, Naveen likes Tiana. Odie tells Naveen that he needs self control and that money did not make him happy before, so it won’t do anything now, and that Tiana needs to learn how to fucking chillax.
They sneak onto a boat the next morning, and Louis is thrilled that he can live his dream (as everyone thinks that he is wearing a costume). Naveen decides to catch up with them later, as he has plans for Tiana. He tells Evangeline that he is worried about his love for Tiana, and Ray almost freaks out on him, but he tells him that he loves Tiana, and that he is planning to propose to her. Naveen takes her out on a date in their evenings, and she giggles at his nervousness, thinking it is cute. Right as he is about to propose to her, she runs to the edge of the boat as she sees her restaurant. She rambles on about her restaurant, and he confuses “us” for him and her, but she was speaking about her father. Naveen thinks she does not love him , so he decides to marry Charlotte, so she can get her dream, and Naveen is soon kidnapped by the spirits.
It is Mardi Gras, and Charlotte is about to marry the disguised Naveen. Tiana has a dumb moment and thinks that he turned into a human and ditched her, which causes her to get mad and to tell Ray that Evangeline is a star. He goes to Naveen, realizing that this is not right, and finds that he is still a frog and trapped. He rescues him, and right as Facilier is about to kill Big Daddy with a voodoo doll, Naveel causes Lawrence to fall, and the tallisman is stolen and given to Ray. Ray gives it to Tiana, before he is killed by Facilier, which is really sad.
So after Facilier fails to tempt Tiana into giving him the talisman for her to get her restaurant, he dies by the spirits dragging him to hell because he could not pay the debt that he owed them. Tiana finally learns her lesson, and that love is important too, which her father was trying to tell her all those years ago.
Charlotte speaks to Naveen the frog, and he tells her everything, from the curse, to Tiana needing her restaurant, and that he will marry her to make Tiana happy, and it is a lot for Charlotte to absorb. As soon as Charlotte and Naveen are about to kiss, Tiana interrupts and tells him not to do it because her dream is not complete, and Charlotte realizes that Tiana is in love, and she calls off the wedding, but she will kiss Naveen for her friend, but it is too late. Why the hell did Charlotte not turn into a frog? It happened to Tiana. Charlotte is not a princess anymore, but did not turn into a frog. Not a big deal.
So Ray dies after they tell him they are staying frogs, Naveen and Tiana get married and turns into humans again (which is what Mama Odie tried to tell them), they get the restaurant thanks to Louis scaring the Fenners’ they single handedly build the restaurant, and their restaurant is a success, and they dance on their balcony.
The characters in this film are actually very strong.They each have big personalities, the main characters actually gain character development (unlike its many predecessors), and they are all very enjoyable and likable. I am not annoyed with any character in this film, and that says a lot.
The animation in this film is very good. There is a lot of detail in the backgrounds, and a lot of vibrant colors. There is a big scale, and they really incorporated New Orleans in animation form, and how they really brought it to life. While it is sad that this film does have a part of the non existence of traditional animation in North America, and in many other places in the world, but this film captured it beautifully.
The music is…….good at best, and forgettable at worst. The first few songs are pretty good, and explain what it wants to explain well, but the later ones are just……eh. The score is not bad either, but it is not memorable either. I was expecting a bit more from the score and the jazz theme, but……it is there. Can be good, but can be eh.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on December 11, 2009, it opened at #1 in the box office, but slowly started to diminish under competition like Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, and Avatar, causing this film to make $104,400,899 domestically, and $167,000,000 everywhere else, causing a total amount of $267,045,765. While that is more than a lot of the other films in this era, it was not close to the amount of money that was made in the early 90s (though it did gross more than The Little Mermaid). The box office was seen as a disappointment, and they backed out of the idea of a traditional animation film every 2 years, and caused Frozen to be put back on the shelf for a while, and causing Tangled to completely change its marketing.
It did a lot better critically though. Many liked it for bringing the spirit and the heart of a good Disney movie, and many saw this as a new Golden Age for Walt Disney Animation Studios. They liked the characters, story, so on and so on. While there were a few people that felt like it was a complete rehash, and it was a dumb idea for a story, there was a lot more positive than negative, getting over 80% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Like many films before it, the Pixar counterpart of the year (This years being Up) completely dominated in the accolades, winning all of the rewards, while Princess and the Frog was nominated. It did win some awards amongst African American awards shows though.
Now that it has been 5 years since this film has been released, I have to say that it is not really that talked about. Many people know it exists, and it does have a decent fanbase, but its successors completely outshined this film, as WDAS was only going up. There is a lot of controversy as to whether this film is the final film of the Post Renaissance Era, or is it the very first film of this new Revival Era we are currently in. Princess Tiana is also in the Dinsey Princess lineup, and many consider this film to be the first good film in many years.
= 30/40 = 75%