Wednesday, February 17, 2010

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG - the best of both worlds

Watching THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG is a deeply nostalgic experience. It reminds you of how wonderful the old Disney classics were, and the simple delights and warmth of hand-drawn animation. Just as in the good old days, this movie doesn't depend on post-modern pop-cultural references or 3-D gimmicks. Nope. Here we have a lovely story, charming characters, true love and some sweet songs. A charmingly earnest, hard-working waitress called Tiana kisses a charismatic but lazy Prince turned Frog. As they journey through the Bayou to have the voodoo overturned, the Prince learns that for the woman he loves, he'd be willing to work, or to sacrifice his own happiness. And so, true love blossoms, inspired by a sweet little Cajun firefly called Ray, who is in love with a star in the sky - an absolutely adorable side-plot. The lovers are aided in their journey by a trumpet-playing alligator called Louis - who is clearly inspired by Balou the Bear from THE JUNGLE BOOK, and wants to be human a little bit like King Louie from the same film. There's the aforementioned firefly Ray, who is so wonderful, and the wise old Mama Odie.

If nostalgic in style and feel and look, the movie is also nostalgic for a time when New Orleans was the old Big Easy, associated with beignets, Hot Jazz and A Streetcar Named Desire, rather than being a symbol of Federal incompetence. But at the same time, the movie is rather modern. It's not just that Disney has finally given us a coloured heroine, (though sneakily still sidestepping issues of economic inequality by setting the film in the 1920s). It's that it supplements the traditional wishing on a star with hard graft and shaping your own destiny. I like the new empowering Disney. But I like the old-fashioned hand-drawn Disney even more. Long may it continue!

Additional tags: Randy Newman, Anika Nonie Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael Leon Woolley, Ron Clements, John Musker

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG is on global release bar Japan where it is released on March 6th.

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