Monday, June 8, 2015

Princess and the Frog

Continuing on in my trend this week of reviewing Disney movies everyone has already we go even FURTHER back in time. Last weekend I saw one of the classic fairy tale cartoons that I somehow managed to never see around the time it came out, 2009, Princess and the Frog. At the time, as I remember, there wasn't that much buzz around it after it came out, and I assumed it wasn't that great.

Given my lower expectations, I was really impressed by the film! It wasn't the funniest Disney film ever but it had my group of friends and I laughing on several occasions. And even more impressive were the characters.

At first I was worried about Prince Naveen's character. I knew he would eventually end up with Tiana and I didn't see it. I thought it would be like Tangled-my main problem with Tangled was that I didn't believe Flynn Rider had really changed and that Rapunzel had any reason to trust him. So often in romances-and not just fairy tale romances-the audience isn't really supposed to think too much about the characters, and whether or not they could actually work together. We're just shown a guy and a girl and it's assumed we want them to be together. Yet, although Naveen's and Tiana's romance was short compared to reality, given the time constraints of a family friendly Disney musical, I thought they did a nice job. I believed the change in Naveen and found myself really rooting for them as a couple.

I really liked the fact that all the main characters came to a point where they had to make a choice and ultimately sacrifice their biggest dream for the sake of the other characters-Naveen was going to give up Tiana to give her her restaurant, she gave up her restaurant and later her humanity to be with Naveen, even Louis had to stop playing in a jazz band to help save them, and Ray! Don't judge me but I may have teared up a little when there were two stars in the sky...
This scene was gorgeous...

In fact it was kind of like the reverse of my thoughts on Into the Woods. In that film, the question is, how far will each character go to get what they want? "Princess and the Frog" shows the characters all giving up what they want for others. And that's pretty rare for Disney films (and most movies...) the only other Disney fairy tale I can think of where the characters make tough choices like that, instead of just responding to the situation around them, is "Beauty and the Beast" (Belle gives up her freedom for her father, Beast sacrifices his chance of being with Belle and becoming human to let her go home).

And speaking of BATB-the fact that Tiana became a frog was advertised in all the trailers at the time, and no secret. But it did provide a nice twist on the Animal Bride/Bridegroom tale to have both of them transformed-there's no wondering, like in BATB, if the Beast would have even fallen for Belle if she weren't the most beautiful girl in the village. Both of the characters fall for each other while they're frogs so the physical aspect of the romance isn't an issue at all.
Concept Art

Tiana is a strong, feminist character (if not a little extremely preachy about the value of hard work and judgmental at first, but that was part of her character's growth). I couldn't decide if showing a woman who is career focused and whose big lesson to be learned is that she needs love too is ironically unfeminist though...but I decided I didn't mind it. The reverse, a woman who only wants love, would be too much like her Princess predecessors. (We also had that character in Charlotte). Plus there are plenty of family movies out there in which the father has to learn to spend time with his family and not focus just on work. Tiana is clearly more mature and likeable than Naveen at first, but I'm really glad they both had something to learn and it wasn't all about spoiled rich people being selfish. To even show a female so career focused and uninterested in men was pretty unusual for Disney, and it does reflect the challenges women are facing now that we have more career opportunities to have to juggle work and family and try to find that tricky balance.

What did you guys think? According to Wikipedia, part of the reason the movie didn't do as well as the studio hoped is the fact that the word "Princess" was in the title of the movie, therefore it appealed mostly to little girls and not as wide of an audience (and hence the titles for more recent Princess movies being "Tangled," "Brave," and "Frozen"). And while critics liked it overall, the overwhelming response was to compare it to "Beauty and the Beast," "Lion King," and the other major animated films of the second Disney Golden Age in the 90s. That's part of the problem for any Disney movie, is people's expectations can be SO high they'll be disappointed with anything that won't be nominated for Best Picture ("Princess and the Frog" was nominated for Best Animated Picture, but lost to "Up.")


  1. "Tales Of Faerie" You have a lovely topic here, for your blog... And a lovely name also...

    Watching all the Disney Faerie Tale movies... Why haven't I thought of that, myself? Thank you for the prompt.

    Gentle hugs,

  2. I think this film's problem was it just wasn't as strong overall as some of their other films. I didn't get the wow factor from it, though I really loved Tiana. Hard worker and opens her own business?! Yes, that's a princess I want to see! And it wasn't "princess" being in the title, Disney knows this, they make millions off their "princess" line. I'm a parent of a girl, even I know this. It was the simple fact, little girls don't want to pretend play being a frog. Tiana should have had to use her wits while still a human girl throughout the movie, and kept her frog prince as tag-a-long. That was the marketing and story mistake they made. I think that would have worked much better. But I am convinced they thought, hey, boys like frogs. We need boys to see this movie to make money, because ya know girls don't go to films (glad Frozen blew that stupid marketing thinking out of the water), so we'll turn the princess into a frog so boys will think it's fun and not just a "princess" movie.

    1. That's true that most little girls won't want to pretend to be frogs (I also remember thinking how ironic it is that Tiana's classic dress is the green one shown at the very end, which she only wears for like 5 seconds). Although so much of marketing to children is really marketing to the parents, who are the ones deciding if they'll take them to see the movie or not, buy the dvd and toys, etc.

  3. There are a number of factors that this film's failure has been attributed to and some of them do have possibility when the fickleness of the public is considered. The "Princess" in the title is one factor. Disney seems to think the words used in their titles have a huge impact, though they can be off the mark. I'm reminded of when Disney thought the word "Mars" didn't sell because no one saw their movie "Mars Needs Moms", so they changed the title of their film "John Carter of Mars" to just "John Carter", making it sound like the most generic thing ever. Then there's what Anonymous said about Tiana being turned into a frog, which is basically the punchline of an old "Fractured Fairy Tales" short turned into a whole movie. However, one of the things that definitely needs considering is the fact that they went back to 2-D animation in a post-Pixar world.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I like 2-D animation. However, I remember going to see The Princess and the Frog and thinking it was okay, but that it just looked and felt like so much that had come before. I mean, there were some differences but it felt like an old Disney Princess movie from the '90s. Ironically, each Disney movie in the '90s felt like some big, new thing. Little Mermaid was topped by Beauty and the Beast which was topped by Aladdin which was topped by The Lion King. Then Toy Story came out with a whole new animation technique and blew everything else out of the water. To some extent, all Disney princess movies are the same, but you don't want them to "feel" the same. Doing Tangled as the first 3-D computer animated musical took care of that for Tangled. Like I said, I like 2-D animation. I also like Disney musicals. However, I don't think the public is going to just accept the usual 2-D Disney musicals anymore. Brad Bird wants to make another 2-D animated film and I wish him luck. However, I know he's going to have to really catch people's attention for the artform again. It's going to need to be different.

    1. I'm sure you're absolutely right about the public needing to be impressed by something new in the films, although honestly, I don't know if kids are aware of that as much. I remember there being some buzz about Toy Story being computer animated, but honestly, at the time, I didn't care, and I didn't really notice the subtleties of animation-I just liked it for the story and humor. Just like, when I saw the classic Disney cartoons as a kid, I wasn't aware of all the painstaking work the illustrators put in to every frame, I had no idea how huge computer animation was until I read up on it later. For kids who have grown up with both classic 2D and 3D animation, I think it all comes across as more of a different style of animation than anything else. It's the teens and adults who want something new and different, I guess? And wasn't it supposed to be a huge deal that Tiana was the first African American princess?

    2. I guess you're right. I'm going to be honest, I've been a grown-up so long that I'm not really sure what kids are thinking anymore. I try, but I really only know what I'm seeing with my own eyes. Also, I'll point out that it's the grown-ups who buy the tickets.

      As for Tiana being the first Black princess, I know that I personally didn't realize we hadn't had one until someone mentioned that Tiana was the first. Then I was like "Oh, I guess we didn't". We were still a few years past Brandy playing Cinderella in a TV version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, so it probably didn't seem like a big thing to me personally (being Cinderella actually trumps being a new Disney princess in my book).

      As for me, all I know is I was about to write off 2-D animated features entirely, thinking there was no way of doing anything that felt different with them. Then, a few months ago I saw Song of the Sea, which turned me around on them.

  4. I really liked this Movie and I LOVE Tiana. U're right, few movies by Disney show characters giving up her dreams... Another example of this is Princess Aurora (one of The most underrated). She has a simple life and she finds what she always desired (love, after all she's a teenager) and then she is told that she's a princess. She doesn't want to be a princess, she doesn't want to give up her happiness with The Handsome Strainger (she doesn't know it's The Prince!) but she gives up her dreams to fulfill her duty. That is admirable and makes Aurora deeper and more sensitivo& sensible than Some people want us to think her.

  5. I actually liked this movie better than "Tangled" particularly because of the direction that it went: both endings to me were expected for being Disney movies, but I could feel much more interaction between the characters in "Princess and the Frog," or at least they were much more believable to me.

    The only negative thing I'd point out is the music: not that I dislike Randy Newman, but a few songs did not really stick with me as well as some of the other recent princess movies. I did like "Almost There" and "Friends on the Other Side" though!

    1. I totally agree with you, I think the chemistry between characters is much better in PATF. And even if the music isn't the best ever, it's nice that it has a unique New Orleans jazz feel to it-I think Disney music is best when they play around with different kinds of World Music (Lion King and Aladdin especially; or the Caribbean influence in "Under the Sea")