Disney Returns to the Past to Dive into the Future: The Princess and the Frog

Disney’s new 2-D animated feature The Princess and the Frog sees a dashing prince of the country Maldonia named Naveen transformed into a frog by a witch doctor, Facilier. Tiana, a hard-working waitress living in New Orelans whose dream is to open up her own restaurant, gets caught up in Naveen’s turmoil and the two go on a great adventure while learning about what is important in life and picking up a couple of goofy, yet kind-hearted animal pals.

A prince, a working class girl, a dastardly villain, talking animal sidekicks, and a curse to bind them all. At first, it seems as if the only goal of The Princess and the Frog is to capture what made the animated Disney classics so loved by people of all ages, but the very prominent advertisements touting Disney’s return to their forte belies the fact that the movie is very new and very ambitious.

While Prince Naveen is just as handsome as any of the other Disney heroes, and Tiana just as beautiful as any of the heroines, the two stand out among the crowd by subverting many of the popular archetypes for the better. Naveen is not just a ladies’ man but also a bit of a womanizer. He’s lazy, has no sense of responsibility, and has almost all the negative traits you can think of when you think of someone who was forcibly removed from the silver spoon he was raised on. You can see that he is still a good, admirable person, but he is a deeply flawed character, and while the perfect male heroes of previous Disney movies have their own place, Naveen cuts a new path for Disney to go. Similarly, Tiana never waits for someone to help her; she takes life into her own hands, challenging life to the extent that it becomes a fault of hers.

Naveen, Tiana and everyone else in the cast are incredibly balanced characters who, while very human, are never out of place in a fairy tale setting, and it makes following the story to its end that much more personal.

One potential pitfall of the whole movie was thankfully avoided, and that is the racial stereotyping that could have happened with a primary cast of non-Caucasians. Particularly, the witch doctor Facilier could have been a mine field, what with being a black voodoo master, but his presentation makes him out as a villainous character with a genuine stake in voodoo, instead of as a desperate attempt to “diversify” Disney.

And as for the animation itself, I think all I have to say is “it’s Disney.” They clearly put in all of their effort, and this is the one area in which they never really faltered all these years. The stories are a different matter, but given The Princess and the Frog I think it’s very likely that Disney now has the ability to surpass even its golden age. Whether that will be a reality will be seen in time.

Heavily flawed characters who are not always the most upstanding role models make their way through the world. As they learn and grow,  you can really sense that The Princess and the Frog is simply not running away to the past but rather pushing forward to challenge what it means to be a Disney movie, all without betraying the company’s past. In the end, I really recommend that everyone go see it.

2 thoughts on “Disney Returns to the Past to Dive into the Future: The Princess and the Frog

  1. I’m always pleased when I come across a rare fantasy movie made and set in the US, especially one that delivers as well as this. A decade full of LotR, Narnia, and Harry Potter movies (not to mention The Golden Compass, Eragon, etc.) allowed UK fantasy to reassert its dominance on both bookshelves and the big screen and to make most any attempt at us trying to tell our own stories look silly and small by comparison. What did we offer the world in return? Twilight? Don’t even get me started on how anime has lead me to compare the depths of the modern Japanese imagination to the endless limits of my own culture’s.

    That’s not to say that this is a groundbreaking work or anything but it’s reassuring to see a timeless story like this dip into the rich and relatively untapped mythology of this big and strange country that I call home.

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  2. There were a number of things that really stood out to me in Princess and the Frog. First being Tiana’s way of dealing with struggle. Disney princess movies almost all have this moment where the female throws herself down sobbing, but it was notably absent in this film. In fact, Tiana doesn’t cry over her plights instead she takes deep breaths, feels a bit sorry for herself, and then moves on. The only time she sheds a tear in the movie is over someone else’s situation. Along with this is the fact that the problems of Tiana and Naveen are both real world and fairytale. They both have things outside of being turned into frogs that they are going through such as struggling to make money. Also the prince is the one in trouble, for the most part, throughout the film. He is the cause of the curse, and he is the one that needs saving more than Tiana. And the prince is the one captured in the end and Tiana takes on the villain all on her own coming to a realization about herself and then defeating the foe. I think Disney smartly picked a story that was simple enough for them to build a strong active female presence around.

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