Review: The Princess and the Frog

I took my four kids to see Disney’s return to hand drawn animation on Saturday. The two boys wanted to go see “The Fantastic Mr. Fox;” the girls the princess movie. Since we’ve been renting mostly action adventure movies lately as a family, despite the protests of my tween girls, I figured a princess movie was overdue.

After a decade or more of a steady diet of CG movies, I wondered if the hand drawn animation feel choppier or distracting, but it wasn’t. There were only a couple of times where the animation flickered enough to knock me out of my suspension of disbelief. The most distracting part of the movie was when the characters broke into song. I was so relieved when Pixar came a long and made animated movies that didn’t involve characters singing to move along the plot. The lyrics and songs for Princess and the Frog just were not memorable either. Two days later, I can’t remember any of songs or melodies – unlike the Lion King where I could easily remember “I can’t wait to be king” or “Hakuna Matata.”

The writing was typical Disney fair. The prince’s transformation from carefree rascal to prince charming was too quick and dramatic. I would have liked to see the transformation strung out a bit. Characters were funny and suitable for their roles. Voice talent was spot on. My girls (age 10) enjoyed the movie, but I suspect they would admit they’ve seen more engaging movies. The boys survived. During the movie I would look over and see them slouched in their bored posture.

For me the telling moment was reflecting about the movie afterwards. Pixar and Dreamworks’ movies are written so that they’re entertaining for adults as well as children. I’ve purchased every Pixar film that has come out since 2000 because as a 36 year-old guy, I enjoy watching them too. I have zero inclination to buy the DVD version of this film; its appeal just isn’t broad enough.

11 thoughts on “Review: The Princess and the Frog

  1. I also saw “The Princess and the Frog” this weekend, and found that I enjoyed sequences and bits more than the movie as a whole. Goldberg’s “Almost There” sequence was a short little treat all its own, the villainous Dr.Facilier was (I think) fantastic as a bad guy (supervising animator Bruce W. Smith is now on my favorites list) and I really liked individual characters, but I would probably buy this movie on DVD, if only for watching those parts and bits of fantastic character animation that this movie has a large measure of. That being said, my humble opinion is that it’s a welcome return of Disney classical animation, but won’t join “Finding Nemo” on my top favorites list, either story or animation-wise.

    Can’t wait to hear what others think!

  2. I saw the movie with my three-year-old this past weekend. She absolutely loved it.

    Overall, I thought it was a competent, but not especially memorable movie. It felt long at times, but the art and color were fun to behold. I wouldn’t want to have to sit through this again though.

    Given the interest this movie has garnered because it features the first African American Disney princess, I was confused about some of the story choices that were made. For example, for majority of the movie the main characters were frogs. What’s the point of having black characters if you don’t even show them?

  3. I agree with some of the comments listed above. I did take my family to see the “The Princess and the Frog”. As an African-American cartoonist/caricaturist father, it was great to show my daughter (12) and son (6) positive, realistic cartoon imagery of strong black characters. Was it the best Disney animated feature that I have seen? No! But it’s a step in the right direction.

    Yes, the Princess was a frog for a bit longer than I would have liked, but that’s the adult art director in me coming out. The kids enjoyed the movie. I also was happy to see a diverse crowd in the theater watching the film.

    Lastly, the scenes of Tianna in Jazz Age-era New Orleans as a strong, goal-setting woman (she wants to start a restaurant) showed that she was had more ideas about life than having to get a man (Prince) to take care of her; unlike that other character in the movie.

  4. I haven’t seen this movie yet, but in the previews, I must say the alligator is a direct COPY of the alligator from Peter Pan which shows a total lack of confidence in the character design abilities of their current crew… You’d think they know that they have world-class talent at their disposal! Clearly, the bean counters are still very much in charge at Disney…

  5. I’m glad they at least did this. Perhaps there will be their standard “straight to DVD” sequel that will be less froggy. I hope it’s not the end of 2D animation.

  6. @ Mr. Stephens: I can see why you think that, and it’s an interesting thought. I saw a “Disney” croc vs. any particular movie’s croc, truth be told… I mean, just look at the gators from “The Rescuers” which look quite similar the croc from “Peter Pan”. Disney character and animation homogenization is really nothing new (not defending it) and as an animator myself, I can say fairly confidently that every animator has a character design they would’ve loved to have a crack at. Eric Goldberg having the career he’s had, saw his chance (in my imagination) to have at a character design that he’s always been itching to have a go with. Design aside, the animation was fantastic. While I won’t argue that sadly the bean counters still have way too much influence in animation everywhere, I will argue that I think artists had more of a hand in this production than they have had in many many years (especially at Disney) and that it might take more than one picture for artists to fully shake those ugly corporate-speak, bean-counting bonds. Maybe the croc design was the product of one of those bean-counter give-and-takes?

    Fair enough, or am I wrong out of reckoning? 😉

  7. This is a bit off topic, but I would love to see Disney come out with a 2-D animated film in the style of the closing credits of “The Incredibles,” “Bolt,” and others they’ve toyed around with. It’s like they were using those credits as practice.

    “The Princess and the Frog” seems to be an advertisement to add another princess to their merchandising line-up.

  8. With few exceptions, I’ve been disappointed with Disney character design for the last 20 years. It seems to lack imagination for the most part. I’ll probably wait for this to come to DVD.

  9. The characters are suppose to burst into song that’s an old classic film the real Disney films not Pixar rubbish they made for a quick buck. The princess films are not generally for boys unless they like princess’ movies which normally they don’t my brother didn’t all them years ago. The crocs look the same because they are Disney World Crocodiles just like the Princess’ are drawn in same same style why because it’s Disney that’s why, they are drawn like Disney characters because it’s a DISNEY film. Watch Pixar if you want rubbish artistic work and terrible plots is all I can say.

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