The Princess And The Frog (2009)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 12/19/09
Cast: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Oprah Winfrey, John Goodman, Jennifer Cody

A superb return to form for Disney Animation Studios as they add another princess to their portfolio. This re-imagining of "The Frog Prince" takes place in 1930's New Orleans, where an ambitious young woman named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) is working hard to fulfill her dream of opening her own restaurant. When the rich and spoiled Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) comes to town, he falls victim to a voodoo shadow man named Dr. Facilier (deliciously wicked Keith David) and is transformed into a frog. A talking and dancing frog, but a frog nonetheless. Random chance brings Tiana and the frog prince together with unexpected results, and the majority of the film focuses on their blossoming love and their efforts to bring things back to normal. Of course it has a happy and romantic ending - for the title characters, that is.

First of all, the film is absolutely GORGEOUS. I think this may be the first hand drawn Disney animated feature since the ill-received "Treasure Planet" (2002), and it's refreshing to see such amazing craftsmanship once again. The 2D and 3D art blends together seamlessly and looks fantastic. Not surprisingly, the film doesn't take any risks, and rigidly adheres to the classic Disney musical romance formula. The character design is excellent and Tiana is appropriately beautiful, vibrant, and cheerful. All of the characters have charm and warmth, and it's delightful to see that EVERYONE in the film is always smiling and happy, regardless of what their situation is. Despite the physical barriers of race and class, almost everyone is helpful and friendly towards each other. Nowhere is this more evident than in Charlotte's astonishing act of self sacrifice, proving that even though she's a spoiled brat, friendships are more important than romance, fame, and self gain. Definitely a feel-good film with lots of old school Hollywood charm. The musical numbers are energetic, elegant, colorful, and stylistically reminiscent of "The Little Mermaid" (1989) and "Aladdin" (1993). While the film focuses primarily on the fairy tale princess demographic of young girls, it also has its fair share of action scenes, creepy villains, and spooky imagery. Great stuff. It's also interesting to note that a lot of the animation work was handled by foreign partner studios, which is probably the only way that Disney could afford to get back into the animation business. Thankfully, they didn't cut any corners on quality, and I'm looking forward to seeing where DAS decides to go next.