Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Princess and The Frog

"Impress her with your rapier wit...shower her with compliments..."

A young woman who dreams of opening her own restaurant sees that dream dashed and resorts to an old story she'd heard as a little girl, only to find a less than fairytale result.

I'm 26 years-old, which means I was born at just the right time to be old enough, and yet young enough, to find these hand made Disney movies accessible while they were in their prime- which I see as 1989 through 1994. The Little Mermaid through The Lion King... though I may only call that their prime because that was my prime. Either way, this is the first one that's been made with me at an age where I'm thinking more about bringing my non-existent kids to see it than seeing it personally. I have to say it's an interesting perspective to have.
The Princess and the Frog is set in 1920's New Orleans (Given the extended production cycles on these "paper" animated movies that is really no surprise- Katrina hit in 2005) and I was very impressed with the fact that the dialects were not undone for the sake of child ears. There's always one character who's voice is thick with the accent of the setting, but usually their the only one; case and point Lumierre from Beauty and the Beast -we miss you Jerry Orbach. I wondered what they would change here, where the accents aren't necessarily that of non-English languages, and was happy to see the answer was nothing. Southern accents abound, there's even a creole character mixed in.
It is, of course, another set of interesting characters out to tell a great story and instill a moral with song and dance. The music for this movie was interesting to me as a musician because I found it to be very different than the other "Disney Princess" movies. The songs for these movies always seem to be developed with an ear on the music of the places their set in: Mulan uses Chinese instrumentation, The Lion King (which Watcher X tells me should not be compared to these other films because it isn't actually about a "Princess") has very prominent African melodies and percussion etc. But being set in Jazz-era New Orleans, the music from The Princess and the Frog follows suit. As such these songs are not quite as catchy as the others, but in turn are a bit more advanced musically.
Something else I noticed about this movie was that, the main character Tiana's best friend was a spoiled brat, but she wasn't evil. It used to be that spoiled characters were evil characters, or characters that had complete changes of heart. But this character was selfish, and yet still a human being. She saw that others had feelings; she was still a good friend. I just thought that was kind of interesting- really it's neither here nor there.
And before I rap this up there's one more thing I'd like to mention. Something I've always said about the movie The Patriot (for example) is that I appreciated it's honesty. In this movie, Benjamin Martin is a slave owner. Now of course they make him out to be the "good" kind of slave owner- but they don't hide the fact that that's what a man of his means, in that time and place, would almost assuredly be. The same thing applies here. This is 1920's New Orleans we're talking about here. While it's certainly not a major plot point, the makers of this film didn't simply pretend the racism didn't exist, and I think that's something worth pointing out. It is addressed; subtly and quickly (both good things) but addressed none the less.
So, there you have it. "This just, in Disney makes good movie, read all about it!" A surprise? No, but still a fact. The Princess and the Frog (a title which I completely butchered in the Coming Attractions! window) is another in a long line of quality kid friendly movies as far as I'm concerned. It takes a few departures from the brand to be sure, but in the end tells another sweet story that the whole family can enjoy; even if their imaginary.

Watcher X says: "Nothing you idiots. Watcher X is dead, he's locked up in my basement."

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