The last Disney Princess to be introduced was in the mid 90s. Soon after this time it started to feel like Disney had lost some of their magic. They started to put out a lot of rather average animated films and unoriginal, uninspiring sequels (The Little Mermaid II: Return to The Sea, Cinderella III: A Twist In Time, Beauty & The Beast: Belle's Magical World etc). A lot of adults had given up hope and most children had turned to CGI films. So when it was announced that Disney were going to release a new animated film and introduce a new princess in 2010 the world knew they needed to pull something special out the bag.
In February 2010 I took my daughter to see The Princess & The Frog at the cinema (we have since also purchased the DVD). I was left with one big question - who loved it more, me or my 4 year old!? The story, the characters, the animation, the songs - all spot on.
Let's start with the story. The story was so much different to what I expected - I expected to sit through 97 minutes of the popular fairytale 'The Frog Prince' (Princess kisses the frog and he turns into a handsome prince. The end) but boy, was I wrong! It wasn't a predictable storyline, even for adults, and had twists and turns all the way through. There was plenty of suspense, plenty of laughs and plenty of emotional scenes - the only way Disney know how!
The film includes 7 original songs. It had been a long time since I had seen a new Disney film (or any kids film for that matter, with the exception of Enchanted) with singing and dancing in it, so this was quite a treat. Many of the songs were a mixture of jazz, blues and zydeco and were really catchy (I saw more than a few toes tapping in the cinema!) - they really captured the mood of the film perfectly. There were also a couple of slow songs sung by Anika Noni Rose (the voice of Tiana, best known for her role in Dreamgirls) who has a beautiful voice and makes for easy listening.
All of the characters are likable from the moment they are introduced. My personal favourites include Louis the alligator (imagine a huge alligator with a big heart and a love of trumpet playing!), Ray the firefly (a hillbilly bug who's in love with a star!) and Mama Odie (an old blind lady that dabbles in voodoo and lives in a boat up a tree!). I also think Dr Facilier is one of the best Disney villians ever, everything is sinister about him - his looks, his walk, his talk and his connections with the dead. Yet this voodoo con man still manages to draw unsuspecting victims into his scams with an odd mix of charisma and manipulation.
Tiana is a lot different to earlier princesses such as Snow White and Aurora. She doesn't sit around in forests waiting for her prince to whisk her away - she's definitely a 21st century girl. Tiana is strong willed, hard working and determined, with good values and a heart of gold. She's a good role model for young girls. Prince Naveen on the other hand is spoilt, lazy and has never done a hard days work in his life. Sure he's handsome, fun loving and full of charm but he has no grasp of responsibilities and is somewhat shallow. It was good to see the relationship of these two opposites develop throughout the film.
The animation is brilliant and just how a proper Disney film should be. I don't have a problem with CGI as such but everybody knows that all Disney classics are in 2D hand drawn animation. Everything looks so unmistakably Disney.
The Princess & The Frog is classified as a U and is suitable for everybody to watch. There are a few spooky scenes featuring Dr Facilier but nothing scary enough to avoid the film.
The extras on the DVD are quite average and include audio commentary, deleted scenes (which are drawings rather than actual scenes from the film, along with lots of talking), a princess portrait game (where you have to guess which Disney princess the fireflys are making) and a Ne-Yo video for 'Never Knew I Needed' which is played over the end credits of the film (an unnecessary extra in my honest opinion).
Will this remembered as a Disney classic? Well only time will tell. But The Princess & The Frog has all the makings of a Disney classic so I can't see why not!