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The Princess and the Frog


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Jim Hill's latest report on this film -- formerly known as The Frog Princess, until some people took offense at that -- is a must-read.

Link to related threads on 'disney's song of the south (1946)', 'A Black Thing' and 'the end of traditional animation?'.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 9 months later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Interesting how all the films cited in the opening bit date to the "renaissance" between The Little Mermaid and The Lion King (i.e. between 1989 and 1994; the only film excluded from that era is The Rescuers Down Under).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Interesting how all the films cited in the opening bit date to the "renaissance" between The Little Mermaid and The Lion King (i.e. between 1989 and 1994; the only film excluded from that era is The Rescuers Down Under).

It's been a long time since I've seen it, but as a child, The Rescuers Down Under was a favourite of mine. I still like it a fair bit more than the original. It's different because it's the only one from the "renaissance" era that isn't a musical, but the animation was stellar for the time (IIRC there was some nicely used camera work in the opening and probably some CGI work for the scenes with the eagle flying, but I'm sure Peter can give me the details).

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Interesting how all the films cited in the opening bit date to the "renaissance" between The Little Mermaid and The Lion King (i.e. between 1989 and 1994; the only film excluded from that era is The Rescuers Down Under).

It's been a long time since I've seen it, but as a child, The Rescuers Down Under was a favourite of mine. I still like it a fair bit more than the original. It's different because it's the only one from the "renaissance" era that isn't a musical, but the animation was stellar for the time (IIRC there was some nicely used camera work in the opening and probably some CGI work for the scenes with the eagle flying, but I'm sure Peter can give me the details).

It's also different because it's not a "prince/princess" movie. My friends, especially female, who are big Disney fans always refer to that period in terms of the prince/princess motif, and say that that this is really the main quality that attracts them to these movies. I think that this is a big way that Disney is trying to reconnect with that period, as I feel like the last Disney movie that followed this template was Tarzan back in 1999 (the Emperor's New Groove is about a prince, but there is no princess in that one I don't think...)

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Anders wrote:

: It's been a long time since I've seen it, but as a child, The Rescuers Down Under was a favourite of mine. I still like it a fair bit more than the original.

FWIW, I'm definitely more a fan of the original. But to each his own. (No doubt the age difference is a factor here, too; I might very well have been about the same age when the first film came out that you were when the second film came out!)

: . . . the animation was stellar for the time (IIRC there was some nicely used camera work in the opening and probably some CGI work for the scenes with the eagle flying, but I'm sure Peter can give me the details).

I believe the cityscape (the Sydney Opera House) is CGI, or at least based on a CGI framework, and so is the villain's tractor.

This was not quite the first use of CGI in a Disney cartoon, but it's up there: four years earlier, The Great Mouse Detective used CGI for the climactic sequence inside the gears of Big Ben, and since then, Oliver & Company and The Little Mermaid had used CGI for background elements as the camera moved down staircases, or as boats crashed through the waves, etc. But in all those cases, I think they still had to hand-trace or hand-colour the computer-generated elements. The big breakthrough, I think, was the ballroom sequence in Beauty and the Beast (one year after The Rescuers Down Under), and then Aladdin went even further with the magic carpet, which was hand-drawn but had a CG pattern that followed the contours of the carpet as it twisted and turned. But this is all from memory, so take it with the usual grains of salt.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I just came across another article that said this film will feature "Disney's first African-American princess", or some such thing. But it occurred to me: Wouldn't it be just as accurate to say that this film features Disney's first American princess, period?

Isn't the whole "fairy-tale princess" thing an essentially European tradition?

Yes, yes, Disney and other Hollywood studios that have milked this tradition are basically American, but the characters within these stories have still basically lived and moved and had their being in an essentially European milieu. And a pre-20th-century milieu, at that. (Which is not to say that these films have been sticklers for cultural correctness, per se: the Blu-Ray for Pinocchio, for example, draws our attention to the way this film mixes German and Italian elements, etc. And yes, I know Pinocchio is not a "princess" movie. I just cite it as the first example of the Euro-Disney aesthetic.)

Okay, I just checked the Disney Princess website, and it seems they're including Mulan and Pocahontas in their "princess" line-up as well. It's been years since I saw Mulan, but I don't believe she was royalty -- so it looks like they're just casually calling any female heroine of theirs a "princess". As for Pocahontas, hmm, well, she IS the chief's daughter, so there's some sort of parallel there, at least. (And if we count the chief and his family as "royalty", then obviously, Pocahontas would count as an "American princess".)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Jim Hill on the latest promotional efforts.

Note to SDG: It seems that the film will give some prominence to BOTH of the main character's parents. It might be interesting to see how this ties in to the theme you've explored elsewhere, re: the depiction of parents in Disney films.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Interesting how all the films cited in the opening bit date to the "renaissance" between The Little Mermaid and The Lion King (i.e. between 1989 and 1994; the only film excluded from that era is The Rescuers Down Under).

Come to that, I'm wondering why the trailer begins by saying that this film is coming out "after 75 years of magic". I am wondering this for two reasons:

  • First, because, as I noted earlier, all of the earlier films glimpsed in the trailer date to a 5-year range that began only 20 years ago.
  • Second, and more importantly, because 2009 minus 75 takes us to 1934 ... and what was so special about the year 1934?
The Walt Disney company as we know it began with the first Mickey Mouse cartoons in 1928 (though Disney had earlier produced the Alice and Oswald shorts going back to 1923). Disney produced the first Technicolor cartoon, Flowers and Trees, in 1932. And they had one of their first major hit songs when Three Little Pigs came out in 1933. This is all BEFORE the 75-years-of-magic starting point. And Disney did not produce its first feature-length film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, until 1937 ... three years AFTER the 75-years-of-magic starting point.

So again I ask, what's so special about 1934?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Ah, of course. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came out in 1937, but it took three years to make that film -- and Wikipedia indicates that the branch of the company known as Walt Disney Feature Animation (re-named Walt Disney Animation Studios two years ago) was officially founded in 1934. Mystery solved.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Cartoon Brew has an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip, on the development of the film's villain (voiced by Keith David, who used to be one of Mister Rogers Neighborhood's supporting characters before he started popping up in films like Platoon and Requiem for a Dream, etc.).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Yes, yes, Disney and other Hollywood studios that have milked this tradition are basically American, but the characters within these stories have still basically lived and moved and had their being in an essentially European milieu.

Giselle?

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Lance McLain wrote:

: : Yes, yes, Disney and other Hollywood studios that have milked this tradition are basically American, but the characters within these stories have still basically lived and moved and had their being in an essentially European milieu.

:

: Giselle?

Well, as Wikipedia notes, Giselle is "a composite of other Disney Princesses (despite not actually being a princess herself) with her most prominent features coinciding with Snow White, as she was given a poisonous apple. Physically she resembles Ariel, Cinderella and Aurora." So she's still basically based on the European template.

Granted, Giselle does come to America over the course of that film. But America is positively alien to her -- that's the whole premise. It's a fish-out-of-water story, and in this case, the water that this fish is used to is essentially European water.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Granted, Giselle does come to America over the course of that film. But America is positively alien to her -- that's the whole premise. It's a fish-out-of-water story, and in this case, the water that this fish is used to is essentially European water.

But she does *become* American. That is a significant change for the main character to have. She even opens up her own business...how American!

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Lance McLain wrote:

: But she does *become* American.

And in the course of doing so, ceases to be a potential princess -- whereas Prince Charming returns to his quasi-European milieu and takes an American woman with him who is eager to adopt the quasi-European princess persona. So the animated fairy-tale world remains pretty solidly non-American, as milieus go.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Lance McLain wrote:

: But she does *become* American.

And in the course of doing so, ceases to be a potential princess -- whereas Prince Charming returns to his quasi-European milieu and takes an American woman with him who is eager to adopt the quasi-European princess persona. So the animated fairy-tale world remains pretty solidly non-American, as milieus go.

UNCLE!

:o

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  • 1 month later...

The movie's first five minutes, with a few shots not quite complete:

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8N-kIiELUA

Kirk Honeycutt @ Hollywood Reporter:

The narrative behind "The Princess and the Frog" is that Walt Disney Animation has rediscovered its traditional hand-drawn animation, which has been supplanted by computer-generated cartoons. But this misses the point about what allowed Pixar -- which Disney now owns -- DreamWorks and other CG-animation companies to upstage the one-time king of the animation world. It's a thing called story.

So "Princess and the Frog" really marks Disney's rediscovery of a strong narrative loaded with vibrant characters and mind-bending, hilarious situations. Under the direction of veterans Ron Clements and John Musker (the team behind "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin") and the watchful eye of Pixar guru John Lasseter, now chief creative officer of Disney Animation, "Princess and the Frog" celebrates old and new: It's a musical fairy tale that dates back to the days when Walt Disney was a person, not a brand. Yet it deftly mingles with the new sensibilities in animation where fairy tales must get fractured, settings must be fresh and humor pitched to many age levels.

Check, check and double check.

This is the best Disney animated film in years. Audiences -- who don't care whether it's cel animation, CGI, stop motion, claymation or motion capture as long as it's a good story -- will respond in large numbers. A joyous holiday season is about to begin for Disney. . . .

Justin Chang @ Variety:

Disney goes back to the drawing board with results more diverting than captivating in "The Princess and the Frog." Conspicuously outfitted with an African-American heroine and a vibrant 1920s New Orleans setting, this cheeky update of a classic fairy tale boasts almost as many talking points as merchandising opportunities, and should enjoy jazzy holiday biz starting with its Thanksgiving weekend bicoastal engagement and extending well past its Dec. 11 wide release. But whatever it accomplishes for Disney's reputation or bottom line, this long-anticipated throwback to a venerable house style never comes within kissing distance of the studio's former glory. . . .

Unlike most tales of its type, in which the heroine spends the whole movie in pursuit of Prince Charming, "The Princess and the Frog" follows the modern romantic-comedy template, granting its amphibious duo plenty of shared screen time and making them polar opposites -- he's cocky and lazy, she's uptight and bossy -- who initially can't stand each other. . . .

Making less of an impression are Randy Newman's score and songs, which, though they encompass an impressive range of Southern musical styles, won't have kids or their parents humming on their way out of the theater. . . .

Yeah, Randy Newman's songs have always been one of the weakest parts of the early Pixar films, for me.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Drew McWeeny has some interesting words, especially this one:

... a word that I'd use to describe most of the major creative choices made on the film: nuance. The classic Disney archetypes are represented in the supporting cast, but given new and subtle spins, and none moreso than the Princess itself. Tiana, as voiced by Anika Noni Rose, is one of the most appealing role models of any Disney Princess, and Prince Naveen, voiced by Bruno Campos, has way more to do than most of the traditional Princes in Disney's past.

It's only fair if I'm going to talk about my problems with the way Bella Swan is written in the "Twilight" films, and specifically my concerns about her as a role model, that I also look at how I think this film approaches its responsibility to the younger viewers who are going to see it. The reason it's more important to do this with girl-themed films is precisely because of the way the media talks to girls overall. The media sends very different gender messages, and little boys are serviced in totally different ways than little girls. I am troubled by the way little boys are fed messages about violence and its consequences just as much as I'm troubled by the way little girls are indoctrinated to their roles as secondary people, defined entirely by their men. And when you add the potential complication of dealing with race in a more direct way than Disney's used to... well, you see what I mean about pressure.

"The Princess and The Frog" pretty much nails it in terms of both gender politics and race, and it does it casually, without making any of it central to what you're watching.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Yikes. Annie Frisbie's not very happy with this film, and she details quite a few reasons why in her CT review.

At least one of her complaints are misplaced. The voodoo villain, Shadowman, may remind her of a pimp, but to the best of my knowledge, his appearance isn't pimp-based. It's based off of the archetype of the voodoo-practicing doctor. For another example of this archetype appearing in popular culture, look no further than the Bond film LIVE AND LET DIE, where the voodoo villain Baron Samedi sports a very similar look (incidentally, it's the only Bond film where the supernatural is given any foothold in the story). So while she may want to complain about the character, it would do better not to associate him with her "whitewashed New Orleans" critique and more with her critique of the way voodoo is used in the film.

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Yikes. Annie Frisbie's not very happy with this film, and she details quite a few reasons why in her CT review.

Wow. It's a film in which voodoo is a central element, so I was expecting some blowback. I just didn't think CT would sound so much like Movieguide:

In a production number that evokes gospel music but with Jesus neatly stripped away, Mama Odie offers up a defiantly American church of the self. Just "dig a little deeper" inside yourself and you'll find what you need to achieve all of your dreams. Sure, there's magic, but it only shows up once you've done everything in your power to get what you desire. Her message is the epitome of works-righteousness, where the only counter to the forces of evil is the good inside the human heart.

Sure, this is the message of just about every family film that has come down the pike since the dawn of cinema. But to see it presented in a context that evokes the style of Christianity, Mama Odie's song serves as a stark reminder as to how the American values of self-reliance diverge from the Christian message of humble submission to external grace. Just because something looks and sounds beautiful doesn't make it gospel.

Is she saying that the movie shouldn't have a gospel-style musical number without lyrics that explicitly acknowledge the true gospel? Sounds like it.

This movie starts slow, but once the Prince appears as a frog on the balcony and starts talking to Tianna, it starts to burst with energy. It's completely winning. My first impression of the music was highly favorable, much better than most Disney songs of recent vintage. And the interplay of dark and light, good and evil, is visually accomplished, quite frightening in the Disney tradition I remember. I'm high on the film. The sidekick characters made me smile, and I laughed out loud at least 20 times (felt like that, anyway). I'm completely sold on it. I think I liked it more than any latter-day, post-revival Disney film (beginning with The Little Mermaid).

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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