The Princess and the Frog

A quite charming amalgamation of Disney’s trope characters and situations which adds nothing new to their canon, but showcases classic 2D animation which has had a lot of effort put into it.

I spent the first five minutes cringing because… well, it’s New Orleans in the mid-1920s, but there’s no room for any unpleasant historical realities. For example, the heroine’s best friend*, a blonde socialite, would never be able to marry the black(ish) prince due to miscegenation laws still in effect in Louisiana at the time. There’s also no mention of, oh, segregation? Jim Crow laws? A US military which didn’t award black soldiers medals until WWII? Little things like that. It’s basically as dishonest as bowlderizing Huckleberry Finn to make it more palatable to a modern audience.

Anyway!

The Randy Newman songs are inoffensive cod-dixieland, if a bit relentless. The plot has to stop while the characters sing gooey songs of self-affirmation, and they subsequently spend a lot of time in the middle of the bayou while various species form chorus lines behind them. The prince (now turned into a frog) reflectively plucks away at a twig strung with a spiderweb, which would be within acceptable limits of twee – except three minutes later, during a musical number, he reaches up and plucks down another one! I can accept the concept of talking frogs, but I have to draw the line at multiple on-demand pre-tuned stringed instruments in the middle of a bloody swamp.

Will there ever be a straight Disney villain? The Shadow Man is a combination of Aladdin’s Jafar, Freddie Mercury and Baron Samedi from Live and Let Die. The usual voodoo cliches are trotted out, which allows for some interesting animation, but overall the most impressive feat of this film (apart from extending Disney’s Princess franchise) is to shoehorn its typical European fairytale wedding aesthetic into a rich but racially-tense and often shameful period of Southern American history. It only works if you’re completely ignorant of this, like most five-year old girls.

*The character animation for this particular character (Charlotte) is astonishingly good, like that of Ponyo, and demonstrates one of the totally positive things that Disney brings to the art of animation.
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