Disney Reviews the Unshaved Mouse #49: The Princess and the Frog

 

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God I hate when this happens.
See, here’s the thing. I already knew what I was going to say about Princess and the Frog months ago. I had my arguments prepared, I’d done my research, the only thing remaining to do was to sit down and watch it again before actually writing the review. And then, of course, my opinion of the movie changed pretty substantially and now I’m back to square one. Alright, a lot of you have been asking me my opinion on the Princess and the Frog, and until very, very recently it was this:
Don’t like it. Hugely disappointing. Major flaws. Disney screwed the pooch. To get traditional animation back in contention they needed a perfect ten and we got a five. Mouse not happy.
But then…yeah, I watched it again and it’s safe to say that my opinion has mellowed quite a bit. Not totally. The problems I thought were there are still there. What problems you ask? Three are the problems, and the number of the problems is three.
  1. Tiana
You know, given Disney’s sterling record of diversity it’s kind of amazing that it’s taken this long for us to have an African American princess.
"Ha! Good one!"

“Ha! Good one!”

I’m actually not being sarcastic. Think about it, since Little Mermaid in 1987, of the seventeen canon movies featuring humans we’ve had Arab protaganoists, Asian protagonists, Native American protagonists, gypsy protagonists, Hawaiian protagonists, Mayan protagonists and even that most reviled and loathed of all minorities…
belle-and-the-beast-in-beauty-and-the-beast-disney-couples-25378817-1280-720

The French.

So, why has it taken them this long? Well, seeing as you’re on the internet you probably aren’t aware of this, but race can be something of a sticky wicket. By which I mean, Disney knew that if they fucked up on this they would be eaten alive so it’s probably not surprising that they took this one nice and slow. And, in my opinion at least, they succeeded. There is nothing problematic about the character of Tiana. She is as positive and progressive a depiction of an African American woman as you could hope to find. On a possibly not unrelated note, she is also really, really, really, really, really boring. Who do I blame for that? The writers? The animators? Voice actor Anika Noni Rose? No. At the risk of being unpopular, I place the blame solely on…
You
Yes you, people on the internet.
This movie came under an insane amount of scrutiny long, long, before it was even released, with Disney making many changes in response to every new backlash and charge of racism. Now, some of the criticism may have been fair, but honestly some of it just strikes me as petty. For example, the heroine’s name was originally “Maddy” which was changed to Tiana because “Maddy” rhymes with “Mammy”. So, yeah, I know right? Wasn’t that a bullet narrowly dodged? Now I, for one, was unaware that names that happen coincidentally to rhyme with racist slurs are racist by association but I’ll certainly keep that in mind in fut…OH MY GOD!!!
GET HIM THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!!!!

GET HIM THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!!!!

So, it’s understandable that the script for this thing feels like it was written by someone walking on eggshells. And yes, obviously writers have to treat the issue of race carefully and with sensitivity, but I think a certain degree of good faith is required on behalf of the audience as well. It’s just the problem with living in a world where any blowhard can get on his virtual soap box and complain about a movie that hasn’t even been released yet and why are you all looking at me like that? But there is another problem with Tiana that goes beyond all of that. Alright, the simplest, most basic story you can tell goes like this. Character A (the protagonist), wants something, and we want to see him get that thing. Character B (the antagonist) wants something that is mutually exclusive to what character A wants, and we don’t want to see him get that. The characters struggle against each other, and from this we get conflict, drama and finally resolution. Now, you can alter and flip and rearrange and deconstruct or just flat out ignore this model in literally an infinite number of different ways but most of the time that’s what it boils down to. The central conflict is the heart of the story. And Tiana exists almost entirely outside the central conflict. She’s essentially an onlooker in her own story. The conflict is between Naveen and Facilier. You could conceivably have a movie just about those two. What is the relationship between Tiana and Facilier? What’s the personal stake? As the old lady once said, where’s the beef?
  1. The Script
Not bad, but really needed to be funnier. And from Clements and Musker we had a right to expect better.
  1. Randy Goddamn Newman
Fine in small doses, don’t get me wrong. But to write a musical you need versatility almost as much as you need raw songwriting talent. Your songs need to be versatile enough to convey an entire emotional spectrum and Newman just can’t do that. There’s an unmistakeable saminess to his songs that make them less emotional beats in the story set to music, and more mere musical intervals (with the exception of Friends on the Other Side, which is awesome.) This is the single biggest problem with the movie in my opinion. There’s enough good in the rest of the movie that a Howard Ashman or Sherman Brothers or Kristen Anderson Lopez could have lifted this up to the realm of the all-time greats.
Well okay, enough about what they got wrong. Let’s take a look at what they got right.

***
Okay, so the movie begins with a young Tiana and her friend Lottie listening to Tiana’s mother tell them the story of the Princess and the Frog.
Lottie and Tiana
Now I’ve already mentioned that I don’t find Tiana to be a particularly interesting character. Lottie though? I could write a frickin’ dissertation on Lottie. Lottie is basically Disney creating an avatar of all the little girls who have been raised on their movies since the thirties, looking at her and saying “Oh Jesus Christ what have we done?”
She is essentially the pink aisle made manifest, constantly begging her indulgent father for more dresses, puppies, parties, whatever and her dream in life is to marry a prince. She is very obviously supposed to be a stand in for pretty much every pre-Renaissance Disney princess which is why I find the way the movie depicts her to be absolutely fascinating. The movie is obviously trying to contrast Lottie and Tiana as Old Disney versus New Disney. Lottie wishes on a star for a prince to come and marry her, and while Tiana wishes too, her father tells her that wishing will only get you so far and that you have to work hard for what you want. Tiana takes this very much to heart and makes this outlook her own, and the movie is clearly trying to show that this is a better philsophy for living than Lottie’s. And yet, the movie makes very clear that while Lottie might be a little bit spoiled and misguided, she’s not a bad person. In fact, she is a very, very good person. There’s a scene later in the movie where Lottie has hired Tiana to cook some pastries for a party that she’s throwing with the hope of snagging Prince Naveen’s hand in marriage (aka her entire reason for existing). Tiana ends up getting pushed against the table, causing the pastries to go everywhere and I was so sure that the movie was going to have Lottie arrive and throw a big “How could you do this to me!? You ruined the most important night of my life?! WAAAAAAH” tantrum but instead Lottie is concerned about her, helps Tiana up, asks if she’s alright, lends her a gorgeous ball gown to wear and basically acts like a true friend. Lottie, for me, is Disney coming to terms with its own past. Those movies weren’t bad, and there’s nothing wrong with you for liking them. They were essentially decent with their heart in the right place, they were just wrong on a few things. Lottie’s father, Eli “Big Daddy” La Bouff (John Goodman) arrives and orders another dress off Tiana’s mother Eudora (Oprah Winfrey) and then Eudora and Tiana head home through the New Orleans night.
New Orleans
No words...should have sent a poet...

No words…should have sent a poet…

 So yeah, this is a gorgeous movie. Clements and Musker have said that the visual style they were going for was Lady and the Trampwith all those soft curves and rich lush colours and I can absolutely see that. It’s just beautiful.
They go home and Tiana and her father James (Terrence Howard) cook some gumbo together that turns out so well that they end up sharing it with the whole neighbourhood. It’s kind of a pity that we only get this one scene between James and Tiana because their relationship is pretty crucial to her motivation. Also, because this is a movie with a black man who’s a loving father and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more movies with DINOSAURS than have shown that.
The movie jumps ahead and Tiana has grown up and James has died offscreen in the first world war. Tiana is determined to fulfill his dream of owning a restaurant and has been working two jobs to save up the money to buy a building (as opposed to modern times, when Americans work two jobs to afford milk.)  We now get our first song, Down in New Orleans written by Randy Newman and performed by Dr. John.
JD

No.

No.

No.

There we go.

There we go.

Look, none of the songs in this are bad taken in a vacuum, but neither are they spectacular and they’re almost all very, very samey. Down in New Orleans is one of the better ones though, and it does a good job of introducing us to most of the main players. Apart from TianaBig Daddy and Lottie we also see Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) and his manservant Lawrence (Peter Bartlett) arrive in the Big Easy. We also see our villain, Doctor Facilier (Keith Motherfucking David), a voodoo witch doctor who’s introduced to us selling a potion to a bald man that causes him to grow hair. Everywhere.

Oh how awful. If only there was a a device that could remove hair from a mans face.

Oh how awful. If only there was a a device that could remove hair from a man’s face.

Alright, so Lottie and Big Daddy drop by the restaurant where Tiana is waitressing and tell her that Prince Naveen is going to be attending a party at their place and that Lottie wants around a thousand beignets (Ah Google. Faithful, stalwart Google.) to drug him into a sugar coma so that he can’t escape. Lottie throws a wad of cash at Tiana to cover the cost and this finally gives Tiana enough money to buy the restaurant so ‘sall good.

This takes us into Almost There, where Tiana and Eudora fix up the mill that’s going to be her restaurant. Eudora wants Tiana to find a man and start with the baby making, while Tiana wants to focus on work. The song was nominated for the Academy award (so you know it’s good) and again, it’s fine. Although I will say Anika Noni Rose has an absolutely beautiful voice and the fantasy sequence where Tiana is strutting through her restaurant is done in a gorgeous Art Deco style.

No one has nostrils. Thats how you know its Art Deco.

No one has nostrils.
That’s how you know it’s Art Deco.

Meanwhile Naveen and Lawrence are schlepping about New Orleans and we learn that while he may be a prince, Naveen is flat broke and is actually in America hoping to find a wealthy heiress to marry. They then get waylaid by Doctor Facilier and…umph…

You know how much I love good villain designs, right? The good doctor is a mashup of Cruella DeVille, Captain Hook, Baron Samedi and a little bit of Michael Jackson all topped off with a typically awesome vocal performance by Keith David. Facilier lures the gullible Naveen into his magic shop despite Lawrence trying to warn the prince that Facilier is clearly bad news (I mean, look at that character design!) and that pisses off Facilier no end.

"Sorry. Perhaps I wasnt clear. Im Keith Motherfucking David."

“Sorry. Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I’m Keith Motherfucking David.”

 This leads us into Friends on the Other Side, hands down the best song in this film and, if you can believe it, the first villain song in the canon since frickin’ Hellfire. In the song, Facilier reads Naveen’s tarot, seeing that he needs to get married but that he doesn’t want to, and that he wants to “hop from place to place” and that he “needs the green”. Much as I love this song, and the imagery and David’ performance, I do have a problem with this scenario. See, this is clearly being set up as a Faustian bargain, Facilier is offering to turn Naveen into a frog, but couched in language to make it seem like he’s offering him financial independence. The problem with this Faustian bargain is…Naveen never accepts. Oh sure, he looks intrigued, but he never actually signs on the dotted line or even says “yes” or nods. Facilier just asks him to shake his hand and then POOF! The whole point of a Faustian bargain is that the person making the bargain has to enter into it of his own free will. Essentially, a Faustian bargain happens like this; A demon offers a mark something that he wants, power, money, knowledge, love, immortality, choose your poison. The mark is blinded by his own avarice and accepts the deal and while the demon may couch his offer in misleading language, he can never flat out lie about the terms of the deal. From here, we basically have three possible resolutions:

1) The mark simply loses their soul, end of story (Faust, for example). Most of the older Faustian stories end like this, the intended moral being: if you’re planning on selling your soul to the devil just fucking don’t.

2) The mark temporarily loses their soul, but the demon gets greedy and accepts a second offer and ends up biting off more than they can chew. Ariel is a good example of this. Ursula is able to claim her after she fails to kiss Eric on the third day and if she had just quit then she could have kept her forever and Triton wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it. But then, she trades Ariel’s freedom for Triton’s and we all know how that ended.

"Oh ship!"

“Oh ship!”

3) The mark is able to trick the demon into being released from the terms of their deal through their own quick wits and escapes, hopefully now wiser to their own flaws that led to them accepting the deal in the first place. Irish folklore, where the devil is usually more of a trickster and less of an all powerful avatar of evil, has a lot of these kinds of stories. Like, a man wishes for a chair that will trap anyone who sits there forever unless the man says a magic word. Then the devil shows up to collect his soul and the man says “Sure, I’ll be with you in  a minute, just take a seat.” That kind of thing.

What happens with Facilier and Naveen though is not any of these. Naveen isn’t turned into a frog because of his own greed or some other flaw. He’s just mugged!

Later at the party, Naveen shows up and begins dancing with an ecstatic Lottie while Tiana is told by the realtors she bought the building from that someone else has made a better offer and that unless she can meet it in three days she won’t get the restaurant. One of the realtors tells her that someone of “your background” is better off where she is. This is in fact the only reference to race that actually appears in this movie. I’ve gone back and forth on this. On the one hand, this movie takes place during what is known as “the nadir”, the post civil war period when race relations in America were as bad as they ever got. Now, hand on my heart, I don’t actually think a Disney movie should aim for an accurate depiction of what life would have been like for an African American woman living in that period because frankly I want my daughter to be able to sleep at night. On the other hand, if you have a Disney movie set during an extremely racist period of American history that makes absolutely no reference to that and tries to pretend that relations between blacks and whites were just tickedy boo…well, we’ve already seen that movie, haven’t we? So this line is hugely important because it’s the movie’s way of at least acknowledging this issue even if it can’t be the movie that actually addresses it given the limitations of an animated movie made for children. So then we get the bit with Tiana knocking over the table and Lottie loaning her the dress and oh my God this is a gorgeous movie.

I mean LOOK at this.

I mean LOOK at this.

 Tiana goes out on the balcony and sings a sad reprise of Almost There. Out of options, she makes a wish on a star and looks down to see a frog giving her the eye.

"Hello my baby. Hello my honey."

“Hello my baby. Hello my honey.”

She sarcastically asks the frog if he wants a kiss and he says “Well, if you’re offering?” and Tiana freaks out. The frog explains that he’s actually Naveen and Tiana asks that if he’s Naveen then who’s dancing with Lottie downstairs? Naveen can’t answer that but when he sees the storybook of the Princess and the Frog he hits on the idea of Tiana kissing him to turn him back. Tiana, however, absolutely refuses, saying that she doesn’t kiss cold blooded, aquatic animals.
"Oh I'm sorry Tiana, is it lonely up there on YOUR PEDASTAL!?"

“Oh I’m sorry Tiana, is it lonely up there on YOUR PEDASTAL!?”

Naveen says that as well as being handsome he’s fabulously wealthy and that if she kisses him he can definitely make it worth her while and helloooooooooo awful, awful subtext! Tiana finally agrees (Sweetie, no. I know the money makes it feel like it’s worth it but it’ll never be enough and before you know it you’re pleasuring the entire Costa Rican football team for just one cube of Gouda and damn it I’m not on trial here!!!) but instead of changing Naveen into a human, the spell transforms Tiana into a frog.

Tiana and Naveen end up getting knocked out of a window and into the party. They cause a ruckus and the two frogs end up riding a bunch of party balloons out into the swamp while a furious Doctor Facilier looks on. Facilier confronts “Naveen”, who is actually Lawrence in disguise, wearing a charm filled with Naveen’s blood to make him look like the prince. Facililer, you see, is using Lawrence to pose as Naveen and marry Lottie, thus gaining access to the La Bouff family fortune (After which they presumably throw Papa in Law and the Little Woman. Off. A cliff.)
"Wait just a damn minute!"

“Wait just a damn minute!”

Sigh. What is it Nit?

"Why does Facilier need Lawrence? Why doesn't he just impersonate Naveen himself?"

“Why does Facilier need Lawrence? Why doesn’t he just impersonate Naveen himself?”

Good question. Doctor?

"Fun fact about voodoo. Can't conjure a thing for myself."

“Fun fact about voodoo. Can’t conjure a thing for myself.”

"Well...okay. But Im watching you!"

“Well…okay. But I’m watching you!”

So we now get a scene between Naveen and Tiana in the swamp where he tells her about Facilier and she scolds him for “messin’ with the Shadow Man.” And again…not really! He shook his hand when he offered! That’s less “consorting with demonic powers” and more “just being polite”. Tiana reveals that she’s not actually a princess and Naveen is furious, saying that of course the spell wouldn’t break if he kissed “just a waitress”. He then reveals that he was never going to pay her because he’s flat broke and that’s why we get money up front, Tiana, always get money up front. Rule 1.
They get attacked by some big lipped alligators, which is to be expected in a swamp and is not in the least incongruous with the rest of the story. Tiana saves Naveen’s life after he promises that once he marries Lottie he’ll give her the money for her restaurant. Hmm…so I guess the moral of the story is “When you wish upon a star, exert leverage to extort what you need.”
I’ve heard worse. They hide inside a tree and Naveen tries to get handsy and Tiana says “Get your slimy hands off me!” to which Naveen responds “It’s not slime! It’s mucus!”
The next day, Tiana builds a raft and they make for home. While Tiana rows, Naveen makes himself a banjo out of some twigs and starts playing, which attracts the attention of Louis (Michael Leon Wooley), a jazz loving alligator with a trumpet who dreams of playing in front of human audience. Louis and Naveen hit it off instantly and Tiana explains that they’re actually humans who’ve been transformed by voodoo. Louis tells them about Mada Odie, a voodoo priestess who lives deep in the darkest part of the bayou. Louis at first refuses to take them because it’s too dangerous, but Naveen subtly plants the idea that she could give him the brain he’s always wanted transform him into a human so that he could play jazz on the riverboats and he tags along. This brings us to When I’m a Human Being, where Louis, Tiana and Naveen all sing about what they’re going to do when they’re human again/for the first time. It’s not a great song, frankly, in fact Randy Newman is straining so hard for rhymes in this one I’m kinda worried he’ll pull something. The animation is fuckin’ smurges though.
Meanwhile Naveen/Lawrence is courting Lottie. It’s going swimmingly until suddenly the blood charm stops working and “Naveen” starts transforming into a fat old bald man which unfortunately happens to all of us but not this quickly, usually.  With some quick thinking he manages to propose to Lottie before she realises what’s up and she runs off excitedly saying they’ll be married on Mardi Gras. Lawrence, now completely transformed back, asks Facilier what they’re going to do and the Shadow Man says that he’s going to have to ask for help from his friends on the other side (he’s got friends on the other siiiiiiiide.)
Meanwhile, in the swamp, an attempt at catching flies ends up with Naveen and Tiana literally tongue tied.
Aw...its like the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp. Only, yknow, gross.

Aw…it’s like the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp. Only, y’know, gross.

Louis runs off to fetch a stick to pry them loose and the two frogs are discovered by Raymond, a firefly voiced by Jim Cummings who’s probably the most popular character in this thing outside of Facilier and with good reason. Jim Cummings is having a blast here, and is apparently on record as saying that Ray is one of his favourite characters to play. Which is saying a lot when you consider his filmography borders on the Welkerian. Ray frees the two frogs and Naveen quizzes him on his accent, and Ray explains that he’s a Cajun.
Ah.
Right. So he’s descended from the French fireflies who were expelled from Canada by the British fireflies and ended up settling in Louisiana…
Wait, what?
"Ne jamais oublier l'expulsion!"

“Ne jamais oublier l’expulsion!”

Ray tells them that Louis’ been taking them in the wrong direction and sets them on the right path to Mama Odie’s. Ray also talks about his girlfriend, Evangeline, who he’s madly in love with. They reach a thorn bush and Naveen and Tiana go on ahead. Louis, however, gets pricked by a thorn and freaks out while Ray makes the exact same expression I did when I wrote a post saying that Ireland was a great place to live and that one guy said I deserved the death penalty.
Seriously Alright, so after a run it with some hunters that’s pretty funny but basically filler, Tiana cooks some gumbo for the gang (while giving Naveen a long overdue cooking lesson) and then Ray suddenly says “There she is! The sweetest firefly in all creation!” and Tiana, Naveen and Louis all clamour to get a look at Evangeline…who it turns out is actually the evening star who Ray believes is just an unusually shy firefly. Ray then sings Ma Belle Evangeline, a pretty sweet love song to his beloved, who just happens to be a giant ball of gas burning billions of miles away.
"Im gonna tell him." "Dont you dare!"

“I’m gonna tell him.”
“Don’t you dare!”

Naveen teaches Tiana how to dance, which she’s never done before, and it’s clear that they’re growing closer, but then they get attacked by shadow demons that Facilier has called on to find Naveen. Naveen almost gets dragged away but he’s rescued by the timely arrival of Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis). Mama gives them a big song and dance number called Dig a Little Deeper, explaining to Naveen that no one cares how rich he is and that it doesn’t matter.  It’s kind of dull, so instead watch It Doesn’t Matter with Wyclef Jean and the Rock. It’s basically the same thing.

Mama Odie finishes by telling them that they need to figure out what they really need as opposed to what they want, and tells them that the only way to reverse the spell is for Naveen to kiss Lottie (since her father is the king of Mardi Gras that makes her technically a princess. Sort of. If you squint.) Wait a minute, so kissing Lottie will turn Naveen back, but how is Tiana supposed to become human again…
Oh.
Nice
Seeing as they don’t have much time, Louis suggests that they hitch a ride on a riverboat. As it’s Mardi Gras, everyone’s in costume meaning that Louis finally gets to play jazz. Naveen has realised that he’s in love with Tiana, and treats her to a romantic dinner. Naveen is just about to propose to Tiana, when the boat passes the mill and she starts talking about how she’s going to finally realise her dream as long as he makes good on his promise to get her the money once he marries Lottie. Crestfallen, Naveen puts the ring away and decides that the only honorable thing to do is to marry a woman he doesn’t love so that he can give his new wife’s fortune to the girl he has the hots for.
And they say chivalry is dead.

And they say chivalry is dead.

The boat weighs anchor andNaveen goes toround up Ray and Louis. Tiana, who is now falling in love withNaveen, sorrowfully looks up to the night sky and asks Evangeline for advice.

"Hmmmm...have you tried converting hydrogen into helium over the course of several billion years?"

“Hmmmm…have you tried converting hydrogen into helium over the course of several billion years?”

Raymond lets slip to Tiana that Naveen wants to propose and she’s overjoyed, but starts to worry when she can’t find him on the boat. Naveen has actually been snatched by Facilier’s shadows who bring him to the good doctor who then extracts his blood to power Lawrence’s talisman.

Tiana, Ray and Louis search the Mardi Gras parade looking for Naveen which is already in full swing complete with stilt-walkers and floats.
Hi Triton!

Hi Triton!

But then Tiana sees “Naveen” marrying Lottie on the float and runs off heartbroken to the cemetery. Ray tries to comfort her, saying that Evangeline always says…but Tiana cuts him off, saying that Evangeline is “Just a star, Ray! A big ball of hot air a million miles away!”

Shit just got real
Ray goes back to the float and sees that the real Naveen is still a frog and has been locked in a box and forced to watch as Lawrence marries Lottie in his body (it ain’t easy being green). Ray busts him out and they knock Lawrence off the float and Ray manages to get the blood talisman and escape with it. Facilier, who’s been waiting with a voodoo doll to kill Big Daddy the second the marriage is declared legal, chases after Ray with his army of demon shadows.
Ray gets the talisman to Tiana in the cemetery and tells her to run while he holds off the shadows. He fights them off but Facilier smacks him to the ground and then crushes him under his heel.
New spittake
Yeah. You don’t see any blood or anything but the sound effects alone…Jesus Christ it’s brutal. It’s also, I’m pretty sure, a first for the canon. Characters have died before, of course. But they’re usually either parents or villains. Comedy relief sidekicks though? Those guys are supposed to be untouchable. I mean sure, the deaths of Bambi’s mother and Mufasa are hard going, but can you imagine how much worse it would have been if they’d killed off Thumper or Pumbaa? Even The Black Cauldron, the darkest movie in the canon, didn’t have the balls to let Gurgi’s death be permanent.
Sorry, did I say "balls"? I meant "basic common human decency."

Sorry, did I say “balls”? I meant “basic common human decency.”

Facilier corners Tiana, and when she threatens to destroy the talisman he turns her back into a human and sucks her into a dream world where she sees the restaurant she’s always wanted.

This could be an awesome scene, it really could. Facilier goes all Gospel of Matthew and offers Tiana everything she ever wanted if she’ll just surrender the talisman. But the problem is…this is literally the first time these two characters have met. There is no relationship between them. There are no real personal stakes. If, I dunno, it turned out that Facilier was responsible for Tiana’s father’s death, or that he once cut her in line at the post office or…something. Something so that these two characters are not in two completely different stories and just happen to bump into each other. Well anyway, Facilier tempts Tiana, and Tiana says that she is a Jedi like her father before her and throws the talisman on the ground but it gets snatched up by Facilier’s shadow before it breaks. Facilier transforms Tiana back into a frog and sneers: “You should have taken my deal. Now you’ll spend the rest of your life as a slimy little frog.”
Tiana replies “It’s not slime. It’s mucus!”
"And the Oscar, for worst action one-liner goes to..." "So exciting!"

“And the Oscar, for worst action one-liner goes to…”
“So exciting!”

Using her tongue, Tiana grabs the talisman and smashes it. Now that he’s got no way to repay his debt, Facilier’s “friends” decide it’s time to collect and drag his deadbeat ass to hell, even going so far as to leave a custom made headstone for him.

Id say "Rest in Peace" but...yeesh.

I’d say “Rest in Peace” but…yeesh.

Naveen explains the situation to Lottie and promises to marry her if she gives Tiana the money to buy her restaurant. Tiana stops him, telling him that her dream is worth nothing without him in it, and Lottie is so moved that she agrees to kiss Naveen anyway. But unfortunately it’s now past midnight and Lottie’s kiss fails to transform him back into a Prince.
too-late
But Tiana and Naveen decide it doesn’t matter as long as they’re together. Later, the two Frogs, Louis, and Raymond’s family of fireflies give the heroic little bug a funeral. They then watch in overjoyed amazement as a second star appears beside Evangeline in the night sky. Huh. So I guess in the Disney universe stars really are fireflies.
"Called it!"

“Called it!”

Tiana and Naveen are married by Mama Odie in the swamp and as soon as they kiss, they turn back into humans because Tiana is now a princess. Lottie gets Tiana the money, she buys the restaurant and they all live happily ever etc and so forth.

***
The Princess and the Frog did well at the box office and got a lot of critical love, and it seemed for a while that we were all set for the triumphant return of traditional animation at the Disney studio. Then Tangled came along and was all “Hey. See this? This is all the money in the world. Go on. Take. It’s yours.” and that was that. As I said in the intro, I’ve had to reassess my opinion of this movie since watching it again. More significantly, I think I now have to reassess how I classify this movie. Those of you who follow the blog will know I’ve taken to calling the series of Disney canon movies from the turn of the Millennium onward “The Lost Era”. This was an era marked with radical experimentation and a sometimes unhinged search for a new direction for the company. I don’t look as unkindly on this era as a lot of Disney fans do but it’s definitely a mixed bag. And I was willing to consign Princess and the Frog to the Lost Era, writing it off as another misstep on the road back to cultural relevancy. But now…there is something that Princess and the Frog has in common with the other canon movies of this as yet unnamed modern era that we are now in. And it’s this: The modern crop of Disney movies are about recapturing the charm and magic of the old classics while openly acknowledging that some of the messages and themes and lessons of those movies were at best simplistic and at worst downright regressive. I see movies like Princess and the Frog, Frozen and Wreck It Ralph as part of a wider push by Disney to be more progressive, more inclusive and…well…better. To redress the more iffy parts of their legacy, while joyfully celebrating everything that made those movies great. Princess and the Frog, while I don’t think it’s perfect, is very much in keeping with that spirit with its updating of an old Disney mantra: “When you wish upon a star, you still have to work hard to get what you want.” Which is why, for the purposes of this blog, I am formally declaring Bolt to be the last movie of the Lost Era. With the Princess and the Frog, we now enter:
The Redemption Era.
"The Redemption Era?"

“The Redemption Era?”

"Yeah."

“Yeah.”

"I hate it."

“I hate it.”

"Yeah. Yeah."

“Yeah. Yeah.”

SCORING.
Animation: 18/20
Beautiful, and some really lovely character animation. One minor criticism, I thought the frog designs were a little generic.
Leads: 10/20
Sorry, I just don’t find Tiana and Naveen that interesting.
Villain 17/20
Ah, now this is more like it. Great voice acting by Keith David, wonderful design and the first great villain song in thirteen frickin’ years oh Lordy it’s been rough.
Supporting Characters: 13/20
Ramon and Lottie are great, the rest are serviceable.
Music: 8/20
Friends on the Other Side is great but I just don’t care for all the other song. Yes. I said song. Singular.
FINAL SCORE: 66%
NEXT UPDATE: 31 July 2014
NEXT TIME: Who’s up for some more animé? Join the Mouse as he takes a look at the probably the most influential Japanese animation of all time.
Hint: It aint Sailor Moon.

Hint: It ain’t Sailor Moon.

144 comments

  1. I like this movie, but it feels a bit… phony. Like they were just going down a checklist of stuff that happens in Disney movies and throwing it in. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I get the feeling they were trying too hard when I watch some scenes. But the stuff that’s good is really good, and I’m glad Disney was setting themselves on the right path with this movie.

    1. I kind of agree. The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Frozen may have all come off as a bit “This needs to be memorable. NOW!” Then, the result isn’t ALWAYS bad, but may miss the mark.

  2. Wonderful review as per usual. I’m also saddled by a sense of disappointment when it comes to this movie. It has a great villain, it has a great supporting character (Lottie), and it has a great song (also singular). Also I’m a fan of anything traditionally animated. But all the other characters were just so meh, and all the other songs… So I was indeed very much wanting more from this film. And it also killed the chance of having new cel animated movies every two years. So that’s a reason to dislike it.
    However, a small dark part of my soul is secretly gleeful that this movie didn’t make as much as my favorite Disney film (in case you couldn’t figure that out from my avatar).

  3. Excellent review, Mouse. I literally snorted at the “Chivalry is dead” line. Is it bad that I always forget this movie exists? There’s nothing particularly meh about it (except the music). In fact, the story almost reads as a “This is how to make a very complicated story”. I like Tiana as a character. She is very likeable, even if the resolution to her problem is to get married. That’s very bad subtext right there.
    Also, thanks for pointing out the race thing. I thought they were referring to her financial status.

    1. I always thought the line “person of your background” could simultaneously refer to her race AND her financial status.

  4. Love this movie, too bad there are no more traditionally animated films slated. However, Tangled, Wreck it Ralph, and Frozen have reignited my faith for Disney, and I hope they keep it up.

    Plus, one of the things I love about this movie is that the biggest stars in it (Oprah Winfrey and Terrance Howard) don’t get first billing in this film, heck, none of the advertising mentioned them. I don’t mind celebrity voice acting, but this proves that animated movies don;t need to rely on them to get people in, and having professional voice actors like Jim Cummings and Keith David play major roles is also refreshing.

    1. So true! re: Big name actors actually being down-played in the publicity of the movie. It’s actually quite stunning how Oprah’s role in this movie wasn’t mentioned much in general! Like she was… gasp–just a regular person! Ha.

  5. Awesome review Mouse (as always)! I really like this movie but I do see some of the problems that you mentioned (it can be boring sometimes) but this was the last Disney movie that I watched at a cinema (it’s not that I don’t won’t to see them, it’s that I don’t have the money 😛 ) and it really brings back a lot of merry memories. I’m looking forward to your next review and your next chapter in The Hangman’s Daughter! 😀

  6. OK, first of all, Mouse, have you never heard of a handshake agreement? When Dr. Facillier is offering Naveen his hand, the implied message is “If you take my hand, you’re agreeing to this deal.” Heck, for the longest time, handshake agreements were legally binding. So when Naveen takes his hand, he IS explicitly agreeing to the deal.

    The other major thing I want to address is Ray. I know it’s heresy to say this, but I’m not a fan. It’s not that Jim Cummings isn’t good, because he is, but I have a serious problem with the “backwoods redneck” stereotype at this point. Why? Well because I’m from Los Angeles, but I’m going to school in Alabama. Planning to live here too. And I have had a lot of people give me a lot of grief about it. So I really can’t get behind Ray’s character here, it just reinforces the stereotype of the dumb Southern redneck. And well a DUMB character is one thing, I think we all know what the other implication of calling someone a redneck is, that they’re racist. I have had so many people essentially dismiss everyone who lives in the South as being racist. They’re insulting my friends, my family (my brother goes to school here too), and me when they do so. I hate it. I really, really hate it. So when I see a character like Ray, it just rubs me the wrong way. I don’t hate him, but I can’t enjoy his character either.

    Otherwise, pretty solid flick. Keith David is the man, he pretty much makes the whole film. I’m really interested to hear your full take on Akira, I know you love it (since you included it in your top 10 non-Disney animated films) but you didn’t elaborate on WHY. I’ve seen it, I agree that it’s hugely influential, but I wouldn’t really call it a great film. But I guess we’ll discuss this in depth in two weeks.

      1. A little bit, yeah. Like I said, I don’t hate the character, I just can’t bring myself to really like him because of this

      2. I’d also say he’s one of the most savvy characters in the movie. He’s the one who knows how to untangle the frogs’ tongues (without a sharp stick!), he’s the one who knows how to get to Mama Odie’s when Louis had them going the wrong way, he’s the one who cautioned Tiana that “Naveen” marrying Lottie had more to it than meets the eye, and he’s the one who got the talisman away from the baddies to Tiana.

        Yes, he may have mistaken a star for a firefly but so what. His faith was vindicated in the end.

    1. Right with you there, although not for the same reasons – for me it’s the ugly design and the butt jokes.

  7. Great review, Mouse! I like this movie, but I do think that:

    1:) Dr Facilier should have had more screen time. I agree he’s a great villain, but I would have reworked the movie to have more of him. I mean, you have Keith Freakin’ David voicing him and you only give him, like, five scenes? Come on!
    2:) The title should have been more gender neutral. I think that the title was one of things that drove people away from seeing it, specifically the “princess” part of it. Mostly moviegoers who were boys. That’s why they changed “Rapunzel” to “Tangled”, to draw in more moviegoers, specifically boys, and with them, more cash.
    3:) The placement and marketing of the movie could have been handled better. Being placed a few weeks before Avatar was probably not the smartest move. Oh, but this isn’t Disney’s worst marketing decision. No, no, that one belongs to the next (and probably last) 2D animated movie from Disney: Winnie the Pooh, being placed ON THE SAME OPENING DAY AS HARRY POTTER! I…just…why?!
    4:) Disney fans were probably expecting more from directors John Musker and Ron Clements. This movie wasn’t bad, but compared to some of their other works (though you might make an exception with Hercules and Treasure Planet), it wasn’t quite up to snuff.

    Also, do you think it was the fact that it was 2D animated that turned moviegoers away? I wonder what would have happened if Tangled was released a year earlier and was traditionally animated and this movie was released a year later and was CGI. Would Tangled have been the one to make less money while PatF did better? Or would the results for each movie have stayed the same as they are now? What say you?

    1. I don’t think that the Pooh movie would have been a hit either way. I love Winnie the Pooh, but thanks to all the cheapquels, the character is now firmly connected to nice little movies for children. Disney movies are usually successful because they speak to every age group, but with Winnie the Pooh I think a lot of people thought from the get go that they are not the target audience.

      1. Yeah, I agree it probably wouldn’t have been a hit either way. But maybe it would have been a bit more successful if it had been released at a different time? Maybe? Even if it wasn’t much?

    2. Honestly? I think CGI had become associated with Pixar and Trad Am with Disney less than stellar output in the minds if many cinema goers. It’s stupid, but we often do make choices on nonsensical gut instincts like that

      1. We certainly do. You got that right. I still do wonder if Tangled was the 2D animated movie of 2009 and PatF was the CGI movie of 2010 if things would have changed at all regarding their successes. Maybe it would have, then again, maybe not. We’ll never know for sure.

    3. I never understood why they initially wanted it to premier on CHRISTMAS, but then moved it to December. December is a horrible time to open up a movie. They should have went with mid November.

      1. Yeah, I didn’t get that either. Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen were all more successful due to their November releases (especially Frozen with the “winter” theme). Ugh. Disney blamed the word “princess” in the title when it could have been just poor marketing.

      2. And that is why we have moved away from a great tradition recently. Almost all of the Disney movies had a name as their title, or at least a noun that was central to the plot. But now we have Tangled and Frozen instead of Rapunzel and The Snow Queen? Call me traditional, but I would have preferred the latter ones.

  8. Good review, glad to hear you liked the film. Although I’m surprised you didn’t make any jokes pertaining to Bahia or the Crimson Cockerel when it came to The Shadowman and his friends on the other side.

  9. I really love this movie, although I realize not everyone is as crazy about it as I am. I personally disagree with you on two of your complaints about the movie:
    Tiana. She’s a hard worker with a lot of ambition, and she has a bit of sass to her, but unfortunately all that hard work has left her no time to do fun things with friends. I relate a lot to her because that was basically me in high school, only with school work instead of a real job.
    The music. I don’t have a problem with Randy Newman, and I ADORE ragtime-jazz music. “Down in New Orleans” and “When We’re Human” are great. The zietago (probably misspelled that) song “Going down the Bayou” is also a lot of fun. I don’t think I need to speak in defense of “Friends on the Other Side”. Although I will agree, “Dig a Little Deeper” isn’t that good.

    1. I think the real problem with the songs are not their quality, but (with the exception of “Friends on the other side) that they add nothing to the story. Whenever they start, they bring the story to a grinding stop. “Almost there” is great in explaining Tiana’s feeling, but at this point we have already seen the key scene with her father, she already repeated a couple of times what she wants, so the whole song (though I dig the animation), hell the whole scene could be removed from the movie and nobody would miss it. “When we’re human” explains Tiana’s, Naveen’s and Louis’ motivation at length, but again, we already know what they want.

      Howard Ashman once said that every song in a musical should add something to the story. And that’s where TPotF goes wrong. The songs are just there.

      1. You are right Swanpride. I believe the first 3 songs add to the story, and are the best in the movie, When We’re Human is SO unnecessary, and the biggest filler song in the movie. We already know that Tiana and Naveen wants, and I am sure what Ray wants is not that important to address in song.

      2. Well, one thing for sure, if I ever get past the systematics of songs and after I discussed some good examples how to use music in a movie right, I will use PatF (and Frozen) as an example how you shouldn’t do it.

      1. Yeah, I know the feeling. I can’t relate to her at all because I am not a workaholic and wouldn’t want to be one…life is too short.

  10. I have been nervous about this review for months, since I remember you saying something about ripping it apart, and………….you didn’t rip it as hard enough as I thought you were.

    I think the point of Tiana was that she was not fun, has no social life, and a bit….boring, but she has to learn that. She does have a set personality that makes her stand out from the other Disney females. Same with Naveen with the males.

    I do think that while the story is decent enough, it is a bit too complicated and has a few problems. Why didn’t Charlotte turn into a frog after kissing Naveen? She was not a princess after midnight, but remained a human. I am glad you called out the lack of Facilier and Tiana interaction; he is not an antagonist to her, and that is an issue for a film to have a protagonist and antagonist have little to no relation or interaction with someone. They could have done that better.

    I think the music is too……….Pixar. When I hear the music, I think of the music from Toy Story 1-2, A Bug’s Life, and Monsters Inc. They sound the same, and they are not that special. Apparently Alan Menken was supposed to be taking care of the music for this film, but Lassetter took him off the film because WDAS used him too much, to only use; something common in Pixar in the form of Randy Newman. I think this is the first time that a Pixar element is entered into a WDAS film.

    Despite all of that, I still do really like this film. It is the first WDAS film I have seen in theaters since…………………………………Mulan, restored my faith in WDAS, and gave me the entertainment I need. It’s message is carried across really well, it handled the racism PERFECTLY, the characters are likable to me, and there is actually some depth in the film.

    How do you feel about your Disney reviews ending in a few months?

      1. Perhaps Pixar movies after all? I know you said once that they are “too good” to review them all but, well, I think that one can still say a lot about them. (Plus, reviewing them is certainly a less frustrating task than taking on DreamWorks, BlueSky or DonBluth

  11. Good review, Mouse. I’m also not entirely in love with this movie, but I still like it, but yeah I agree that Tiana and Facilier really have no connection to each other than the fact it was the same magic that turned Tiana into a frog, alot of the songs don’t stick out that much except *Almost There* and *Friends on the Other Side* I also feel like this movie tries a bit too hard at times like Facilier’s “death” which sort of screams “Hey look! This is WAY SCARIER and DARKER than Scar and Frollo’s death.” or Raymond’s death which screams “See! We can kill sidekicks for good!” and perhaps Tiana is sort of like the studio trying to do a second “Belle” which is probably why you found her boring. My opinion on this film and *Tangled* is that they both feel like nostalgia trips of what the old 90’s Renaissance with a few new interpretations here and there even though *Tangled* was better, *Frozen* and *Wreck-It Ralph* actually feel like films where the studio is kind of moving forward with the ways they’re handling their formula or policy.

    P.S. Speaking of Big Hero 6, Disney released an official trailer and six new images of the main superhero cast ,in my opinion, I’m digging the costumes and style of the film and genuinely excited even though I’m annoyed that Disney re-use Rapunzel’s character model AGAIN, but whatever, it still looks good.

  12. I really like The Princess and the Frog. But, I do think that it should have been Naveen to have the “final showdown” against Dr. Facilier instead of Tiana. She wasn’t the character to have a major conflict against Dr. Facilier, in the first place. I don’t get why Naveen wasn’t there.

  13. Yes! You’re finally reviewing Akira!
    Akira is not just one of my favourite anime films, but one of my favourite FILMS. It’s one of the most perfect films I have ever seen.
    Also, the animation in that film… probably among the best in animation.

  14. Great review!

    I too LOVE the animation of this movie and will watch the movie over and over again just for that alone! This is actually the movie that made me choose a side in the big debate about whether I like hand-drawn animation better or CGI.

    But other than that, the movie isn’t anything special besides.

  15. I had the reverse experience that you did, Unshaven Mouse: I initially liked this movie a lot more than the general public upon its release, and continued watching it on DVD for a while. I admitted it wasn’t the best, but I was charmed by the setting and the unique “twist” on the Frog Prince fairytale, particularly setting it in America. I also liked the characters a lot. So all in all, I saw the forest instead of the trees, you know?

    Then I decided to play this movie again for the first time in almost a year…

    I wasn’t impressed… For pretty much the same reasons as everyone else, adding to the consensus: Tiana is well-meaning but not appealing enough (and yes, I suspect it was the movie-by-committee issues that plagued all aspects of making this film), the music is pleasant but not remarkable, the story is waaaaay too convoluted for its own good: all these little plot intricacies, while technically making sense, just don’t gel or compel the audience like the best of Disney movies. For example, why the heck does Dr. Facilier have to concoct such a debacle just to…. get money? Puh-leaze. Lame motive, most importantly: poorly executed.

    I’m surprised you like the animation so much. While I admit they look great in still shots reduced to a thumbnail on a website, there’s something actually quite… unremarkable and uninspired about the majority of the animation in this movie. There’s a few great shots here in there (a back shot of Naveen traipsing down the French Quarter comes to mind: vibrant and sharp, it rivals scenes from Aggrabah in “Aladdin”). But overall, the movie looks washed out and lacking in dynamic style or flair. Don’t get me wrong: it’s pleasant enough, but it’s not on the same level aesthetically as any of the Disney Renaissance animation, that’s for sure.

    To wrap up my schpiel here, I actually still like this movie regardless–but again, it’s more for the forest and not the trees. I have a really soft spot for the fairy-tale spin in America, and I love the whole idea of the movie in general. That’s what I like most.

    In the end, it’s the messy story that tripped up the movie, and ultimately—any real hopes that 2-D animation was going to be granted a triumphant comeback. Maybe Disney will continue making smaller 2-D animated movies, like the oft-overlooked ‘Winnie the Pooh’ feature that actually followed “Princess and the Frog”. And maybe then, Disney won’t make a movie by committee, but instead do something truly creative and unique on their own terms… But ah, isn’t that what they did during the “Lost Era” essentially? Oh Gawd, I miss 2-D… Sigh. Sorry to leave on such a bad note.

    1. I don’t think that it’s just “getting money” that Facilier’s after…it’s POWER he’s after. Which makes sense when you consider he’s from a disenfranchised minority (another subtle comment on the race issue).

      Look at his face when he’s saying to Lawrence, “Aren’t you tired of seeing all those fat cats riding by you in their fancy cars without giving you a second glance?” He’s not talking about Lawrence.

      In fact, some have speculated that maybe the reason he focuses so much on Eli LaBouff is that he’s Eli’s illegitimate half-brother! Which would add an interesting wrinkle to his motivation (“I’m just as much my daddy’s son as he is; why should he have everything and I have nothing just because I was born on the other side of the blanket?”)

  16. Nice review as always. I like this movie and can’T stand Tangled: I feel like Tangled is far more bland in their character/plot then PatF ever was, and I think the music in both are about on par with each other (not that great other than 2 songs). I love Tiana and Navene, though: I think they depict a real life relationship and real life people perfectly and that seems to be what Disney was going for in this movie.
    I’d like to comment on the person who said Ray was a “redneck”. He…really isn’t? This movie takes place in the 19th century I believe. These extreme accents would be in place in this era. It’s no different then Tiana and Navene’s accents being prominent just because those accents were prominent due to lack of inter-racial relationships in that time period. So Disney isn’t trying to portray a stereotype: They’re just trying to be historically accurate.
    Can
    t wait for your Tangled review, Mouse!

    1. Crystal, it’s already been pointed out that the film takes place in the 1920s. Tiana’s father dies in the first world war. So not the 19th century

    2. I do agree that the music in both movies are about on par with one another, and not really memorable. I do find Tiana and Naveen more original and interesting characters (for Disney) than Rapunzel (Mary Sue) and Flynn are. While I like Tangled, it is very typical.

    3. You didn’t care much for Tangled? Aw. But I do agree that the Tangled’s story is kind of bland and recycled, in a sense. Basically what AnimatedKid said.

    4. It’s not even “historically” accurate, it’s just accurate. There are still people who speak that way in Louisiana.
      I am Louisiana born and bred and Ray is a mixed bag for me. The Cajun culture is something that I think most Americans are only marginally aware of, if at all, so it was actually really cool to see a character like that portrayed in a Disney film, and his mannerisms and voice are very accurate. While attitudes toward Cajun people run the gamut within the state, from a smug superiority in the northern half (whose people, hilariously, are themselves more stereotypically “redneck” than the Cajuns have ever been, yet they mockingly call them “coon-asses” or just “coonies”) to an affectionate loyalty in the southern parts of the state. Pure Cajuns themselves are a dwindling population, but are very proud of their culture. I think Ray’s naive simplicity is supposed to be seen as a /positive/ trait of a simple, good-hearted people, which they are. I’d be interested to hear what an /actual/ Cajun thinks of him, rather than the assumptions of privileged whites who love to get righteously indignant on minority behalf.
      On the other hand, he does feel a little like “filler”, particularly the Evangeline song, and I come away with the impression that adding a Cajun character was like a box they checked because “It’s Lousiana! Let’s put in a Cajun! Cajuns are funny!”
      I really wanted to adore this film, given the setting, and while it is visually stunning and the tunes are toe-tappy, it just wasn’t very memorable, for all the reasons Mouse described.
      Love how you depicted the symbolic nostalgia for the old princess flicks in the character of Lottie, Mouse. I cynically doubt that it was the studio’s direct intent (because I don’t think they think that hard about such things, although given the ridiculous complexity of this film’s plot, maybe), but it is a brilliant comparison.

      1. Part of the reason Ray’s mannerisms are fairly accurate is because Jim Cummings worked a river boat in Louisiana for a few years, so he’s voiced quite a few Cajun characters in the past.

  17. You are all of you so wrong, including the Mouse, that I am moved to leave my first comment to register my disagreement.
    Well, actually, my feelings are more along the lines of “Wow, okay, it’s probably me,” but I thought the other opening was funnier. This is actually one of my favorite Disney movies. It’s harder to judge the ones I saw when I was a kid (through The Great Mouse Detective, I guess) but there are three reasons why I love this one. Well, four.
    1. It’s the first Disney movie I saw as an adult — not counting rewatching old favorites like Pinocchio or The Three Amigos and yes, I AM the world’s only dedicated Jose Carioca fanboy, you got somethin’ to say to me? — and I thought it was absolutely enchanting.
    2. My wife was pregnant with our daughter at the time, and we were in the process of putting together a library of Disney movies for her to watch. Which she now has, actually; except for Dumbo and Bambi, which my wife was declared verboten on account of they traumatized her as a child. (The Lion King is perfectly all right, though; this is logic I’ve never fully understood, but part of being married to a woman you know is smarter than you are is just learning to shrug and go with it.)
    3. The music.
    I dunno. It doesn’t sound samey at all to me, but then my love for any form of pre-’50s-style jazz is deep and abiding — I’m not kidding, my music collection is pretty much all jazz and swing, a smattering of pop I listened to in high school, and Johnny Cash — and I do love me some zydeco.
    4. My kid loves it. (She’s a huge fan of Ariel, Repunzel, and Cinderella, but Tiana seems to be her favorite Disney princess. Its music also lulled her to sleep when she was a toddler — which actually may count as a reason in itself.
    Like I said, I love this one. I love the characters, I love the music, I love the treatment of the era, and it’s such a gorgeous movie to watch — and, of course, there’s Facilier, who I happen to think is the finest Disney villain. (In my mind, Frollo and Ursula are tied for second place.)
    But then, I also love Joe Carioca. What do I know?

  18. Just as an aside, because I haven’t said — Mouse, I love your writing. The reviews are great (and not only because I feel a certain kinship to the spirit you started this project in, first theoretically and now because there has been a constant loop of Disney/Pixar/other animation on my TV ever since my daughter got old enough to articulate what she wanted to watch), The Hangman’s Daughter is fantastic, and your other asides — especially the Ireland letter — are always grand. I often wish I lived closer to where your work gets performed so I could see what you get up to in your real field of choice.
    I’ve also gotten a lot of amusement over occasionally muttering “Have you been to Bahia?” to myself and snickering. So there’s that.

      1. I’m an American, but I’ve lived for the last ten years in Brisbane, Australia. Tegan, the Aussie Dr Who companion, once said that if the Doctor had needed to find a place cut off from the rest of the universe, he should have told her — so she could’ve shown him Brisbane.
        This is not an inaccurate quote.

  19. Like everyone else I like the film, and I gotta say, when I heard that a traditional animated film was coming back, you can bet your top dollar I went to see it. Hey, you hear that you get the very first hand drawn film in a very long time, it’s better to see it in theatres.

    As one person already said Alan Menken was planning on coming on for songs, but they decided to go with someone else since he was used way too much. I don’t mind Newman–in fact, the jazz style compliments the setting, in my opinon–but I get why people don’t like him. Then again, I can only imagine how the conversation between song writers went.
    JL: Alright, Alan, let’s see what you and your new songwriting partner have.
    *Menken sings a usual Menken ballad*
    JL: Naw, it just sounds like the same old stuff you’ve written before. Randy, what have you got?
    RN: Froggies, they’re just human beings. They go on swampy ‘ventures, and chasin’ their dreams. That’s all by Randy.
    JL: Perfect. You’re hired.

    Also, if it wasn’t for Avatar coming out around the same time I bet POTF would have held a chance. Also, loved the tigger joke. Got a great laugh out of me.

  20. To me this movie is the proof that in the end, it all comes down to story. There is a lot one can overlook in a Disney movie, but if the story doesn’t work, you have a real problem. See Pocahontas…great music, stunning animation, but it can’t make up for flat characters and a flat story. TPatF is a little bit better, because there are some interesting characters – mainly Lottie, but even Tiana kind of grows on me when she becomes a frog, I hate Naveen, though – and the story is at least not boring. Instead it is a mess. A mess with one really basic problem: Disney spend decades to tell little girls that everyone can be a princess (meaning that if they act like a princess by being decent and nice, life will reward them) and then they make a whole movie about someone being turned into a frog because she wasn’t princess enough.

    Plus, “When you wish upon a star” was never about getting what you wanted without working for it, it was always about hope.

    Either was you summoned up perfectly why this movie doesn’t really work that well, despite all the good elements in it. I especially love the beginning of your review. I agree, the “concerned audience” is part of the reason why the movie ended up being so problematic. I honestly would have loved to see the story of Maddy the chambermaid (especially since Madeleine is one of my favourite names out there). The most idiotic thing was that one group insisted on a white prince and another one on a black prince.

    Overall, there are just too many storylines in this movie (and considering that even the dog got a name and one line, I wonder if there was even more stuff which got cut).

    BTW: Bahia must be a magical place! The German football team trained in Campo Bahia and brought back a trophy!!!!!!!!!

    *celebrates*

      1. You know, I normally don’t care THAT much if they win or not…if the just do well. But I just would have felt so sorry for Klose and some of the other players if they fell short again.
        Plus, I feel it was a victory for football in general. There were too many teams in the knock-out stage which came close to parking the bus, they didn’t even try to create chances for themselves and instead just waited for the other team to make a mistake (no wonder that there were so many penalty shoot outs).

  21. My beef with this movie (which I adore, by the way) is that it can’t exist in a vacuum. Unfortunately, it happens to fall at the crossroads of two trends in Disney animation:

    1) Stronger leads, especially women, who work to achieve their happily ever after

    2) More racial diversity (and diversity in general)

    The confluence of these has the unhappy coincidence of making it seem like white people can sit on their ass and their happily ever after is handed to them, while POC have to actually, you know, do something for theirs. Or in the case of Pocahontas not even get one. So while Tiana is a great role model, espousing some great values, the movie just has an acrid aftertaste of white privilege.

    But in a vacuum, this would be one of my favorite Disney movies.

  22. I halfway agree/disagree with you about Tiana and Facilier needing some history. It did seem like it hurt the emotional feel between them, and it makes me wonder if they should have tried a princess movie without the princess. On the other hand I think it made the deal scene stronger (with the exception of the emotional feel). He had done nothing to her, which made the deal more tempting. I cannot see the hero making a deal with their parent’s killer. It felt different from the other similar scenes. I then realised that it is still an inferior version of something similar in Star Wars Return of the Jedi. Palpatine had affected Luke’s entire life, but only indirectly, which I think is the happy medium.
    I will say this about the songs. I do not like most Disney songs, and the reasons are all in this movie. They just restate what we already know.
    The new pictures around the text are really nice.

  23. The middle portion of the review (covering the second and third acts) has disappeared! It’s “Hello my baby. Hello my honey.” frog and then directly your summation of the movie.

      1. MOUSE TO THE RESCUE!

        Great review. It’s the reviews for Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen that I’ve been waiting for ever since Emperor’s New Groove, to be honest. 😀

  24. I like The Princess and the Frog, but I don’t like how it was Tiana to face Dr. Facilier (as others mentioned). There wasn’t a real connection between them. It should have been Naveen, since he’s the one who got messed with “The Shadow Man.”

    Anyway, I don’t mean to sound like a racist, but has anyone noticed that Disney tended to turn minorities into animals? Like Kuzco turned into a llama, Kenai turned into a bear, and Tiana turned into a frog? It doesn’t help that they had their first African-Anerican princess not even be a human for about 80% of the film.

    1. Eh, here comes the opposition police:
      Pocahontas
      Mowgli
      Aladdin
      Jasmine
      Mulan

      -none of ’em turned into animals.

      But I do agree: I hated the frog parts fo this movie… the animation for them is just sooo boring!

      1. Yeah, good point. However, I feel like Pocahontas is the worst of them. But I can’t get past how they made Pocahontas “so gorgeous.” She was shown to be beautiful in real life, but they overdid it. Her lips look like they belong to on a Bratz doll. Then she has that stereotypical “shaman powers” for Native Americans.

        That aside, I agree. The frog designs for Tiana and Naveen are pretty boring. Well…mostly Tiana’s. I liked her dimples, okay? 😄

  25. I love this movie. It’s true that aside from the villain song and Tina’s I want song, the music is meh, and Ray turning into a start is just stupid and sappy. But other than that? Awesome. Easily the best Disney movie of the 00s and up there with Aladdin and LIttle Mermaid. However, while the movie wasn’t exactly a failure, it wasn’t the success Disney expected, though. Heck, the movie got surpassed in the box office by Alvin and the Chipmunks. *Alvin and the Chipmunks*. Let that sink in your head for a moment. So yeah, 2D animation won’t be with us in the big screen for a while.

    1. Yeah, PatF getting surpassed by Alvin and the Chipmunks is bad. Heck, The Black Cauldron was surpassed by the freaking Care Bears! Both pretty humiliating (yeah, I know The Black Cauldron isn’t the greatest Disney movie, but still).

      As for 2D animation not being on the big screen for a while, to quote Prince Naveen: “Sad, but true”.

  26. I really wanted to love this movie, simple because I miss the classical animation style. And agreed, it isn’t a BAD movie, I just hoped for greatness, which is probably unfair of me. But anyways, great review as always!!

  27. If we’re talking some truly villainous cartoon dudes then we gotta bring up Tzekel-Kan, which is my way of saying that I hope you review The Road to El Dorado at some point in the near-ish future.

  28. I enjoyed this film too. I think the songs are a bit forgettable though, which seems to be the stand or fall test all musicals are measured against.
    I liked the fact that they let the fairy tale exist in its own form whilst doing a story which took elements from the original. I’ve never minded Disney re-interpreting the tales but, I think it’s a good way of going about it without being anachronistic.
    I wonder if Disney were actually defending their films rather than being self-critical – as if they’re saying, well yes you can take our fairy tales too far (Lottie) but everyone needs a bit of spark and Disney magic in their lives or they’ll be a bit dull (Tiana).
    I think Lottie was a bit too much of an archetype though, her “well I’ve waited this long” line, really annoyed me, it just made her so vapid, which is consistent but, really grated.
    The arguments about racism over this film made me feel a bit sorry for Disney though, as they’re never going to win. You can’t really present children with a cartoon “12 years a slave”, and arguably anything less is a whitewash of history. So there’s a backlash and so Disney avoid the issue of race entirely – and get accused of not having diverse enough characters. The arguments over the appearance of the Sami in Frozen are a case in point. I can’t help thinking if PatF had done better in that respect (critically) they would have been encouraged to return to it again.
    They seem to be doing better with female characters though I miss non-Princesses, when I was small you could dress up as Esmeralda and Meg. 🙂

    1. I thought this movie was pretty good but not great. As far as the princess movies, I would rather watch this over Cinderella, Snow White or Enchanted, and say it’s on par with Aladdin but not as good as the other ones. I really loved the villain and his song was amazing, but the others were just ok. I thought Tiana was ok but her dream of owning her own restaurant was just not that interesting to me. I couldn’t really get into the romance because they were frogs most of the time and I just don’t find two amphibians falling in love that compelling. I also didn’t care for Ray and found him kinda annoying and didn’t care for the butt jokes. Overall, it’s a Disney movie that I don’t have to own but wouldn’t mind watching it once in a while.

      1. It was all rather elementary once you made the fatal error of putting up a picture under your fiendish riddle. After that, it was simply a matter of comparing the picture to every image in Google, then looking at my DVD cover for Akira, then rewatching the film. After that, the pieces just kind of fell into place…

      2. Hey, I just saw the plug on TGWG, thank you kindly! I also read your intro to manga/anime and I’m a little bit blown away; For a university assignment I wrote a piece called “What We Think Manga Is” or “Why One Piece is a Better Story than Batman” and I have to say, you and I are on a pretty damn similar page. I was going to put it up on my blog once I get my results, but we’re thinking along the same lines. I even made the same “Someone could easily think American tv is all porn” reference, though without the humourous alien twist and quite a lot of our points were coming from very similar places. I shall continue to read with interest. (Sorry I’m commenting here btw, couldn’t find the Akira post here yet.)

  29. You finally cleared it up for me, Mouse. I’ve been thinking why this film didn’t connect with me as well as some of the earlier ones did. But that’s it. Tiana isn’t the central character of this film, not really. The conflict isn’t about her, she just gets pulled in by happenstance, so while she works as an audience surrogate, it’s far from ideal.

    And really, why couldn’t it be about her? She needed “the green” just as badly as Naveen did, so why couldn’t she form a Faustian deal with Facilier. Sure, there’s the whole “marrying the rich daddy’s girl”, but the plot could have been worked around it being Tiana, who gets turned into a frog and replaced. And then it would have made sense for her to go after Facilier.

    Alas, it didn’t happen. Perhaps they thought they had already done the “girl gets pulled into an infernal contract” with The Little Mermaid.

    Still, not a bad film by any means. Not a great one either, but a big step in the right direction. To my shame I didn’t see it in theaters. I was at the point in my life where I was kind of done with Disney and hadn’t grown up enough to rediscover it. And the advertising for Tangled was so awful around here that I didn’t go see that one either. The same with Frozen really, but luckily I had learned not to trust the trailers by that point.

    And you have just given me the perfect excuse to go and find a copy of Akira. Thanks!

  30. Aw, I can’t believe everyone’s hating on PatF and Tangled! I like both, even though I can’t deny their faults. And I don’t think Tiana’s bland, either. Although why the animators decided “feminine = no teeth” for the frog version is beyond me.

      1. Damn, I blew our secret!
        The weird thing is, frogs actually do have teeth, but they’re just gross, unappealing little mouth-nubs.
        And I forgot to say, I am so happy to see the return of ‘smurges’.

    1. You know I’ve seen a couple of Frozen knockers as well following this blog, I’d tell ya I think there’s going to be a bit of a comment war when we get to the Frozen review.

  31. Aah, Princess and the Frog. I was happy to see you give it the credit it deserves, not to mention that you went through a journey much like I did. I too saw it when it reached theaters, and while I liked it more than you did back then I felt myself becoming more and more lukewarm to it as the years went by. I still held that it should be part of a new Disney era and not be placed in the Lost Era, but for me the reasons were more to do with that it felt like with this movie, Disney FELT like Disney again. Whereas it felt like so many of the other movies in the Lost Era could have been done by anyone else, this was Disney’s wheelhouse. This was them taking a stand, making a princess movie, making her black, making the movie traditional pen and paper animation… you noticed it. You could feel a shifting of the tides. You could feel the good ship Disney changing direction and picking up the wind in it’s sails again. And for that reason alone, I would say it didn’t belong in the Lost Era.
    But man- how surprising wasn’t it when I rewatched the movie, and actually came away liking it MORE than I did before!?
    I actually like Tiana when I’m watching the movie, and seeing how well she plays of Naveen. While their romance happens in a day and I think that’s sloppy writing, I do really like the interplay between “rich slacker” and “hard worker who takes no shit”, and Tiana has some of the better comebacks and putdowns in the canon as far as Princesses are concerned. That being said, her connection to the Shadowman IS pretty darn weak. Heck, it feels like the villain overall isn’t very impressive. He has an impressive design, a VERY impressive voice actor (oh Keith David, murmur more for me…) and the best song in the movie. But him being undone by his friends at the end, him being AFRAID of his friends, it’s… it’s just not as impressive as the greats, is it? It leaves you with a kinda weak aftertaste, like the villain wasn’t the villain we deserved.
    On the other hand, Facilier and his trickery and manipulation IS a good foil to Tiana and her hard work. But when Facilier, for all his tricks and deceit, still ends up in such a precarious situation that can be so easily toppled, it doesn’t make him that threatening. I personally think it would’ve been better if, say, Facilier managed to make Lawrence-as-Naveen get him an audience with Big Daddy and then control his mind, making him the man behind the man of New Orleans and actually giving his friends not only enough souls to pay back his depth but also enough clout to ask for some BIG power-ups, or since he can’t do anything for himself, maybe turn New Orleans into a carneval of horrors that would fight against our heroes… just something that makes him IMPRESSIVE, not so easily undone.
    Also, speaking of hard work and Big Daddy- it always felt kinda weird that Tiana didn’t use her connections to help her secure the house. I mean sure, they want to show us that hard work is what gives her the prize in the end but come on- we use the connections we have. Aren’t making said connections also a sort of hard work? In fact, if they had used this but then shown us in a twist that if, say, Big Daddy tried to help out Tiana his reputation would’ve taken a huge hit and he’d no longer be the king of the carneval… purely because he’s helping a black woman. And while Lottie could try to help her out, her options would be limited because she hasn’t saved any money for herself, instead relying on Big Daddy to pay for her. This way we have some justification for why Lottie can’t help that feels rooted in the setting. Granted, this solution MIGHT be a bit too harsh for Disney, so yeah.
    Villain aside, my foremost complaints with this movie are the songs (you’ve said it all mostly, they just don’t feel very distinctive or memorable, most are too short and not BIG enough for a cartoon musical) and most of the middle part where they are frogs.
    And in fact, one other thing I can tell now that I’m looking back on the movie is a way these two complaints intersect. I disliked Mama Odie and her song when I first watched the movie, due to one simple reason- they came at the tail end of a section where the movie just degenerated into so much NOISE. The alligator was loud, the firefly slurred and made butt jokes, the hillbillies beat themselves up, and then Mama Odie came in and laughed and wheezed and hollered and I wanted the movie to SHUT UP AND LET ME SEE THE PRETTY SIGHTS GODDAMMIT.
    For it is a very pretty movie. But man. That section, especially in the cinema seats, where just such constant sensory overload. Taking a new listen to it all I kinda dig Mama Odie’s song more than before (and to a certain extent, mama Odie herself): it is big and a show-stopper, as a Disney musical-song should be. But it still comes as the crescendo of a whole load of noise and wacky sidekick antics, and it is to a certain extent just too much for me.
    But. But, but but. The movie is gorgeous to look at. The voice acting is top notch, and I am charmed by almost all the characters. Tiana may not be as entertaining as Naveen and his awesomely sleazy self, but she really shines when she has him to push her into her sassy-pants mode. Lottie is a gift that keeps on giving, and Facilier has Keith David to voice him. I even got all choked up at Ray’s death. Ray! The comic relief firefly who made buttjokes and had a completely unecessary song that barely lasted more than a minute! There’s gotta be good in a movie that can pull that off.
    So yes- in the end this movie walks away as a net-positive in my life. Though now I’m curious what I will feel when I rewatch Tangled in four weeks… and what I’ll think when I see your Akira review and compare it to what the manga did. THERE’LL be a blast from the past, alright…

  32. “Join the Mouse as he takes a look at the probably the most influential Japanese animation of all time”
    I’m so glad you’re finally reviewing Astro Boy, Neil!

    I kid. Well, I’ve been downloading a few anime movies lately because people will be celebrating Kids’ Day tomorrow and I wanted them damned kids to get some damn culture (but noooo, pirated Rio 2! That’s gonna be sooo watchable. Mainly because it’s Rio)…ahem, so your next review gives me more than enough excuse to watch Akira for the first time!

    About Tiana’s mother being voiced by Oprah in the original dub…was she good?

  33. It’s about time I stop digressing so much…
    One of my problems with this movie is how much time Tiana spent as a frog. I felt it was kind of unnecessary since she wasn’t going to learn any lesson from being a frog, was she? It’s like they tried to do something different with the classic story but…failed to find something unique.
    Naveen, though? It wouldn’t feel right if he wasn’t transformed. I would care about that if I cared about Naveen at all…

  34. This is my first time commenting on one of your posts, sorry it took so long! Firstly, about the film. I have to admit, I loved the first part. The animation was superb, with beautiful colours and style. I also quite liked the characters of Tiana and Naveen, especially as they gave the prince a much better personality than those before him. I love Lottie, definitely one of my favourite disney supporting characters! And the villain is awesome but then again, he is Keith David. But then, the characters get turned into frogs and from then on, I find the movie very boring. I don’t particularly enjoy any of the other supporting characters so I just tend to skip to the end. To be fair, i think this isn’t the worst disney princess movie ( cough, Pocahontas) but it could have been so much better had they just improved the story line.
    And now for the next part of my comment. I have finished secondary school and with my spare time after the leaving cert ( which nearly killed me!) i want to start getting to reading comic books. I’ve always loved watching superhero movies and tv shows and feel like its time to get started. But the problem is,I don’t know where! With DC’s reboots, I haven’t a notion where to begin reading from. I really want to read the likes of batman and the teen titans but its all changed. Do you have any idea, oh wise Unshaved Mouse with great knowledge of comic books? If so, I desperately need help! Thanks!
    P.S: what’s your opinion of the new female Thor?

    1. Welcome to the blog! Okay, the comic I always recommend to people wanting to start is Ultimate Spider-man. Go into forbidden planet and see if they have volume one. Honestly I’d recommend against most of DC at the moment (most) that universe is kind of a hot mess right now. Female Thor? I don’t read Thor so it doesn’t really impact me. I don’t have strong feelings on what is almost certainly a temporary stunt to gain a little media attention (this is not even the first time they’ve made Thor a woman).

      1. Ok thanks! Yeah, I see what you mean about the sex change being a media stunt. Whats also quite strange is that Thor is part of a major movie franchise, so its already in the public eye so why bother changing it? I’d also love to know how Chris
        Hemsworth took the news! Sorry I forgot to say before, great review!

      2. Thanks, don’t get me wrong. Always glad to see more female characters in comics. But I get more excited about changes that I can see being permanent, like Carol Danvers becoming Captain Marvel.

  35. RE: FotOS

    For how many eggshells they walked on (the fact that they went with a thoroughly anachronistic name for their protagonist instead of, I dunno, naming HER Charlotte and her friend Madeleine, especially since the protag’s parents still have period-appropriate names, STILL annoys me way more than it should), I’m surprised that they associated Vodou with the antagonist, especially considering how intimately Vodou is tied up with Haitian slavery. I suppose Mama Odie is supposed to be the “light”/sympathetic side of Vodou, but it still caused me to tilt my head and maybe seethe with rage a little. Seethe isn’t the right word. Bring to boil and then simmer, maybe.

    Also, having read Tarot, those are not real cards that he uses. It’s not in the movie enough for me to be annoyed, but I wanted to clear up any misunderstandings. XD It would be fun to figure out which card combination would read as Naveen’s and Lawrence’s fortunes, though…

    I do feel positively towards FotOS though, because in the third Disney Cabaret I directed/choreographed/performed in, we did that song. I was one of the eponymous friends, all dressed in black with a purple Mardi Gras mask X3 It was fun. I’m babbling.

    //

    RE: “Hello my baby. Hello my honey.”

    I love you.

    //

    I also didn’t find this movie that interesting. Personally I share your sentiments regarding why you call this the Redemption Era, but I’m not really as favorably disposed towards it…as I’ve said more than once w/r/t Frozen, I find the “LOOK LOOK WE’RE SO MUCH MORE PROGRESSIVE THAN WE WERE BEFORE” tone to the last three princess movies to be anywhere from jarring to obnoxious. Note that I’m not saying Disney movies shouldn’t be more progressive. *eagerly awaits the first canon queer princess* Just that if you want to be progressive, be progressive and have done with it; don’t call out your older movies like you’re begging for more Ally Cookies.

    1. Applause. I agree. It’s gonna get to the point where audiences will TIRE of the “new princess formula”, just like they tired of the Disney Renaissance, in the ’90s lol. Don’t overdo it, basically. But their next movie “Big Hero 6” is thankfully a step into different territory, subject-wise.

    2. I agree concerning Frozen, Brave and TPatF (though it was less pronounced for the latter). I disagree concerning Tangled. I feel the Disney found the perfect balance there.

    3. I think that Brave is the worst offender. Merida came off as unlikable (like not caring the her mom was dying) and whiney over the fact that she had to get married and treated the “war” as a joke.

  36. Uh Mouse, the site appears to have undergone some sort of redesign and I can barely read the text anymore. The grey Akira background is kind of drowning out most of the text

      1. Yeah, guess I must have come here like right as you were making changes. Just anticipating the next chapter of Hangman’s Daughter

  37. I love this movie, and I just noticed something when I watched it last week. When Frog Tiana and Frog Naveen appear, Mr LaBouff yells “Hey STELLAHHHH!” Do I smell a Streetcar reference? Anyone else notice?

      1. Also, I just read your Make Mine Music review, and I’m just wondering if you ever found a Region 2 copy of the DVD? Did Mouse get his happy ending with Make Mine Music?

  38. Nice review, again, Mouse! One of your funnier ones, too, IMO.
    I like this movie, but I can see the problems with it. I just think there’s too much story. I don’t remember the songs too well, except for Almost There and Friends on the Other Side. Facilier, the animation, and those two songs are the only things I love about it. The rest of it is either decent or mediocre, IMO.
    (Sorry if my wording is a bit iffy, but I haven’t seen this movie in about a year.)

  39. “What happens with Facilier and Naveen though is not any of these. Naveen isn’t turned into a frog because of his own greed or some other flaw. He’s just mugged!”
    Actually, the problem with Naveen’s actions is he’s trying to “cheat”. He’s taking the easy way, and it predictably backfires. Also, Naveen DOES accept the deal—he just didn’t bother to really ask what the deal WAS. Because, again, he’s taking the easy way and too lazy to read the fine print.

  40. Friends on the Other Side may not be as complex as Hellfire, nor is it an existential glimpse into the villain’s tortured soul… but it’s infinitely more FUN, and that makes it, IMO, the better of the two. I’m watching a fricken cartoon here; I’m perfectly fine with my villains being two-dimensional at most (and having a taste for scenery is a plus). And Facilier is clearly both reveling in his villainy and leaving toothmarks on the background cels in this song. Yeah. That’s the stuff.

    I actually like every one of the songs in this individually. However, I do agree that they’re too similar to all be in the same movie. This is especially true for Almost There and Dig a Little Deeper, both of which are bouncy, gospel-ish songs clearly intended for someone with pipes the size of the Los Angeles aquaduct.

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