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Disney Films

The Princess and the Frog

2009

Disney's The Princess and the Frog is notable for many reasons. For example, it was Disney's first hand-animated feature since the company (under former CEO Michael Eisner) officially declared hand animation to be, "one of those oldy-tyme things that your doting grandparents might enjoy pulling the rocking chair up to, but nothing that we young, fast masters of family entertainment can do anything but roll our eyes at." He went on to proclaim, "Just you wait -- Chicken Little is going to kick Snow White's lame, hand-drawn backside!"

The film's main character, Tiana, is also a notable Disney first -- she's the first Disney princess that is of American ancestry. "It's about time," says one Disney fan. "I'm getting sick of my daughter having to buy Disney princess dolls that represent foreigners. Now, finally, she can play that she's a princess from the good ol' U.S. of A.!"

The plot of Frog returns to Disney's fairy tale roots, although a few minor liberties are taken with the original story. The movie opens in the 1920s, with a large ship arriving in New Orleans from some unknown country. The vessel is incredibly advanced -- so much so that engineers can only guess at its workings -- and all the ship's strange-looking inhabitants are very ill. The government takes the stranded people and moves them into Parish 9, a town which is supposed to be a sanctuary for them, but is really more of a slum prison.

Prince Naveen, one of the refugees (or "frogs" as they are rudely referred to), happens to meet Tiana, a hard-working American woman who has been charged with bringing the frogs news that their food-ration budget has been severely slashed. She is not happy with her job, and in fact secretly wishes that she could open a fine restaurant where the poor frogs could eat like regular Americans.

While she's trying to fix the prince a decent meal, Tiana is splashed with some weird voodoo juice and soon becomes sick. Strange slime forms on her skin and she develops a taste for flies. She is turning into a "frog" herself! A local voodoo practitioner, Dr. Facilier, is determined to capture Tiana, because he is convinced that she is the key to the secret of operating the frogs' strange technology. With the help of his friends "from the other side" (Republicans), he chases Tiana, who manages to stay ahead of him only with the help of Naveen and a trumpet-playing robotic automatic defense alligator rescued from the mysterious ship.

Tiana's transformation into a frog is soon complete, but she longs to be human again so she can open her restaurant. After a great battle, Prince Naveen is able to return to the strange ship and set sail, but unfortunately Tiana is accidentally left behind. Naveen promises that, even though it will take several years, he will return with special medicine that will make Tiana human again.
This is definitely one of Disney's strangest and darkest stories. Thank goodness for the happy jazz songs and goofy talking animals -- they help prevent this cautionary parable of the dangers of paranoid xenophobia from becoming too horrifying and depressing for family viewing.

Trivia: The Princess and the Frog originally was going to feature hip hop music until it was realized that there really wasn't a lot of that in the 1920s.

Trivia: One animator described Doctor Facilier as the "love child" of Captain Hook and Cruella De Vil. However, this is not literally the case (both villains were famously celebate).


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