Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker. Starring: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David. Released: December 11, 2009. Runtime: 1h 37 min.
There are so many Disney films I still haven’t seen and 2009’s The Princess and the Frog was near the top of the list. The story follows a waitress named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) who dreams of opening a restaurant. A wrench is thrown in that plan Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) of Maldonia comes to visit and he crosses paths with the villainous Shadow Man, Dr. Facilier (Keith David) and gets turned into a frog. Mistaking Tiana for a princess, Prince Naveen kisses Tiana hoping to be turned back into a human – but Tiana herself gets turned into a frog and they take an adventure through the bayous of New Orleans.
My favourite aspect of The Princess of the Frog is just the culture of New Orleans and how filmmaking team Ron Clements and John Musker incorporate the popular elements of the city. The film takes place during Mardi Gras and the main dish of the restaurant Tiana wants to open – called Tiana’s Place – is gumbo. The main villain of the film, the Shadow Man, also uses voodoo and he is a great villain. Keith David’s performance is fantastic and his “Friends on the Other Side” song has to be one of my favourite villain songs. These friends from the underworld make for some creepy scenes, too, and look visually great.
Of course, jazz is heavily infused into the music throughout. This is especially the case with a friendly alligator Tiana and Prince Naveen meet called Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) whose dream is to play the trumpet with the boys, but everyone runs in fear because, well, he’s a giant alligator. Cajun music is also infused in the tune “Gonna Take You There” when our characters meet one of the main comic relief sidekicks, a firefly called Ray (Jim Cummings). As for the music itself, I don’t think it’s as memorable or catchy as some other songs of the last couple years – especially Frozen or even Clements and Musker’s 2016 film Moana – but they make great listening while watching the film. The only one in the actual film I think I’d ever hum is Tiana’s “Almost There” song. Though, I never realized Ne-Yo’s “Never Knew I Needed” was from this soundtrack and that was one song I would always listen to like 10 years ago.
That main theme plays a huge part in the film as the film is all about following your dreams and thinking you know what you need, but finding what you actually need along the way. The film also has a strong message of working hard to get what you need throughout. This all happens organically through Tiana and Naveen’s relationship, and their chemistry is great. Anika Noni Rose has a really nice singing voice as Tiana, and her voice acting is great, too.
I liked their story, though I think I got more enjoyment throughout the film from the comedy from the sidekick animals Louis and Ray. As for the animation, I liked the classic look of the film and the character designs, especially the look of the villain Facilier. I think the story feels like standard Disney but it’s memorable because of all the visuals and the very New Orleans elements at play. There’s also a hopeless romantic vibe to this, too, especially as Ray – who is voiced so well by Jim Cummings – thinks his girlfriend is a star in the sky called Evangeline. It’s a bit silly at first, but it turns out quite lovely.