I might have felt slighted that Disney’s first 2D animated movie in a while was so derivative if it did not successfully remind me of the things I’d been missing from Disney animation for so long. Unlike the recent hit Enchanted, which up-ended the conventions of the Disney fairy tale movie and squeezed it into the shell of a romantic comedy, Princess and the Frog is pretty much your typical classic Disney tale, or rather, it’s a bit of a hodge-podge (or shall I say “gumbo” to suit this movie’s New Orleans locale) of stories past. To begin, main character Tiana is not a real princess, but poses as one (see also Cinderella or Aladdin). Despite her low station in life, she has dreams (see also Belle from Beauty and the Beast) of owning her own restaurant. Unfortunately, some magical evil-doings get in her way and she needs some help to break the spell (see also Little Mermaid). Along the way, she meets many talking creatures who help her out with a whole lot of gumption and a bunch of songs (see virtually any Disney animated movie). It’s all been done before (with the exceptional addition of the first Disney on-screen funeral that I can recall), but it works because not only has it been a long time coming (last 2D animated was Home on the Range, featuring Roseanne as the head cow trying to save their farm, for Jiminy’s sake!), it’s also a time-tested and crowd-pleasing formula.
On top of the warm-hearted story and cast of likeable characters (even a gap-toothed, backwater firefly will bring a tear to your eye, I promise), the animation is excellent. I see a bit more of the Japanese anime influence now (with some mighty big doe eyes), and also some bleed-over from the Warner Brothers camp: the frog prince looks like a dead ringer for Michigan J. Frog (the WB mascot) and there are some bayou yokels who should be huntin’ themselves a wascally wabbit to fricassee. The songs are pretty good (written by Disney/Pixar mainstay, Randy Newman) but they were not the most memorable — definitely nothing like the Menken/Shore masterpieces of Disney’s past. All in all, Princess and the Frog was a nice Disney movie and hopefully a full-fledged return to the 2D business. 4 out of 5