Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Princess and the Frog (2009) - the return of real Disney

Viewing context:
Disney Cinemagic on New Year's Day, hungover with kids running about.

Written and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker - The team behind Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, amongst others

What Happened:
Set in New Orleans, this is an inversion of both the Princess and the Frog tale along with he Disney Princess mythos. The frog-based inversion comes as the Princess is turned into a frog after her reptilian kiss, rather than revealing the frog as her prince. They then commence their journey to try and regain their human forms, foil the vilain's plot to acquire power and wealth, all whilst finding a great deal about themselves, each other, the world, etc, etc. So nothing structurally outside the box, but it doesn't need to be; it does what it needs to do strcturally and creates all the interest thematically

What I read as its theme/message:
As stated above, it was primarily about admitting to some of the wrongs that Disney may have been guilty of in the past - reinforcing dominant ideologies, marginalising difference and the likes (Note that these features of Disney have in no way affected my enjoyment of some of the greats). Therefore not only was the lead the cultural other, the black working class daughter of a maid, the friend of the - to be expected - Disney Princess archetype, but she at no point showed the ‘need’ for her prince, her knight in shining armour to save her. She embodied what would be expected of the empowered, yet still proudly feminine figure. The balance was struck by making her not ‘need’ these things but still to ‘want’ them, ultimately making the ‘right’ choice after believing she didn’t have her prince. This balance ensured that the film charmed in a way that Disney manages to do, was full of passion and whimsy, but the emphasis on want rather than need took her away from being a ‘passive’ female, yet not too far to be wooden and preachy; she was a well rounded individual.

What it did particularly well:
It was as charming and as fun as a Disney romp should be, whilst making the blatant concessions to Disney’s past that I mention above. The songs were mesmerising and the deep south setting was really brought to life.

Where it may have fallen short, unimpressed or didn't quite reach potential:
It never reached more than just very good. The songs were all enjoyable, but made no lasting impression. Similarly, the supporting characters were a little underwhelming (except the villain who was great). I liked the crocodile but he was no Timone and Pumba.

Performance of the film:
The villain voiced by Keith David, really over the top sinister

Most outstanding or memorable feature:
The setting: as a post Katrina film, this does a lot to justly glamorise the deep south vibe through the animation, the music, the characters, the food and the emphasis on passion.

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