You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘songs’ tag.

After what seems like a decade of terribly clever Pixar feature films, Disney has finally gone back to its roots and made a proper Princess film.

The Princess and the Frog is the story of Tiana, a young black girl living in New Orleans, who dreams of opening her own restaurant, where she can serve her father’s gumbo and her special beignets. So far, so rags-to-riches set up. Add a spoilt but lovable best friend, and a visiting prince of indeterminate origin, and you have yourself a bonafide princess film.

And it is fair to say that The Princess and the Frog draws on all of the best-loved conventions of classic Disney films. There are elements of the old Princess films, such as Tiana’s mini-makeover for her friend Charlotte’s party, which is reminiscent of Cinderella, and Tiana and Naveen’s relationship has shades of Aladdin and Jasmine’s early exchange. But this only adds to the resonance of this lovely film. And it is not only Princess, or even Disney films that can be found in there. The journey down the Bayou combines the lazy drift of The Jungle Book and the quiet menace of creatures on the river in The Rescuers.

I was also reminded of the much overlooked and underrated Don Bluth film, Anastasia. One of the best things about that film is the way they treat Anastasia’s memories and fantasies. They are dreamy and romantic, and very touching because of it. In Princess and the Frog, there is a beautifully designed dream sequence, in which a dilapidated old building springs into life around Tiana, and become the restaurant of her dreams. The art deco influences in the animation of this scene show the evolution in the Princess film genre. It is a step forward from the “Be Our Guest” sequence from Beauty and the Beast, where the crockery danced, but the animation was clunky and slightly incongruous to the rest of the film. In The Princess and the Frog, the dream sequence contrasts, but also complements beautifully, as it captures the positive aspects of the era quickly and evocatively.

Discussing the ‘costume’ in this film is tricky, as frogs drive the narrative for a large part of it, but it is still definitely worth a mention. The animators have a relatively short amount of time for characterization in this film, as once the transformations start, they keep coming. Whether or not this excuses a bit of reliance on stereotypes, I am not sure, but that is what they end up doing. The best friend, Charlotte is spoilt and extraordinarily wealthy, and therefore obviously has blond curls, dimples and an oversized fur coat. And Big Daddy, her kindly and indulgent father, is rosy and rotund, with a bushy red moustache. Equally, the villain, Dr Facilier practices voodoo and is therefore dripping with skulls and talismans, and has particularly large, flagstone teeth, and a pencil moustache.

This is not the time to argue the rights and wrongs of Disney stereotyping; it does exist, it probably has the potential to compound some negative clichés, but there is far more to this film than the presence of a few easy assumptions. The songs are charming, the animation is gorgeous, and there is a princess. All in all, I think Disney’s back.