So, being the big sad lonely nerd that I am, I decided to catch a pre screening of Disney's new feature length animated film, "Princess and the Frog" last week after it came out in NYC.
Before you get jealous, I had to shell out 30 bucks to see this thing. Also, when I got there, I was embarrassed to find that not only was the prescreening mainly full of little girls with their mom's and friends, but there was also an 'after party' where you get to meet the princesses.... whoopie! Needless to say I skipped the after party and hid my entire self in a side row during the movie and my roommate won't let me live it down. Ok, now that you've had a good laugh at me here's my analysis of Disney's first 2D animated feature in four years...
Go see it. Whether or not you end up liking it in the end, it's definitely something to be seen. It is not the best film that Disney has thrown out, but it most certainly is a wonder to watch on a big screen. The art direction is absolutely stunning and in some of the scenes there is just so much depth, it almost looks like the screen has been pulled back like an accordion box diorama. Each scene is sprinkled with this subtle layer of dust and light which sort of just linger around the shot as though they were blowing away the cobwebs that have gathered on this old animation technique.
Although all of the coloring has gone digital, it actually benefits to the film's look. Unlike Beauty and the Beast, when they digitally remastered it and we all cringed at how bright it was, since the best thing about that film was the dark grainy texture, Princess had the fortunate ability to be planned for digital painting. The backgrounds have beautiful lighting and color but they don't scream at you; they are so well integrated into the actual animation. One scene stands out in particular, when the main characters are at a masquerade; the scene opens and you see this beautiful green light coming off of a fountain and each character near it has been given a layer of green highlights. It's really quite lovely to look at how they all meld into the scenes.
The story was a bit wonky at times. There were a couple of instances where characters get upset or angry in a way you would expect from a story where everything's is based on miscommunication. However, the things they get upset over, they already knew about or had already come to terms with earlier. Therefore I found myself saying under my breath "didn't you know that....? Yeah... I'm sure you did..." Overall though it's a nice simple story. It doesn't take too much thought like many Disney films, however it is definitely a bit more mature. The Villain, Dr. Facilier, has this hoard of incredibly creepy, yet amazingly graphic, voodoo minions from the other world. They float around in shadow and can pull you into the darkness the one you cast yourself.
**SPOILER: There is also death! Never have I seen a Disney film where you see someone other than the villain meet a sad end. I definitely commend the team for this**
Tiana is a good role model for little girls, however she has a hard time letting herself have fun so she can be a bit of a bore, but it's good to see a Disney Princess that hasn't had everything handed to her on a silver platter
These things are seriously creepy
You can easily see the influences that John Lasseter has had on this film as one of the producers. The end credits look like you just finished watching Ratatouille, and the obvious choice of Randy Newman as composer. The Pixar style is there which is great, however, I thought they failed to bring in a lot of the witty humor that appears in all of their films. Princess wasn't as funny as it's predecessors and that really surprised me.
Newman's score is fun, but the main musical numbers are so-so and nearly forgettable. The theme song "Down in New Orleans" is unfortunately sung by Newman himself, and when we do get to hear the wonderful Anika Noni Rose sing the reprise it's for about 30 seconds. Probably the best number would be "Dig a Little Deeper" which has this incredible ending that gives you a wonderful high and sense of hope.
All in all, go see it. It has its flaws, but it also has a lot of expectations to meet so you have to take them with a grain of salt. Princess is a good start to hopefully what will be a long continuation of more 2D animated films. Let's just hope they aren't in the form of those awful straight to DVD sequels.
The Princess and the Frog opens world wide this friday, December 11, 2009.