I was around nine years old when "The Princess and the Frog" came out and I do remember seeing this film in theaters. It was the first traditional animated film I ever saw in a theater and looking back, I'm really happy that I did. In an era dominated by computer animation, this film was a reminder of how gorgeous traditional animation is. Made with pencil and paper by talented artists determined to make a great story. Also, it being the first traditional animated film by Walt Disney Animation Studios since the abysmal "Home on the Range" helps. I don't often get nostalgic watching animated movies, but this one did the trick for me. I fell head over heels for this film and was amazed by how well it's held up all these years later. It's still a charming film to watch.
In the days of the roaring 20s, a young waitress named Tiana (Anna Noni Rose) dreams of opening up a restaurant in the center of New Orleans. For years, she has scraped up tips and earnings working at two restaurants per day hoping to finally achieve the dream that was passed onto her by her late father. Things seem to be going well until the night of a masquerade ball when she comes across Naveen (Bruno Campos), a spoiled prince from the country of Maldonia who just had his funds cut off by his parents. That's not all though. Naveen was also transformed into a frog by a voodoo witch doctor named Dr. Facilier (Keith David) who hopes to take over the city of New Orleans along with Naveen's former assistant Lawrence (Peter Bartlett) Believing Tiana is a princess and that the curse will be broken if they kiss, his situation gets even bigger as Tiana is turned into a frog herself by the kiss and they both end up lost in the Louisiana bayou. Hoping to undo their curse, Tiana and Naveen set off for New Orleans while coming across colorful characters including a trumpet playing gator named Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley), a redneck firefly named Ray (Jim Cummings), and even a blind 197-year-old voodoo priestess named Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis).
When the film came out in 2009, it didn't do as financially well as Walt Disney Animation Studios had hoped for which can be attributed to two things. One, the film came out nearly the same time as the blockbuster "Avatar", and two, the film had come out when Disney Animation was not looked highly as they were due to duds like "Home on the Range" and "Chicken Little". Over time though, the film has grown a fanbase which I feel is rightfully deserved since this was such a charming film to watch. The story evoked me to memories I had of Disney's other classic fairy tales. Despite it taking place in 1920s New Orleans, it still felt timeless due to it being a fairy tale. There was a lot of charm to be found throughout with the overall atmosphere and tone. Even then, it presents itself in a way that isn't complicated to follow. That's what I like the most about Disney's fairy tale movies. They're not too hard to follow. As far as the animation goes, it's top-notch. Seeing it again made me so nostalgic for the medium all over with how beautiful it looked. There's something so endearing about seeing characters being animated with pencil and paper and it was such a relief to see it being done again. I also fell in love with the backgrounds of the movie. The artists were going for a "Lady and the Tramp" like feel to the film and I think they accomplished that. It harkened me back to the Victorian era that was seen in that film. The characters were also loads of fun as well. Tiana is a princess I could easily relate to. She's hard-working and determined to have her dream come true one day. Also, she's a very beautifully designed character as well. Naveen also had some funny moments as well and I felt she and Tiana had some good chemistry. The side characters also really stood out in particular. While Louis and Ray had some funny jokes and memorable scenes, they were all overshadowed by Tiana's best friend, Lottie (Jennifer Cody). She was so much fun to watch and I loved how despite how spoiled she is being the daughter of a rich man, she still is very sweet and supportive. Last but certain not least though is the villainous Dr. Facilier who is easily one of Disney's best villains in years. The idea of having him play around with voodoo led to so many creative possibilities and he was so endearing to watch. I also forgot to mention how good the songs were. Randy Newman composed the songs for this film and all of them were very catchy and memorable. "Almost There" is probably my favorite of the bunch. Now if I did have to pick on this movie in any way, it's that I do feel Tiana's and Naveen's relationship could've been expanded a little more. As I said, they have good chemistry but their relationship isn't fully developed as I think it should've been. That's really about it though.
"The Princess and the Frog" was such a fun film to watch again. The story evokes the classic Disney fairytales, the animation is gorgeous, the characters are all great, and the songs are memorable and fun. This set the stage for the revival of Walt Disney Animation Studios and their upcoming filmography and it just put a big smile on my fave. I'm so glad more people are appreciating it more as years go on because it is a true delight.