The Princess and the Frog
|The Princess and the Frog|
Theatrical release poster
|Music by||Randy Newman|
|Edited by||Jeff Draheim|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios
|Box office||$267 million|
The Princess and the Frog is a 2009 American animated musical film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The 49th Disney animated feature film, the film is loosely based on the novel The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker, which is in turn based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "The Frog Prince". Written and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the film features an ensemble voice cast that stars Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody, and Jim Cummings, with Peter Bartlett, Jenifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, and John Goodman. Set in 1920s New Orleans, the film tells the story of a hardworking waitress named Tiana who dreams of owning her own restaurant. After kissing a prince who has been turned into a frog by an evil voodoo sorcerer, Tiana becomes a frog herself and must find a way to turn back into a human before it is too late.
The Princess and the Frog began production under the working title The Frog Princess. It marked Disney's return to traditional animation, as it was the studio's first traditionally animated film since Home on the Range (2004). Co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker, directors of Disney's highly successful films The Little Mermaid (1989) and Aladdin (1992), returned to Disney to direct The Princess and the Frog. The studio returned to a Broadway musical-style format frequently used during the Disney Renaissance, and features music written by composer Randy Newman, well known for his musical involvement in Pixar films such as A Bug's Life (1998), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Cars (2006), and the Toy Story trilogy (1995, 1999, and 2010). The film also marked the return of Disney animated musical films based on well-known stories since the Disney Renaissance.
The Princess and the Frog opened in limited release in New York and Los Angeles on November 25, 2009, and in wide release on December 11, 2009. The film was successful at the box office, ranking first place on its opening weekend in North America, and grossing $267 million worldwide. It received three Academy Award nominations at the 82nd Academy Awards: one for Best Animated Feature and two for its achievement in music (Original Song). It lost to Up and Crazy Heart, respectively.
In 1912 New Orleans a seamstress, Eudora, is reading the story of The Frog Prince to her daughter, Tiana, and her friend, Charlotte La Bouff. Charlotte finds the story to be romantic, while Tiana proclaims she will never kiss a frog. Fourteen years later, Tiana has grown into an aspiring young chef who works as a waitress for two local diners, so she can save enough money to start her own restaurant, a dream she shared with her deceased father, James.
Prince Naveen of Maldonia arrives in New Orleans to better his financial situation. After being cut off by his parents, Naveen intends to marry a rich southern belle, and Charlotte is the perfect candidate. Eli "Big Daddy" La Bouff, a rich sugar baron and Charlotte's father, is hosting a masquerade ball in Naveen's honor. Charlotte hires Tiana to make beignets for the ball, giving her enough money to buy an old sugar mill to convert into her restaurant.
Meanwhile, Naveen and his valet, Lawrence, meet Dr. Facilier, a voodoo witch doctor who plans to rule the city of New Orleans. Inviting them into his emporium, Facilier convinces them that he can make their dreams come true, but neither man gets what they are expecting; Naveen is transformed into a frog, while Lawrence is given a voodoo charm that makes him resemble Naveen. Facilier intends for Lawrence to marry Charlotte, after which he will kill Big Daddy and claim his fortune.
At the ball, Tiana discovers she may lose the mill to a higher bidder. Tiana then meets Naveen, who, believing her to be a princess because of her costume, asks her to kiss him and break Facilier's spell. In exchange for the money needed, Tiana accepts, but when she kisses Naveen, she is turned into a frog herself. A chase ensues, and Tiana and Naveen escape to a bayou.
At the bayou, Tiana and Naveen meet Louis, a trumpet-playing alligator who longs to be human, and Ray, a Cajun firefly who is in love with the morning star, whom he calls Evangeline. Louis and Ray offer to lead Tiana and Naveen to the hoodoo priestess Mama Odie, whom they believe can undo the curse. During this time, Tiana and Naveen develop feelings for each other. Meanwhile, Facilier makes a deal with the voodoo spirits, offering them the souls of the people of New Orleans; in exchange, the spirits grant Facilier the services of a host of shadow demons, whom he orders to find and capture Naveen.
When the four find Mama Odie, she tells them that Naveen must kiss a true princess in order to break the spell. They return to New Orleans to find Charlotte, who is the princess of the Mardi Gras Parade, but only until midnight. Naveen tells Ray he loves Tiana and is willing to give up his dreams for her, but before he can tell her, he is captured by the demons and brought to Facilier.
After Ray tells Tiana that Naveen loves her, Tiana goes to the Mardi Gras parade to find a human "Naveen" marrying Charlotte; but Ray rescues the real Naveen and steals the charm that disguises Lawrence. Ray finds Tiana, gives her the charm and attempts to hold off the demons so she can escape, but Facilier stomps on him. Facilier then offers Tiana to make her restaurant dream come true in exchange for the charm. Realizing she would rather be with Naveen, and realizing Facilier's true intentions, Tiana destroys the charm. The angered voodoo spirits claim Facilier himself as payment for his debts to them and drag him into the spirit world.
Tiana and Naveen then reveal their love to each other and explain the situation to Charlotte, who agrees to kiss Naveen, as Lawrence is taken away by the police. However, the clock strikes midnight before she can kiss him, but the two decide they are content to live together as frogs. Then they bid farewell to Ray, along with Louie, later to find out Ray finally joined Evangeline. Tiana and Naveen are wed by Mama Odie; and because of Tiana's new status as princess, they are restored to human form after their kiss. Later, the couple returns to New Orleans to legally get married and celebrate, and together the two open their new restaurant, with Louis performing with a band in it. The movie ends with Tiana and Naveen dancing as the two stars, Ray and Evangeline, twinkle in the sky.
- Anika Noni Rose as Tiana/"Tia", a 19-year-old waitress and aspiring chef/restaurateur. She is a smart, hard-working, and independent young woman, but one who works so hard that she often forgets important things such as love, fun, and family. Originally, Tiana was supposed to be known as "Maddy". Mark Henn served as the supervising animator for Tiana in both human and frog form, making her one of several Disney lead female characters he has animated. Henn declared that he attempted to make a character that could stand on its own "without repeating what I've done on Belle, Ariel, and Jasmine", with Tiana having a more cynical and grounded personality. Rose's performance influenced much of the animation, with the actress even suggesting to Henn for Tiana to be left-handed like herself.
- Elizabeth Dampier voices Tiana as a child.
- Bruno Campos as Prince Naveen, the prince of Maldonia. Naveen is a 24-year-old ne'er-do-well and playboy who has been cut off from his family's riches until he learns the value of responsibility. Randy Haycock served as the supervising animator of Naveen in both human and frog form. As a prince from the fictional kingdom of Maldonia (which the directors describe as "located in an East of the Sun and West of the Moon location"), Campos adlibbed a French accent with his Brazilian accent to make up a Maldonian accent.
- Michael-Leon Wooley as Louis, a friendly, neurotic, trumpet-playing alligator whose dream is to become human so he can join a jazz band. His name comes from the famous jazz artist and trumpeter, Louis Armstrong. Eric Goldberg, the supervising animator of Louis and other miscellaneous characters, won the Annie Award for Character Animation in a Feature Production for his work on the film.
- Jim Cummings as Ray, a Cajun firefly. He and his vast family are close friends with Mama Odie, so he offers to help the frogs get to her. Ray has an unrequited love for the Evening Star, which he believes is another firefly named "Evangeline" (a reference to the 19th-century Longfellow poem). Mike Surrey was the supervising animator for Ray. Ray's name comes from the blind pianist Ray Charles.
- Keith David as Doctor Facilier, also known as The Shadow Man, a voodoo bokor (witch doctor). Bruce W. Smith, supervising animator of Doctor Facilier, referred to the character as the "lovechild" of his two favorite Disney Villains: Captain Hook from Peter Pan (1953), and Cruella de Vil from One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). Smith was nominated for the Annie Award for Character Animation in a Feature Production for his work.
- Jennifer Cody as Charlotte "Lottie" La Bouff, a wealthy Southern débutante and Tiana's best friend since childhood who dreams of marrying a prince. Nik Ranieri served as the supervising animator of Charlotte as an adult and child. Jennifer Cody won the Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production for her performance.
- Breanna Brooks voices Charlotte as a child.
- Jenifer Lewis as Mama Odie, a blind, 197-year-old voodoo priestess, who serves as the film's 'Fairy Godmother figure'. Andreas Deja was the supervising animator for both Mama Odie and her pet snake, Juju, and was nominated for the Annie Award for Character Animation in a Feature Production.
- Peter Bartlett as Lawrence, Prince Naveen's valet, whom Dr. Facilier recruits as a partner in his scheme by transforming him to look like Naveen using a blood charm. Anthony DeRosa was the supervising animator for the Lawrence character, whose design was influenced by the Mr. Smee character from Peter Pan.
- John Goodman as Eli "Big Daddy" La Bouff, a very wealthy Southern sugar mill owner and father of Charlotte La Bouff. While he spoils Charlotte with everything she asks for, he is a loving and generous man, and loves Tiana's cooking. Duncan Marjoribanks was the supervising animator for Eli "Big Daddy" La Bouff.
- Oprah Winfrey as Eudora, Tiana's mother who wants to see her happy and worries that Tiana focuses too much on her dream of owning a restaurant. Ruben A. Aquino animated both Eudora and her husband, James.
- Terrence Howard as James, Tiana's father, who helped instil a strong work ethic in Tiana. He served in World War I as evidenced by a dresser-top portrait photo of him in a World War I uniform. The circumstances of his death were not stated in the film; however, his portrait is accompanied by the Distinguished Service Cross, a US medal awarded to soldiers who demonstrated great heroism or risk of life in battle.
- Frank Welker as Stella (vocal effects), Charlotte's pet dog who talks to Tiana during the film, when she is chasing Tiana and Naveen as frogs on the table. She loves Tiana's beignets and begs at Tiana when she wants one.
- Dee Bradley Baker as Juju, Mama Odie's green pet snake.
- Corey Burton and Jerry Kernion as the Fenner Brothers, two real estate agents who eventually sell Tiana the sugar mill.
- Ritchie Montgomery, Don Hall, and Paul Briggs as Reggie, Darnell, and Two-Fingers, three bumbling frog hunters who try to catch Tiana and Naveen as frogs. Their resemblance to the Three Stooges has been noted.
- Kevin Michael Richardson and Emeril Lagasse as Ian and Marlon, the two alligators.
Disney had once announced that 2004's Home on the Range would be their last traditionally animated film. After the company's acquisition of Pixar in early 2006, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, the new president and chief creative officer of Disney Animation Studios, reversed this decision and reinstated hand-drawn animation at the studio. Many animators who had either been laid off or had left the studio when the traditional animation units were dissolved in 2003 were located and re-hired for the project. Lasseter also brought back directors Ron Clements and John Musker, whose earlier works include The Great Mouse Detective (1986), The Little Mermaid (1989), Aladdin (1992), Hercules (1997), and Treasure Planet (2002). The duo had left the company in 2005, but Lasseter requested their return to Disney to direct and write the film and had let them choose the style of animation (traditional or CGI) they wanted to use.
The story for the film began development by merging two projects in development at Disney and Pixar at the time, both based around the "Frog Prince" fairy tale. One of the projects was based on E. D. Baker's The Frog Princess, in which the story's heroine (Princess Emma) kisses a prince turned frog (Prince Eadric), only to become a frog herself. The Princess and the Frog returns to the musical film format used in many of the previously successful Disney animated films, with a style Musker and Clements declared, like with Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, had inspiration from Golden Age Disney features such as Cinderella.
Musker and Clements thought that given all fairy tales were set in Europe, they could do an American fairy tale. They stated that they chose New Orleans as a tribute to the history of the city, for its "magical" qualities, and because it was Lasseter's favorite city. The directors spent ten days in Louisiana before starting to write the film.
The Princess and the Frog was originally announced as The Frog Princess in July 2006, and early concepts and songs were presented to the public at the Walt Disney Company's annual shareholders' meeting in March 2007. These announcements drew criticism from African-American media outlets, due to elements of the Frog Princess story, characters, and settings considered distasteful. African-American critics disapproved of the original name for the heroine, "Maddy", due to its similarity to the derogatory term "mammy". Also protested were Maddy's original career as a chambermaid, the choice to have the black heroine's love interest be a non-black prince, which upset opponents of on-screen interracial romance, and the use of a black male voodoo witchdoctor as the film's villain. The Frog Princess title was also thought by critics to be a slur on French people. Also questioned was the film's setting of New Orleans, which had been heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, resulting in the expulsion of a large number of mostly black residents. Critics claimed the choice of New Orleans as the setting for a Disney film with a black heroine was an affront to the Katrina victims' plight.
In response to these early criticisms, the film's title was changed in May 2007 from The Frog Princess to The Princess and the Frog. The name "Maddy" was changed to "Tiana", and the character's occupation was altered from chambermaid to waitress. Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey was hired as a technical consultant for the film, leading to her taking a voice-acting role in the film as Tiana's mother, Eudora.
Writing and themes
The head of story, Don Hall, described the plot as a fairy tale "twisted enough that it seems new and fresh", with a kingdom that is a modern city, a handsome prince that is a "knuckleheaded playboy" and a variation on the fairy godmother with Mama Odie. Co-writer Rob Edwards also said The Princess and the Frog was "a princess movie for people who don't like princess movies". As the writers thought Tiana's character motivation of simply dreaming of having her own restaurant was not appealing enough, they expanded so it was her father's as well, with the extra philosophy of "food bringing people together from all walks of life". Musker and Clements stated that while Tiana already starts as a sympathetic character, the events of the plot make her "understand things in a deeper level" and change people around her. Both protagonists would learn from each other—Naveen to take responsibilities, Tiana to enjoy life—as well as figuring from Ray's passion for Evangeline that the perfect balance is brought by having someone you love to share the experience. Tiana became the first African-American Disney Princess.
On December 1, 2006, a detailed casting call was announced for the film at the Manhattan Theatre Source forum. The casting call states the film as being an American fairy tale musical set in New Orleans during the 1920s Jazz Age and provides a detailed list of the film's major characters.
In February 2007, it was reported that Dreamgirls actresses Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose were top contenders for the voice of Tiana, and that Alicia Keys directly contacted Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook about voicing the role. It was later reported that Tyra Banks was considered for the role as well. By April 2007, it was confirmed that Rose would be voicing Tiana. Three months later, it was reported that Keith David would be doing the voice of Dr. Facilier, the villain of the film.
Animation and design
Clements and Musker had agreed early on that the style they were aiming for was primarily that of Lady and the Tramp (1955), a film which they and John Lasseter feel represents "the pinnacle of Disney's style". "After that, everything started becoming more stylized, like Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians—which are fantastic films as well, but there's a particular style (to 'Lady and the Tramp') that's so classically Disney." Lady and the Tramp also heavily informed the style of the New Orleans scenes, while Disney's Bambi (1942) served as the template for the bayou scenes. Bambi was described as a stylistic reference for the painted backgrounds, as according to art director Ian Gooding "Bambi painted what it feels like to be in the forest instead of the forest" so The Princess and the Frog would in turn try capturing the essence of roaming through New Orleans.
The former trend in Disney's hand-drawn features where the characters and cinematography were influenced by a CGI-look has been abandoned. Andreas Deja, a veteran Disney animator who supervised the character of Mama Odie, says "I always thought that maybe we should distinguish ourselves to go back to what 2D is good at, which is focusing on what the line can do rather than volume, which is a CG kind of thing. So we are doing less extravagant Treasure Planet kind of treatments. You have to create a world but [we're doing it more simply]. What we're trying to do with Princess and the Frog is hook up with things that the old guys did earlier. It's not going to be graphic…". Deja also mentions that Lasseter was aiming for the Disney sculptural and dimensional look of the 1950s: "All those things that were non-graphic, which means go easy on the straight lines and have one volume flow into the other—an organic feel to the drawing." Lasseter also felt that traditional animation created more character believability. For example, with Louis the alligator, created by Eric Goldberg, Lasseter said: "It's the believability of this large character being able to move around quite like that." Choreographer Betsy Baytos was brought by the directors to lead a team of eccentric dancers that gave reference to make each character a different style of movement. The character design tried to create beautiful drawings through subtle shapes, particularly for most characters being human. For the frog versions of Tiana and Naveen, while the animators started with realistic designs, they eventually went for cutesy characters "removing all that is unappealing in frogs", similar to Pinocchio's Jiminy Cricket.
Toon Boom Animation's Toon Boom Harmony software was used as the main software package for the production of the film, as the Computer Animation Production System (CAPS) system that Disney developed with Pixar in the 1980s for use on their previous traditionally animated films had become outdated. The Harmony software was augmented with a number of plug-ins to provide CAPS-like effects such as shading on cheeks and smoke effects. The reinstated traditional unit's first production, a 2007 Goofy cartoon short entitled How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, was partly animated without paper by using Harmony and Wacom Cintiq pressure-sensitive tablets. The character animators found some difficulty with this approach, and decided to use traditional paper and pencil drawings, which were then scanned into the computer systems, for The Princess and the Frog.
The one exception to the new Toon Boom Harmony pipeline was the "Almost There" dream sequence, which utilized an Art Deco graphic style based on the art of Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas. Supervised by Eric Goldberg and designed by Sue Nichols, the "Almost There" sequence's character animation was done on paper without going through the clean-up animation department, and scanned directly into Photoshop. The artwork was then enhanced to affect the appearance of painted strokes and fills, and combined with backgrounds, using Adobe After Effects.
The visual effects and backgrounds for the film were created digitally using Cintiq tablet displays. Marlon West, one of Disney's veteran animation visual effects supervisors, says about the production; "Those guys had this bright idea to bring back hand-drawn animation, but everything had to be started again from the ground up. One of the first things we did was focus on producing shorts, to help us re-introduce the 2D pipeline. I worked as vfx supervisor on the Goofy short, How to Hook Up Your Home Theater. It was a real plus for the effects department, so we went paperless for The Princess and the Frog." The backgrounds were painted digitally using Adobe Photoshop, and many of the architectural elements were based upon 3D models built in Autodesk Maya. Much of the clean-up animation, digital ink-and-paint, and compositing were outsourced to third-party companies in Orlando, Florida (Premise Entertainment), Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Yowza Digital Animation), and Brooklin, São Paulo, Brazil (HGN Produções).
During Disney's 2007 shareholder meeting, Randy Newman and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band performed the film's opening number, "Down in New Orleans", with famous New Orleans singer Dr. John singing, while slides of pre-production art from the film played on a screen. Other songs in the film include "Almost There" (a solo for Tiana), "Dig a Little Deeper" (a song for Mama Odie), "When We're Human" (a song for Louis, Tiana and Naveen [as frogs]), "Friends on the Other Side" (a solo for Doctor Facilier), and "Gonna Take You There" and "Ma Belle Evangeline" (two solos for Ray). Newman composed, arranged, and conducted the music for the film, a mixture of jazz, zydeco, blues, and gospel styles performed by the voice cast members for the respective characters while R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo wrote and performed the end title song "Never Knew I Needed", an R&B love song referring to the romance between the film's two main characters, Tiana and Naveen. Supported by a music video by Melina, "Never Knew I Needed" was issued to radio outlets as a commercial single from the Princess and the Frog soundtrack.
The film's soundtrack album, The Princess and the Frog: Original Songs and Score, contains the ten original songs from the film and seven instrumental pieces. The soundtrack was released on November 23, 2009, the day before the limited release of the film in New York and Los Angeles.
The film premiered in theaters with a limited run in New York and Los Angeles beginning on November 25, 2009, followed by wide release on December 11, 2009. The film was originally set for release on Christmas Day 2009, but its release date was changed due to a competing family film, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, scheduled for release the same day. The Princess and the Frog enjoyed a limited re-release in AMC Theatres, lasting from October 6–12, 2017 as part of the Dream Big, Princess campaign.
The Princess and the Frog was supported by a wide array of merchandise leading up to and following the film's release. Although Disney's main marketing push was not set to begin until November 2009, positive word-of-mouth promotion created demand for merchandise well in advance of the film. Princess Tiana costumes were selling out prior to Halloween 2009, and a gift set of Tiana-themed hair-care products from Carol's Daughter sold out in seven hours on the company's website. Other planned merchandise includes a cookbook for children and even a wedding gown. Princess Tiana was also featured a few months before the release in the Disney on Ice: Let's Celebrate! show. The film itself was promoted through advertisements, including one from GEICO where Naveen, as a frog, converses with the company's gecko mascot.
A live parade and show called Tiana's Showboat Jubilee! premiered on October 26, 2009, at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and on November 5 at Disneyland in California. In Disneyland, actors in New Orleans Square paraded to the Rivers of America and boarded the park's steamboat. From there, the cast, starring Princess Tiana, Prince Naveen, Louis the alligator, and Doctor Facilier, would sing songs from the movie, following a short storyline taking place after the events of the film. The Disneyland version's actors actually partook in singing, while the Walt Disney World rendition incorporated lip-syncing.
Tiana's Showboat Jubilee! ran at both parks until January 3, 2010. At Disneyland Park, the show was replaced by a land-based event called Princess Tiana's Mardi Gras Celebration, which features Princess Tiana along with five of the original presentation's "Mardi Gras dancers" and the park's "Jambalaya Jazz Band" as they perform songs from the movie. "Tiana's Mardi Gras Celebration" officially ended on October 3, 2010. However, it returned to Disneyland from 2011-2013 as part of the "Limited Time Magic" family-fun weekends.
Tiana also appears in Disneyland Paris' New Generation Festival. Some of the characters appear frequently during World of Color, the nightly fountain and projection show presented at Disney California Adventure. Disney announced on June 4, 2009, that they would release a video game inspired by the film and it was released on November 2009 exclusively for Wii and Nintendo DS platforms. It has been officially described an "adventure through the exciting world of New Orleans in a family-oriented video game", featuring events from the film and challenges for Princess Tiana.
The film is available on DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and Blu-ray Disc combo pack editions; the combo pack includes DVD and digital copies of the film, along with the Blu-ray Disc version. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in Australia on June 2, 2010, and on June 21, 2010, in the United Kingdom. As of December 2010 the DVD has sold 4,475,227 copies and has made $71.3 million in DVD sales, making it the ninth-best-selling DVD of 2010.
The financial and critical success of The Princess and the Frog persuaded Disney to green-light at least one new hand-drawn animated film to be released every two years. However, the blog /Film noted in July 2014 with the release of hand-drawn concept art for the 2013 computer animated film Frozen, that any future hand-drawn animated films have been "killed" for the time being due to The Princess and the Frog failing "to ignite the box office". Two months later, however, many Disney artists announced they were working on a new independent hand drawn animated film, Hullabaloo as part of an attempt to bring back hand-drawn animation. Despite such speculation, Walt Disney Animation Studios has continued to use both hand-drawn animation and computer animation in subsequent films.
On its limited day release, the film grossed $263,890 at two theaters and grossed $786,190 its opening weekend. On its opening day in wide release, the film grossed $7 million at 3,434 theaters. It went on to gross $24.2 million over the opening weekend averaging $7,050 per theater, ranking at #1 for the weekend, and making it the highest-grossing start to date for an animated movie in December, a record previously held by Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. The film went on to gross $104.4 million (in the United States and Canada) and $267 million (worldwide), making it a box office success, and became the fifth-highest-grossing animated film of 2009. While the film did out-gross Disney's more recent hand-drawn films such as The Emperor's New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, and Home on the Range, it was less auspicious than the animated films from Walt Disney Animation Studios' 1990s heyday. Disney animator Tom Sito compared the film's box office performance to that of The Great Mouse Detective (1986), which was a step up from the theatrical run of the 1985 box office bomb The Black Cauldron.
Looking back on the experience four years later, Catmull acknowledged that Disney had made a "serious mistake" in the process of marketing and releasing the film. The Walt Disney Studios' marketing department had warned Disney Animation that the word "princess" in the title "would lead moviegoers to think that the film was for girls only," but the animation studio's management insisted on keeping the "princess" title because they truly believed that the film's excellent quality and beautiful hand-drawn animation would bring in all quadrants anyway. In Catmull's words, this belief "was our own version of a stupid pill." The marketing department turned out to be correct in their prediction that many moviegoers would and did avoid the film because they thought it was "for little girls only." This error was further compounded by the fact that the film opened five days before Avatar.
Looking back seven years later, Lasseter told Variety: "I was determined to bring back [hand-drawn animation] because I felt it was such a heritage of the Disney studio, and I love the art form … I was stunned that Princess didn't do better. We dug into it and did a lot of research and focus groups. It was viewed as old-fashioned by the audience."
The film received largely positive reviews from critics, praising the animation, characters, music and themes. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 85% of 185 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.4 out of 10. The site's general consensus is that "The warmth of traditional Disney animation makes this occasionally lightweight fairy-tale update a lively and captivating confection for the holidays." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 0–100 from film critics, has a rating score of 73 based on 29 reviews.
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A" grade and applauded the film's creative team for "uphold[ing] the great tradition of classic Disney animation". Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter praised Walt Disney Animation for "rediscovering its traditional hand-drawn animation" and for "a thing called story". David Germain of the Associated Press wrote that "The Princess and the Frog is not the second coming of Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King. It's just plain pleasant, an old-fashioned little charmer that's not straining to be the next glib animated compendium of pop-culture flotsam." Justin Chang of Variety was less receptive, stating "this long-anticipated throwback to a venerable house style never comes within kissing distance of the studio's former glory". Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News gave the film 3/5 stars while saying "The Princess and the Frog breaks the color barrier for Disney princesses, but is a throwback to traditional animation and her story is a retread". Village Voice's Scott Foundas found that "the movie as a whole never approache[d] the wit, cleverness, and storytelling brio of the studio's early-1990s animation renaissance (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King) or pretty much anything by Pixar". Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review claiming that "the dialogue is fresh-prince clever, the themes are ageless, the rhythms are riotous and the return to a primal animation style is beautifully executed." Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and admired Disney's step back to traditional animation, writing, "No 3-D! No glasses! No extra ticket charge! No frantic frenzies of meaningless action! And…good gravy! A story! Characters! A plot! This is what classic animation once was like!", but stated that the film "inspires memories of Disney's Golden Age it doesn't quite live up to, as I've said, but it's spritely and high-spirited, and will allow kids to enjoy it without visually assaulting them."
S. Jhoanna Robledo of Common Sense Media gave the film three out of five stars, writing, "First African-American Disney princess is a good role model". Saint Bryan of the NBC-TV Seattle praised the film and called it "The Best Disney Movie Since The Lion King".
Upon its release, the film created controversy among some Christians over its use of Louisiana Voodoo as a plot device. Christianity Today's review of the film cited its sexual undertones and use of voodoo, arguing that the scenes with Dr. Facilier and his "friends on the other side" contain many horror elements and that young children might be frightened by the film. The film's treatment of Louisiana voodoo as a type of magic instead of a religion also drew criticism from non-Christian factions.
Awards and nominations
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and twice for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, but lost to Up and Crazy Heart, respectively. It was also nominated for eight Annie Awards and, at the 37th Annie Awards Ceremony on February 6, 2010, won three.
|2009 Satellite Awards||Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media||The Princess and the Frog||Nominated|
|Best Original Song||Randy Newman
(Down in New Orleans)
|African-American Film Critics Association Awards 2009||Top 10 Films||The Princess and the Frog||Won|
|Best Screenplay||John Musker, Ron Clements and Rob Edwards — Tied with Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire|
|2009 Producers Guild of America Awards||Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures||Peter Del Vecho||Nominated|
|2009 Online Film Critics Society Awards||Best Animated Feature||The Princess and the Frog|
|67th Golden Globe Awards||Best Animated Feature Film|
|2009 Chicago Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature|
|2009 Critics Choice Awards||Best Animated Feature|
|Best Score||Randy Newman|
|2009 Black Reel Awards||Best Film||The Princess and the Frog|
|Best Song, Original or Adapted||Ne-Yo
(Never Knew I Needed)
|Anika Noni Rose
|Anika Noni Rose
(Down in New Orleans)
|Best Voice Performance||Keith David|
|Anika Noni Rose||Won|
|Best Ensemble||The Princess and the Frog||Nominated|
|37th Annie Awards||Best Animated Feature|
|Animated Effects||James DeValera Mansfield||Won|
|Production Design in a Feature Production||Ian Gooding||Nominated|
|Character Animation in a Feature Production||Andreas Deja|
|Bruce W. Smith||Nominated|
|Voice Acting in a Feature Production||Jennifer Cody ("Charlotte")||Won|
|Jenifer Lewis ("Mama Odie")||Nominated|
|82nd Academy Awards|
|Best Animated Feature||John Musker and Ron Clements|
|Best Music, Original Song||Randy Newman
(Down in New Orleans)
|41st NAACP Image Awards||Outstanding Motion Picture|
|Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture||Anika Noni Rose|
|36th Saturn Awards||Best Animated Film||The Princess and the Frog|
|2010 Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie: Animated|
|2011 Grammy Awards||Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media||Randy Newman
(Down in New Orleans)
|Women Film Critics Circle||Best Animated Females||Anika Noni Rose (Tiana), Jennifer Cody (Charlotte La Bouff), Oprah Winfrey (Eudora), Jenifer Lewis (Mama Odie), and all other female characters in The Princess and the Frog.||Won|
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- List of animated feature-length films
- List of traditional animated feature films
- List of Disney theatrical animated features
- List of Disney animated films based on fairy tales
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