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Gavin Grades The Movies

The Princess and The Frog

Oh Disney!  I don't know how you did it in the past.  You used to create such wonderful movies that they would dazzle our eyes, inspire our dreams, dare children to imagine and earn Oscars.  But for some reason Disney, you got away from that.  Thank God Pixar came along and saved you from the quagmire film nightmare you built around yourself.  But as a fan of the Golden Age of Disney and an owner of those childhood dreams and imagination, I can proudly scream out, "Welcome Back Old Friend!"  The Disney Animation Studios assembled a dream team to create "The Princess and The Frog."  It's directed by Ron Clements and John Musker who are the geniuses behind "Aladdin" and "The Little Mermaid."  Then just to make sure it gets even better they get Randy Newman to write all the songs...like he's been doing for decades, and get Pixar's John Lasseter (The "Toy Story" movies, "Bug's Life," "Cars," "Up") to Produce.  I dare you to make a bad movie with them at the helm!  This film, I'm sure you've heard, is a first for creating a black Disney Princess character.  Her name is Tiana and will be one of the most loved no doubt.  But this movie has several other firsts in it that I can't say without ruining the plot.  One of those firsts was actually quite shocking.  The film takes place in New Orleans in the 1920s, an age of jazz and food...way before it was sadly destroyed, which adults will feel morose about when seeing it the way it was.  The music fits the mood of the city perfectly having each song be a different New Orleans style.  There was jazz (of course) but also gospel, zydeco, ragtime and never once feeling like a stereotype or trite caricature of the culture.  The acting is great and in true Disney fashion, it's done by mostly no-name actors, except for John Goodman, Oprah, Terrence Howard and Keith David in smaller roles.  Sure the story if formulaic (you can easily swap out Louis the Alligator and Ray the Bug in this for Timon and Pumba) but it kind of has to be because that's what we love about classic Disney films.  But what I loved the most about this movie is something that kids will only pick up on subconsciously.  Disney films have always fit the mood of the country when they were made.  "Snow White" was made during The Depression and had songs like "Whistle While You Work."  "The Little Mermaid" was made during the materialism of the 1980s and reflected that in Ariel's relentless collecting of things and selfishness "look at this stuff, isn't it neat...but I want more."  This film is no different and it's even better that it speaks to African American kids.  Tiana reflects what President Obama tried to say to high schools earlier this year (although he was banned in some schools).  She doesn't hope for a better life through luck and circumstance but instead works really hard at it and doesn't rely on short cuts to do it.  Every song in the movie is about working hard, being optimistic and keeping your gumption.  Of course it's not just message but also whimsy, wonder and thick helpings of that classic Disney mood and charm, slathered all over every frame of 2-D animation that makes this movie fantastic and worthy to be stand among the other Disney greats! The Princess and The Frog (Rated G) Gavin Grade: A+

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12/09/2009 6:47AM
The Princess and The Frog
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12/11/2009 7:43AM
hey gavin, when i saw the commercial for this movie, I thought the exact same thing. welcome back, animation of the old. and i was also excited about the fact that she is from new orleans, and that we now have a black princess. Also,as far as i can tell from the previews, (correct me if I'm wrong) the prince is not black, which would make this the first inter-ratial romance in a disney movie. SUCCESS! I can't wait to see this groundbreaking movie.
12/26/2009 6:20PM
Actually Cyndi, the Prince is black but he's voiced by a white guy.
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