Disney broke the mould this year by casting its first African-American heroine in The Princess and the Frog – even if she does spend most of the movie as a frog. A green protagonist is not, I think, what most folk had in mind when they urged Disney to break the colour barrier.
The Princess of the Frog’s black heroine is undoubtedly a step forward, yet in other respects the movie is backward looking – but in a good way. The film is a return to the hand-drawn 2D animation of Disney’s heyday, for a start, and it boasts the studio’s customary formula of fairy-tale plot, quirky supporting characters and tuneful songs.
The story is based on the Brothers Grimm’s Frog Prince, but the tale’s been transplanted to Jazz-age 1920s New Orleans. And the heroine isn’t the usual simpering drip with dreams of marrying a prince but a feisty waitress whose aspiration is to own her own restaurant.
Before she can achieve her goal, however, Anika Noni Rose’s Tiana gets turned into a frog, as does visiting royal playboy Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos), thanks to the machinations of a sneaky Voodoo doctor. The duo hop off to the Bayou in search of a cure, encountering along the way a love-struck Cajun firefly and a trumpet-playing alligator.
So, a mix of old and new. Fortunately, you don’t need 3D glasses to appreciate the vibrant animation, Randy Newman’s tunes ooze with the spirit of the Big Easy, and it’s all underpinned by a wholesome moral.
As Movie Talk’s Heidi put it, the film’s message is “you can dream big but you have to work hard to make it happen. And knowing what you want isn’t the same as knowing what you need.”
Released on DVD & Blu-ray on 21st June.