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Disney’s Princess and the Frog: A Modern Masterpiece

princess-the-frog_new orleansFinally got a chance to see The Princess and the Frog. I had heard so much about it and gotten so many glowing comments from people who’d seen it I decided that I had to see it on the big screen and not wait till it came to video.

You know how sometimes you hear about a movie, all the hype and such and when you finally go and see it it’s kind of a let down. Well, I gotta say this movie not only lives up to the hype but delivers way beyond that.

First of all the animation is first rate as can be expected with Disney. All this stuff about people nowadays wanting to see computer generated stuff over hand drawn stuff just ain’t true. The theatres have been packed and it’s now one of the top grossing movies of the season.

There are things you can do with had drawn animation that just can’t be done with computers. The film is just visually stunning. The way the artwork shifts and moves so fluidly with rich, spectacular colors. It just explodes on the screen.

And the animators use different styles of art depending on the mood of the scene. One place in particular is when Tania, the princess in the movie, is dreaming about her future restaurant. They change the style of the animation to match a poster Tania keeps in her room to remind her of her dream. These little touches are just brilliant.

I’ve heard that the Tania character is loosely based on Leah Chase, one of our foremost local personalities and chefs who runs Dooky Chase restaurant. And a big deal is seeming to be made that Tania is Disney’s first black princess. The story is put together so well and is told so brilliantly that there is nothing about this that seems contrived. It is all a perfect fit with the essence and culture of the Crescent City.

This is clearly a Disney love letter to our great city, New Orleans being a major character in the story.

It’s buildings and atmosphere are so lovingly drawn that just seeing the care with which Disney has reproduced the city is heart stirring. I can’t say enough about this attention to detail. Although they played around with the accuracy of how buildings sit and such, the Disney rendition fits and it’s just beautiful. It is so good that it almost makes you want to cry.

The songs and score by Randy Newman is just great. He’s someone who’s lived here and he gets our music and what it means to us. He does dixieland, blues, cajun and zydeco with such style and flair. He should win an Oscar for this, at least be nominated.

The dialogue is witty and funny, there are a few jokes in the movie that only a New Orleanian would get. The voices are great, most noticeable is John Goodman‘s (Although he speaks with a kind of a Southern accent which I think for New Orleans is a little inaccurate but I’ll let it slide. Hollywood has yet to authentically display a true New Orleans accent. I’m waiting.)

And now to a point of controversy that I’m gonna weigh in on: the depiction of the Cajun characters. Some feel offended that the Cajuns were depicted as being stupid and bumbling. The lightning bug character with only a few teeth in his head got dat thick Cajun accent, cher. Hurray for accuracy! He’s sweet and turns out to be very wise character. What happens to him in the end is actually very moving.

Then there are the three hunters, all lame-brains and goofy. Now I gotta say, this is an animated movie, a comedy which lends itself to exaggeration. The Cajuns they depict live in the swamp. I am of Cajun heritage. I’ve met Cajun people like that.

There are stupid and bumbling people from all ethnological backgrounds. I don’t think anyone with any intelligence would think that all Cajuns are stupid and bumbling and have no teeth. I suggest to anyone who’d be offended by this to just lighten up. It’s a cartoon for gosh sakes.

Usually, my own personal rating for a movie being really good or not is if I’d go see it again. The Princess and the Frog is at the top of my see-again list. If you haven’t seen it don’t wait till it comes to video. This is a movie that needs to be experienced on the big screen. It is that good.

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