Starring(the voices of): Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Terence Howard, John Goodman, Oprah Winfrey

Director(s): Ron Clements, John Musker

Writer(s): Ron Clements, John Musker

Cinemtography: Ian Gooding

Original Music: Randy Newman

Running Time: 97 Mins.

To be mentioned in the same breath as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, this is an accolade any director of an animated feature would be proud of, that Ron Clements and John Musker are the men behind two of these three films from Disney’s heyday is quite something, the word animated masterpiece doesn’t really begin to cover how good Disney were, when at the top of their game at producing hand drawn animated films. Since the early 90’s when Toy Story ushered in two new major developments in animated features for better or for worse. CGI and the staple “buddy picture” story that has now, for whatever reason, taken precedence of the fairytale’s of old.

There is no denying that in Pixar animation found a new life amidst the doldrums of weaker Disney animations, Pocahontas, Treasure Planet, Home on the Range, to name but a few were lacking in classic Disney quality, and has now become the byword on quality animated films, and with producing films with the consistant quality as they are doing we can’t really complain. But alas it is a sad fact that no matter how good Toy Story, Up or Wall-E are, they lack that…if nothing else (to use a cheesy phrase) magic that Disney and it’s hand drawn features could at their very best.

Something which it would seem that head of Pixar recognised upon taking over as head of Disney, promptly rebooting the production of the long dead hand-drawn Walt Disney Classics, Lasseter’s intention is clear, there is a place for fairytales as much as there is for CGI  buddy pics, and it would be a great shame to see generations grow up without their own era of genre defining fairytales. Which is where Clement’s and Musker come in, rebooting and adapting classic fairytale The Frog Prince, repleat with everything that made Aladdin, The Little Mermaid et al as good as they were.

As with any film in any genre you could go through with a checklist, though this is not a bad thing if the elements work so well, why change a brilliant and successful formula, which means that we have a princess, a villain, a dashing prince and those uniquely Disney-fic elements, the songs, the comedy animal sidekicks and a happily ever after. Each of these elements are present and correct but the script is peppered with more than enough to give The Princess and the Frog the up-to-date twist’s needed to engage even the most rest-less child (or inner child!).

There is, quite simply put, no fault to be found and watching the film and I found myself transported to a place that I had not been since seeing The Lion King at the cinema many years ago, it is to the credit of all that The Princess and the Frog is such a success, the direction acts as h’omage at times yet also acts as its own entity, fresh and new yet harking back to the masterpiece’s of old. In terms of updating things there is a setting, New Orleans, that lends the film a bright and almost modern look while retaining its tradition and this fit means the music follows suit as all the numbers are Jazz inspired, and I can safely say some of the tunes will go down as classics, or certainly should.

What stood out for me the most was the use of villain Dr. Facilier, the Shadowman, maybe a little scary for the very young he struck a note of real menace, brilliant enough to rank alongside Malificent, Shere Khan and Ursula as a memorable brilliant Disney villain, truly creepy yet original, it is in the animation of Facilier, and everybody else, that the film is won, as Facilier’s shadow acts as a separate entity it displays the ingenious quality that imbues the whole film.

Much has been made of Tiana (our “princess”) being the first black Disney princess, it is a shame as you would have thought we have moved beyond these kind of distinctions but regardless of colour, Tiana is thoroughly convincing and a strong female lead avoiding the pitfalls of cliché while still becoming the Disney princess that you would quite rightly expect come the film’s final act. But if this sounds predictable enough, the journey there isn’t, taking in many great characters who all get their time to shine, and as with the rest of the production, subverting expectation enough to make The Princess and the Frog both classic in its storytelling and ingredients, but fresh and, dare is say, modern in its execution, a modern classic then as it were!

VERDICT

Walt Disney Classic The Princess and the Frog, the moniker says it all, Walt Disney animation studios are back with a bang.

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