Not too come across as too big headed, but I consider myself a bit of a Disney buff. I’m 20 years old, so that would make such classics as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Pohcahontas the narratives I grew up on and, rather inevitably, fell in love with as a child.
Not only that, but last year I wrote my dissertation on the topic of morality in films to come out of the Disney studios, focusing mainly on what was at the time the most recent Disney Princess movie- Enchanted.
Princess and the Frog
In the process of writing my dissertation however the first entirely hand drawn Princess movie since Beauty and the Beast in 1991 was released- The Princess and the Frog and it’s about time I gave my thoughts on it.
Initially Princess and the Frog attracted a fair bit of attention because our protagonist Tiana is the first African-American Princess and therefore is the first Princess to go against the Disney mould of being fair skinned. (Ariel, Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella) That’s not to say she’s a complete first for Disney; Jasmine was from the middle-East, Mulan was of Chinese decent, Pohcahontas was Native American and Esmarelda I believe was Spanish. None the less, none of them for some reason or another were let into the Disney Princess “club” and she was, and that got people talking given the claims of racism which have fallen at Disney’s feet over the years.
The general conclusion of my dissertation was that Enchanted provides a far from a perfect moral blueprint for your child to grow up with, assuming they internalise all of the ideas. However, Gisele knew what she wanted and went out to get it herself and this was a definite step in the right direction when compared to the weak and submissive females to come out of the 30s and 50s. (Snow White, pull your finger out love!)
And for the most part I think Princess and the Frog similarly updates the Disney morality to make it far more appropriate for children growing up in 2010.
Tiana displays the desirable traits of hard work and determination in the face of adversity as she works to fulfil her dream of owning her own restaurant and this represents a significant change from the Disney who seem to have always put success and dreams coming true down to “wishing on a star”, fate and destiny, as opposed to sheer hard work and graft.
The Bottom Line
Overall I must admit I liked it but it’s hard to say whether that’s for genuine brilliance or for aesthetic reasons. I am already a Disney fan, anything practically anything wrapped up in Disney magic is going to appeal to me, the cute alligator, the catchy songs and the style of animation are all things I find hard, if not impossible not to like.
But looking strictly at the narrative, and then comparing it to the latest films to come from Pixar, like Up, Toy Story 3 and Wall-E I’ve got to admit that I found all of these films far more watchable and enjoyable than I did Princess and the Frog. Maybe it’s because I’m not 8 anymore but I maintain that the best children’s films are those that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike, and so far Pixar’s attempts seem to be far more qualified at doing that than Disney’s hand drawn nostalgia films are.
Later this year we will also see the release of Tangled (based on Rapunzel), said to be a hybrid of hand drawn animation and CGI so that images appear more like paintings on the screen so it’ll be interesting to see once again whether what Disney has made its name for, adapting classic narratives with its Disney stamp, is really working anymore when up against the excellence of Pixar.