19. The Princess and the Frog (2009)
When The Princess and the Frog was released, it was Disney returning to their roots after languishing in a CGI era because their traditional animation was falling by the wayside money wise. Yet, Disney surprised everyone by going back to their hand-drawn style with a charming redemption piece by taking their musical style of the 90’s Renaissance and bringing it to 1920’s New Orleans with a predominantly black cast alongside their first princess of color with Tiana (Anika Noni Rose). Disney made a modern classic by also having the set-up of the story The Frog Prince and turning it on its head. In this, the Tiana also turns into a frog after kissing the recently frog-turned Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) in order to attempt to break a spell the Shadow Man a.k.a. Dr. Facilier (Keith David) placed upon him. The two must find a way to break the spell and stop the Shadow Man from ruining Mardi Gras. The animation in this film is astounding.
It’s rich in color and vibrancy by hearkening back to the days of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, which were also directed by Clements and Musker (names you will continues to see later), and creating a film utilizing the animation of yesteryear and the new techniques of today. Their is even a richness in the story by using the company’s hard fought concept of wishing upon a star and breaking it down to the concept of having to work your damnedest in order to obtain that goal. That is not an easy concept for most kids to get, but this film explains it. The songs in this movie are amazing with Randy Newman really harnessing the jazzy vibes of New Orleans with the intro song “Down By The River” engaging the audience into the world and “Almost There” showing the hopes and dreams of Tiana comes to life with flashy minimalist art accompanying the number. The crown jewel of the film and songs is “Friends on the Other Side” with Dr. Facilier putting on a show for Naveen with voodoo magic, the brightness of the dark imagery and David giving the performance of a lifetime as arguably one of the best Disney villains in a long while.
For a more in-depth look at the film, here’s a Film A Week review I wrote earlier this year: Film A Week: The Series – The Princess and the Frog
Critic’s Quote: “This is what classic animation once was like! No 3-D! No glasses! No extra ticket charge! No frantic frenzies of meaningless action! And…good gravy! A story! Characters! A plot!” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, December 10, 2009
Signature Moment: The aforementioned “Friend on the Other Side” is a modern villainous masterpiece.