The Mouse House returns to traditional hand drawn ‘toon musicals with The Princess And The Frog. This is Disney animation at its very best: an instant classic in the vein of The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast and The Jungle Book. Taking the evergreen fairy tale, The Frog Prince and re-imagining it in jazz soaked, 1920’s New Orleans this multi-ethnic yarn of a beautiful African American girl and her Prince who both manage to get turned into frogs is pure holiday entertainment, a wonderful, toe-tapping musical gift everyone is likely to love. With a great Randy Newman score and a magical cast of characters, this one is a 100% guaranteed delight for the whole family. It should clean up at the box office, thrive on DVD and eventually turn up as a Broadway musical.
Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), the first African American Disney princess, lives in the great New Orleans Jazz Age where she dreams of opening her own restaurant and has no time for romance. One day Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos), who has a passion for Dixieland Jazz and a certain joie de vivre about him, is turned into a frog by the evil Dr. Facilier (Keith David). Logically, he asks Tiana to kiss him so he can become human again. It all goes wrong and she turns into a frog herself. Facilier constantly threatens them, yet their predicament leads to a merry, offbeat adventure that lands them in the Louisiana Bayous. In the Bayou they seek the potions of Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis), the colorful, 197 year old queen of the Bayou; they hook up with Louis (Michael Leon Wooley), a good natured hipster, swinging Alligator; and, best of all, they learn about life and love from Ray (Jim Cummings), a very Cajun, love struck firefly who may be the most de light ful Disney character since Jiminy Cricket or Tinker Bell.
At its heart The Princess And The Frog is really all about the mysteries of love in its many forms, and the southern fried screenplay by directors John Musker and Ron Clements ( The Little Mermaid ) and Rob Edwards socks the point home with heart and soul. Returning to the big brassy musical format that reignited Disney animation, the flick is a rousing movie treat sporting a sensational score of memorable tunes from Oscar winner Randy Newman. The soundtrack boasts one show-stopping, Jazz infused number after another, particularly Dr. John’s killer “Down In New Orleans,” “Ma Belle Evangeline” and the plaintive “Almost There.” An end title pop tune written and sung by Ne-Yo called “Never Knew I Needed” seems almost out of place considering the authentic flavor of the Newman tunes.
Vocal work is exemplary, with standouts including Cummings as the lovable Ray and Lewis as the irrepressible mistress of magic, Mama Odie. Rose is also entirely winning as Disney’s newest Princess. Also turning up as Tiana’s mom and dad are the formidable twosome of Oprah Winfrey and Terrence Howard.
With Princess And The Frog Disney musicals are more ‘toonful than ever and that can only be good news at the box office this holiday season.
Walt Disney Pictures
Cast: Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, Bruno Campos, Michael Leon Wooley, Oprah Winfrey, Jenifer Lewis, Terrence Howard and John Goodman.
Directors: John Musker and Ron Clements
Screenwriters: John Musker, Ron Clements and Rob Edwards
Producers: Peter Del Vecho
Running Time: 97 min.
Release date: November 25 LA/NY, December 11 Wide