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It is interesting to note that culture barriers are starting to break and most of all, how movies are defining a new medium of what we see on screen.
Review of Disney's "Princess and the frog"
With its return to 2D animation after 5 years, Disney's The Princess and the Frog has managed to gross USD 25 million, enjoying the biggest opening of any film ever released in December 0f 2010. It broke the records of Beavis and Butt-head Do America that had drawn about USD 20 million in the holiday season of 1996. "The Princess and the Frog" is Disney's first hand-drawn animation after Home on the Range in 2004, directed by the team of John Musker and Ron Clements of Hercules and Aladdin fame. This musical love story has been set to tune by music composer Randy Newman who had managed to scoop up the Oscar in 2002 for his "If I didn't have you" for Monster's Inc.
Set in the Jazz Age New Orleans, this movie depicts the adventures of Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a hard working girl who is determined to open her own restaurant French Quarter. She is pertinacious in her quest as she saves every penny from her humble earning at a café. However, her life goes for a toss when she kisses Prince Naveen of Maldonia, magically transmutated into a frog by the witch doctor Facilier (Keith David). Naveen, who had initially come to New Orleans in the search of a wealthy bride after being cut off by his parents, becomes hell bent upon getting a kiss. He approaches Tiana for some lip action and kaboom! Unlike the Grimm Brothers' fairytale "The Frog Prince" of the 1920's, instead of the frog turning into a prince charming, Tiana herself becomes a frog. The story then talks of Tiana's uproarious endeavors to become human again in the mysterious lakes of Louisiana.
The film had been the butt of several criticisms ever since it was announced. William Blackburn, columnist of the Charlotte Observer had opined that, "This princess’ story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community. And then they throw in the voodoo theme [the fairy-godmother character is a voodoo priestess] and an alligator sidekick. When you put New Orleans, alligators and voodoo together, there’s no beauty there." However, the film recorded almost one out of five moviegoers to be unaccompanied adults as per Disney's exit polling. Chuck Viane, Disney's head of domestic distribution remarked, "That's the number that's sweetest. We knew families were going to come. But we didn't know about the adults without kids. That was going to depend on reviews."
With almost 83% of critics recommending the movie, Viane says that the movie shall withstand the tidal waves expected to be created by James Cameron's sci-fi biggie Avatar. "Family movies have great legs, so we're confident," Viane exudes. "Avatar's a tsunami, and we're going to survive it," probably counting on the generally long shelf lives of holiday movies. After all he feels that, "It's one of those classic Disney fairy tales and people just fell in love with it. Read about World's most expensive movie gets great reviews at premiere and 'Avatar' impresses even the critics.
All in all, the film leaves the audiences with a moral in a subtle way in the classic Disney fashion, with Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis) saying that the "only thing important is what's under the skin."
A by-the-numbers approach keeps The Princess and the Frog out of the first ranks of Disney's animated films, but this lively, fractured fairy tale should find an extended life in children's DVD collections and on Broadway. The new movie is being doubly promoted as Disney's first featuring an African-American princess and a return to hand-drawn animation. Set in the New Orleans of the 1920s, the story pays tribute to jazz culture, and like last year's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, gains resonance from the Hurricane Katrina-devastated city itself.
The casting decision seems less of an innovation than a long-overdue correction: Disney has already featured native-American, Chinese and Hawaiian heroines (and, in Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride, even a dead one). Besides, for the one African-American princess breaking new ground, The Princess and the Frog offers plenty of familiar stereotypes, air-headed blondes, malaprop-mouthing Cajuns, toothless hillbillies and a wise old voodoo queen in the bayou.
The film's directors and co-writers (with Rob Edwards) are Ron Clements and John Musker ( The Little Mermaid, Aladdin ). Two of a team responsible for Disney's nineties renaissance, they recreate the flowing Disney animation style, paying homage to classic examples from Pinocchio to Lady and the Tramp, with scenes that range from spooky gothic to phantasmagoric to art-deco grandeur. Pixar's favourite songwriter, Randy Newman, provides the score, which, if short of memorable tunes, is rich in authenticity, with a mixture of local flavoured ragtime, zydeco and jazz.
A prelude, set in 1912, sees a young Tiana (voiced by Elizabeth M. Dampier) as the child of a labourer, James (Terrence Howard), who dreams of being a chef. Tiana's mother, Eudora (Oprah Winfrey), is a seamstress and nanny to Tiana's best friend, the spoiled little white girl Charlotte (Breanna Brooks as a child, and Jennifer Cody as an adult). Charlotte's the daughter of a wealthy, indulgent widower, Big Daddy La Bouff (John Goodman), who is also the perennial Mardi Gras king. When Eudora reads the Grimm's fairy tale of the princess and the frog to the children, Charlotte says she would kiss any number of frogs to win a prince; Tiana says frog-kissing is where she would draw the line.
Let's just hope that The Princess and the Frog doesn't do for amphibian terrariums what 101 Dalmatians did for spotted dogs, or Finding Nemo did for pet-fish sales.