Thursday, December 17, 2009

Perspective On Princesses & Frogs...

Are you ready...

Yes, I know this came out almost a week ago so I apologize for the tardiness, but Christmas shopping and a full schedule in the real world has prevented me from posting this...

First off, I don't call this a review. This is just my thoughts/opinions/feelings on the latest release from Walt Disney Animation Studios. I've always been uncomfortable with the idea of writing reviews and if you've noticed, I haven't written one in a good while. Just think of this as my perspective on Disney's forty-ninth animated feature with some illumination on where it's headed for the fiftieth and beyond.

I didn't get around to seeing "The Princess and the Frog" till Sunday because of the flooding that Southern California was having. My friends and I had to postpone our little get together a few days and I've been busy making sure I stuffed all those stockings and between that, work and juggling meetings and plans over my iPhone, I just didn't have time to put down on paper or computer, exactly how it was.

Now that that's out of the way let me say: "Welcome back hand-drawn animation." I missed you! And the relatives you've had around weren't exactly the best showing of your family. Let's face it, "Home on the Range" is a hayseed hick in your family and I don't really like spending much time with 'em.

I thoroughly enjoyed TPATF and it's a glimmering jewel of what can be done my the Mouse when bean counters understand they weren't hired to write, but count. Yes, I loved it but many will ask if it's as good as the films of the early nineties like "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin;" both of which were directed by the same people. Truthfully, no it's not. I believe that the quadrilogy of films from the late eighties to mid-nineties are superior stories. That doesn't mean that this has a horrible story, only that it doesn't hold up as well as something like "Lion King." But again, that's a tall mountain to climb. I found the first act somewhat rushed and uneven, but still entertaining. The second act was my favorite and it had a strong finish.

I do believe that the animation is second-to-none. It's truly spectacular and shows you what Disney Animation is all about. I have nothing against CG animation and think Pixar is the top of the game with theirs, but I love hand-drawn animation and this film is a testament to the love of that form. Even thought it doesn't come out in cels anymore, I love seeing the animated form that starts first with a pencil or Cintiq.

The songs in the film are also not as memorable as the earlier films; as least in terms of quantity. There are two stand outs though. The "Friends on the Other Side" and "Dig a little Deeper" had the entire audience clapping and swinging to the tune.

But the boys/girls up at the Hat Building have something to be rather proud of. And it should show everyone, including Mr. Eisner that it was a tragic mistake to throw away those drawing tables a half a decade ago. The Suits of the time thought people didn't want to see hand-drawn films. What they didn't want to see was badly told hand-drawn films. I have a feeling we won't have to worry about that for the next few years. Hopefully it'll be for a lot longer. I for one can't wait to see Disney's next hand-drawn film in Spring of 2011. From what my Bothans tell me, "Winnie the Pooh" is moving along at a shockingly fast rate. It'll likely be done well before the release date which is something that can't be said for "Rapunzel" which will be rushing to meet its deadline with six and even seven day work weeks as the film draws closer to it's release next year. Development on "Snow Queen" continues and "Joe Jump" is moving forward with each vying for a release date in 2012/2013 sometime. Then there are at least four other projects that are moving through various states of existence that will fill the rest of the Disney half of animation from the Mouse over the next five years.

After watching this latest effort I count the days until the next release. And I can't wait to own it on DVD in a few months.

Especially with that sneak peek at the girl with seventy foot long hair that will be included...


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the film as well Honor. :)

I still love Bolt as well.

I love both traditional animation and CGI.
For me, it doesn't matter what animation method is used, as long as the story is strong.
After all, STORY is the most important thing. :)

bsmith13 said...

Thanks for posting that. I disagree slightly with a few aspects of your non-review.

I would call the films of the 80s-90s a foursome rather than a quadrilogy, as they are not thematically linked.

There were three aspects of TPATF that stood out to me when I saw it: Visuals, Music and Story.

The music was fantastic! I love jazz, so that may have laid a foundation that TPATF could easily build upon, but it was so fresh and so different from what we normally hear in a Disney animated movie that I went out and hunted for the soundtrack on the way home.

The visuals, well, we agree on that! Normally, it will take me a few viewings to start noticing the backgrounds. Not this time! The layout were gorgeous, as were the characters. I missed hand-drawn animation, and am thrilled to see it back.

Finally, the story. I liked it! I hadn't really taken the time to rank it with previous Disney offerings, but I suppose I would agree that the story is not as compelling or haunting as the movies you mentioned. Thank goodness it was a great deal better than other recent animated offerings.

I highly recommend this film. I recommend it even more if you have a young princess you can take to see it.

Woodrow said...

I saw the movie in tribute to Roy Disney on the day I heard he died. My next celebration of his life will be to buy "Morning Light." I wanted to earlier, but budget indicated "no". Now I have a reason to ignore my budget. May he rest in peace.

The Princess and the Frog is fantastic. First, my bias: I prefer hand drawn 2D to computer generated 3D. I find it easier to suspend disbelief with the more fluid nature of the pencil line. As much as I enjoy Pixar, hair and cloth simulation still distracts me from even the best stories. So, to see Louis's joyfully unencumbered romp through the bayou, Mama Odie's jowls dance and beautiful 'S' curves littering Tiana's stylized restaurant fantasy was, for me, a long missed delight. I think 2D made the voodoo more magical and Facilier's slithering moves more slithering. But my absolute favorite character was Eudora. As much as Louis reminded me of Ward Kimball's cat, Lucifer, Eudora reminded my of his Aracua Bird in Three Caballeros, spastic and eternally positive. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the other shoe to drop, the fateful moment when she would devolve into cynicism. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Disney (Ron and John), because she never did! In the end, I enjoyed Princess and the Frog even more than The Little Mermaid, something I never expected to happen. I seen it twice and hopefully more. Curse the budget.

Cory Gross said...

I would agree that The Princess and the Frog isn't one of the best Disney films ever, but it is one that I will probably pick up on DVD. If Disney makes just DVDs anymore.

It does tend to feel like a gentle wading into the pool again, which is fine because it was. There were a few times where it felt like they were trying too hard to give a positive message, but that sometimes also gave it an interesting twist against the common tropes. The ending was truly moving, had my girlfriend in tears and me just about.

The weakest part was the music. Actually being a fan of vintage Jazz, Big Band and Dixieland, I thought the film's music wasn't all it could be. If you're going to reference Satchmo and the Firehouse Five Plus Two, the music should have tried to live up to it. Instead it was kind of disjointed and, yeah, not everything it could have been.

Still though, the setting was beautifully realized and the story quite touching. It did make me immediately want to fly down to Disneyland and ride the Mark Twain ^_^

Unknown said...

apparently I was the only person who liked home on the range

Spokker said...

"Especially with that sneak peek at the girl with seventy foot long hair that will be included... "

Does the white girl turn into anything for most of the movie?

I kid, kid!

Bob said...

Nah, Blake, some of my friends and I liked Home on the Range too. But it's just one of those films that will always be ridiculed, due to its reputation rather than its actual quality.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment Honor, this is very good little film. Sadly it's earning less than even Bolt did and may not make $100 million domestically (on its second Friday, it mad $3.4 million, compared to over $10 million for Bolt, which eventually made $114 million domestically).

I think a lot of people were thinking this would be the second coming of the "Little Mermaid." If Disney animation is truly going to experience a revival in the next few years, "The Princess and the Frog" may end up more akin to "The Great Mouse Detective." The latter film is often overlooked these days but IMO laid the groundwork for Disney's second golden age. Maybe P&F will be the GMD of the third golden age...if the third golden age materializes.

What is missing IMO, for a third golden age to fresh talent. 20 years later Disney is still relying on the some of the same people whose creativity brought them the second golden age. While those people (Clements, Musker, et al) remain highly skilled, perhaps their period of greatest creativity is past them. New talent with new sparks of imagination may be needed.

Two other random points. First, leave the word "Princess" out of future titles. That word probably acts like a repellant to significant portion of males. Also, while Randy Newman is an excellent composer...his musical style may be more suited to the Pixar films than to fairy tales. Just my $0.02

- Tasman

Anonymous said...

Too bad avatar is gonna trump princess and the frog :( damn james cameron and his big films

Spokker said...

"That word probably acts like a repellant to significant portion of males."

Filmmakers should make the movie they want to make, not change their vision to adhere to gender stereotypes. If the filmmaker wants princess in the title, it should be in the title.

Spokker said...

It's amazing how much misinformation there is about this movie. There are spoilers here.

First, the chick was a human for more time than detractors claimed.

Second, while a G-rated movie would be expected to sidestep the issue of race, the bankers rejected her bid because of her "background." One could easily infer that bankers were considering race. It wasn't as sanitized as you would expect.

Third, she did not need the dude to fulfill her dream. The bankers sold her the property because the alligator intimidated them. She paid with her own money.

Fourth, stereotypes were all over the movie, including the deliverance style white hillbillies. People only see the offenses they want to see, though.

In any case it was a great movie. It wasn't as good as the greats (Pinocchio, Beauty and the Beast, etc.) but I liked it more than The Lion King, Aladdin, Cinderella, et all.

Anonymous said...

"People only see the offenses they want to see, though."

Goes the other way as well. You see what your mind wants to see, and it reveals what type of person you are.

Anonymous said...

quote: "...not change their vision to adhere to gender stereotypes."

^^ That's noble. But what vision are you referring to? I think including the word "princess" in the title served two purposes. 1) It tied into Disney's "princess" marketing brand. 2) It tried to emphasize that the "frog" was not the main character (only problem is, the main character wasn't a least till the end). The original name of this story was "The Frog Prince." I think keeping that title wouldn't have hurt, and could possibly have helped. Most young males aren't going to care whether or not they are fulfilling "gender stereotypes"...they just won't be too facinated by something called "princess." If you don't care about your level of appeal to that particular demographic, fine. But if you're out to make a blockbuster, then perhaps such issues might deserve some consideration.

- Tasman

Bob and Rob Professional American Writers said...

So, I'm sitting next to my eight year old daughter and halfway through the film I asked her how she likes the "2d"...she didn't know what I was talking about, so later I explained the difference to her...she said..."oh, you mean because it wasn't rubbery"? The "format" didn't mean a thing to her, she loved it just as as much as the "rubbery" did I.

Thus are my hopes for the future of ALL animation...good films beget good films. Happy Holidays, Honor! Bob

Spokker said...

"Goes the other way as well. You see what your mind wants to see, and it reveals what type of person you are."

Not all the time. If something bad is really there then it's really there. There is some really racist stuff out there.

As for this movie, nothing about it is even remotely offensive.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree with you, unfortunately the splendor of the 80's and 90's are behind us, I really enjoyed the movie, but the truth is I don't think the story could hold a stick to earlier films. I'm not criticizing Disney for their efforts because I thought they did an immaculate job, however, I have noticed the lack of ingenuity and creativity across the board in all forms of entertainment particularly movies.
I think that as culture comes to terms with the fact that entertainment lacks the culture it once did in the 80's and 90's only then will companies like Disney begin to surpass the high bar that they set in past.