SAN DIEGO — “The Princess and the Frog” is Disney’s latest animated fair tale. This time, however, the film will make history, featuring the first African-American princess in Disney’s history.
The film takes place in New Orleans, where our heroine Tiana encounters the unfortunate Prince Naveen, who magically transformed into a frog after being tricked by Dr. Facilier, a voodoo magician. In an attempt to cure his curse he must kiss a princess and believes he finds it with the smart and clever Tiana. Unfortunately for her, the spell backfires and she too turns into a frog. The rest of the film is a journey as Tiana and Prince Naveen search together for the remedy to their problem.
What also makes “The Princess and the Frog” special is the fact this is the first pure 2D animation Disney has produced since “Home on the Range” — almost 5 years ago. At the helm of the film directing are John Musker and Ron Clements, who made such classics as “The Great Mouse Detective” “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin.”
The duo gathered for a panel at the Comic-Con International this year to talk more about the film.
“We knew several things going into this project: We wanted to have it take place in New Orleans, and we wanted her to be Africian American” Clements said as he answered questions about the film’s portrayal of the character Mama Odie — a 200-year-old voodoo priestess — with a thick Louisiana accent, which some critics claim is a caricature of African Americans. Musker and Clements had based the film according to their experiences living in New Orleans doing research, they said. They said the film captures the spirit of the city, rather than marginalizing its culture or characters.
“We didn’t think people would take it that way.” Musker said.
The soundtrack will include original works by Randy Newman, who is a native of New Orleans. During the main panel where attendees got a sneak peek of a musical number, it is clear Disney hasn’t lost its touch with grand musical acts. In this case it is Prince Naveen who foolishly takes the advice of a swindler in order to find a prosperous wife. There are brilliant colors in mardi gras palettes: purples, greens, and yellows. Shadows creep against a wall and assist the swindler, Dr. Facilier, into his chair. If one could envision a mesh between Ariel’s transformation scene with Ursula in “The Little Mermaid” added with a dash of “Beauty & The Beast” it would be a fair representation.
“The Princess and the Frog” arrives in theaters December 11.