*This is a user-submitted post by Jordan Hashemi-Briskin*
Like many Disney nerds, I was overjoyed when I first heard about The Princess and the Frog. Prior to its release, I had begun to view the output of Walt Disney Animation Studios (specifically, the post-Brother Bear releases) with no small amount of trepidation, as it felt to me like the studio was starting to lose its touch. That being said, this movie felt like a huge inhalation of fresh air, as it radiates with all of the wonderful qualities that one would expect from a Disney animated classic. It angers me, therefore, that it has been largely overshadowed by the films that followed in the decade since its release. So, in honor of its 10th anniversary, I would like to share the reasons why I believe The Princess and the Frog deserves much more recognition than it currently gets.
Reason #1: A heroine who breaks the mould in more ways than one
This goes without saying, but Tiana marks two major firsts: She was the first Disney heroine with a career goal (opening her own restaurant in honor of her late father), and she is also currently the Disney Canon’s first human protagonist of African ancestry. In the former regard, she serves as a wonderful role model for the younger members of the audience, teaching the value of dedication, hard work, and perseverance. It’s in the latter respect, though, that Tiana has had the greatest impact; black viewers across the country were by and large ecstatic to see someone of their background represented on screen, and at a time when empowerment of women and people of color in cinema and television takes on increasing importance, she continues to shine as a step in the right direction. (Of course, the fact that much of the supporting cast is also comprised of black characters helps too.)
It’s important to note, though, that there had been black protagonists in Disney productions prior to Tiana; likewise, Disney has yet to produce an animated film featuring a human lead from Africa proper.
Reason #2: A supporting cast that matches its leads
As far as I can tell, The Princess and the Frog is probably the first Disney canon film in which the vast majority of the supporting characters are just as well-rounded and compelling as the leads. More importantly, they all help to contribute to the story without feeling like they’ve been shoehorned in. This applies not only to the standard Disney animal sidekicks (Louis and Ray) but also to many of the human ensemble members (Charlotte La Bouff and Mama Odie, for example).
Reason #3: A vibrant and eclectic musical score
We all know just how important a role music plays in Disney animation, and by my estimations,The Princess and the Frog has possibly one of the most infectious soundtracks of any Disney film since at least The Lion King. The film takes full advantage of the rich musical traditions of its New Orleans setting, utilizing swing jazz (“Down in New Orleans” and “Almost There), Dixieland (“When We’re Human”), zydeco (“Gonna Take You There”), blues (“Ma Belle Evangeline”), and gospel (“Dig a Little Deeper”). You would be hard-pressed to stop yourself from singing along, or at least from tapping your foot to the beat.
Reason #4: The film’s awareness (and celebration) of its Disney roots
During the Experimental era, Disney Animation had tried numerous times to deviate from its tried-and-true “formula,” to mixed degrees of success. The makers of The Princess and the Frog, however, were well aware of the fact that this film owed so much to the legacy first laid down by Snow White and all the movies that followed (most especially those of Disney’s Renaissance). Hence, it’s not surprising that they tried so hard to capture the spirit of classic Disney animation in this film; and if you ask me, they succeeded splendidly. (The innumerable Disney shout-outs are also fun to look for.)
All of these factors considered, The Princess and the Frog is a true-blue Disney classic, which can sit comfortably on the shelf alongside the films of yesteryear. As such, it deserves so much more recognition– and appreciation– than it currently receives a decade after its initial release.
What do you think? Does The Princess and the Frog deserve more attention? What makes it special to you?
Edited by: Kelly Conley