Forget everything you know about fairytale princesses. This one is neither a) White with rosy pink cheeks, nor b) waiting for a prince to ride in and erase all her problems. The prince, for that matter, isn’t much of a catch, frog or human.
While Disney’s Princess and the Frog is a step backward to the days before computer animation, it was an exceptionally pleasant journey.
The storyline is not complex, but the characters were original and captivating. Even the New Orleans setting (a character in itself) confirmed that this wasn’t the fairy tale any of us grew up with.
When you think about it, what qualities did Snow White or Cinderella have that you might want your daughter to emulate? They were… pretty, and… timid… and oh yes, very good at singing. But they had no oomph. If their princes hadn’t come along, they’d have been doomed.
I wish Disney had devised this newest take on princesses a long time ago. I grew up watching straight-haired girls in glass slippers, pining for Prince Charming to take them away from anything that involved more work than choosing gowns and riding white horses through flowery fields around the castle.
What’s most impressive about Tiana (voiced by Tony-award winning actress Anika Noni Roase), is that she’s worthy of all the rewards every fairytale bestows upon the princess. Not because she’s the fairest in the land, but because she’s a character you’d happily wish your daughters would grow up to become.
The movie also features the voices of Oprah Winfrey, as Tiana’s mother, Eudora, and Terrence Howard as her father James.
Every princess has her co-conspirators, (remember the teacups and the mice?) and I was enthralled with the picks in this movie. There’s even a Black fairytale “godmother” of sorts. Not to mention the toe-tapping cuteness of the songs that came along the journey. While there wasn’t a standout, a la Beauty & the Beast, I may just wind up on Youtube to relive a few of my favourites.
The New Orleans’ culture is vividly depicted in its flavourful music and food. I did get a little itchy over the prevalence of voodoo in the storyline, but I suppose it’s no different than the swirly magic that put the hex on Snow White’s apple, and no one complained about that.
Several days after watching the movie I realized my only disappointment was the underlying theme of a virtuous woman working hard, and doing the right thing, yet being paired with a “prince” who has been merrily sowing his oats, without a semblance of responsibility. While it may mirror reality, it’s not the message I’d want to send to any of the young women I know.
That, however, cannot overshadow the great role model that has been created for a generation of little princesses who may not be able to style themselves into a Cinderella, or a Princess Jasmine. Some of the men I know have said they’d happily go out and get a doll or a poster for their little girls, to remind them of Tiana’s strong character example.
In 2009, I’d probably seen every cartoon - or to be PC, animated movie that’s been out. I’m not the type to need a child in tow to justify being in the cinema either. I was probably laughing harder than most of the kids a few times over the years (Kung Fu Panda comes to mind).
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