Sunday, February 14, 2010

Disney's The Princess and the Frog

I went to see Disney's The Princess and the Frog this weekend and it was quite enjoyable. I'd say it was somewhere in between Pocahontas and Cats Don't Dance. I say Pocahontas because to me it was the turning point for Disney's animated musicals and Cats Don't Dance it is my favorite animated musical and Princess and the Frog had moments that reminded me of it.

I really enjoyed The Princess and the Frog. It was cute and touching and just a little bit scary. There were moments that definitely made me laugh. I was also surprised at how sinister the bad guy was, I mean he was sleazy too, but dealing with the "other side" and bargaining with other peoples souls? Bad. I also loved how the rich girl wasn't stuck up. She might have been oblivious but she "believed" and when it mattered most didn't hold back to do what she could.

The animation of the film was also wonderful. There might have been a few moments when I thought, "Oh that was definitely CG." But overall it was beautiful, seamless and rich. And even a couple magical moments.

Unfortunately, the film wasn't without a couple rough spots for me. From the initial setting I set my suspension of disbelief to low. Talking animals, ok; music playing animals, um ... ok; getting lost then having millions of fireflies with unblinking lights, who you were just thinking of eating singing and dancing to lead you all the way across the swamp and also fireflies that use walkers? Well let me dial that way back for you! There sure that works out fine. It certainly made for a pretty sequence.

The thing that really let me down, were the musicals. Don't get me wrong, it's not that they sang and dance, I love that stuff, it just didn't quite make it for me. I feel like they fell into the trap that musicals can fall into, singing when you could have just said or done something to express it better.

I think a great example of this is the difference between the scene in the original Lion King and the Special Edition version. In the original Zazu is making the morning report and is stopped by Simba's pounce. But in the Special Edition it turns into a song that doesn't add anything to the story. It's a cute song, but it overshadowed the important interaction between Simba and Mufasa.

In most of my favorite Disney movies the songs serve to add depth to a character, to accentuate a point, to gloss over things that are hard to express or make a boring passage of time interesting. And Princess and the Frog does some of it that too. But some of the songs seem like they were put there just because they could. I'll have to watch it again to come up with a more concrete example.

The other problem I had with the songs in Princess in the Frog was the fact that the lyrics weren't strong. That is to say I couldn't always tell what they were singing about. I like to sing, I like to sing Disney songs, I have a hard time thinking what the lyrics to any of the songs in Princess in the Frog were.

Overall though, I think that The Princess and the Frog is an excellent return for Disney to some of its animation roots. Or at least some of my favorite Disney movies. I do feel that the songs felt a little bit talked on but they didn't detract from the magical visuals and cute love story.

I will see this one again and hope to see more like it in the future.