Written by Senora Bicho
Disney was always the cornerstone for animated movies, enjoyed for many years by young and old. Then Pixar came along and set a new standard. I no longer rush out to see the newest Disney movie because the days of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King seem long gone. The Princess and The Frog is the first to grab my attention in quite a while and it rekindles that old Disney magic.
Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) is a waitress who dreams of owning her own restaurant in New Orleans to fulfill her late father's dream. She is working two jobs to earn enough money to buy the building she wants and finally has enough to make an offer but Eudora (Oprah Winfrey), her mother, worries that she is working too hard and missing out on love.
At the same time Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) arrives in town after being cutoff from his parents for being too frivolous. In an attempt to improve his financial situation, he plans to marry Charlotte La Bouff (Jennifer Cody) who is Tiana's best friend and the daughter of a rich sugar-mill owner. However, Prince Naveen and his servant Lawrence first run into Doctor Facilier (Keith David), who lures them with his voodoo powers and promises of great riches. However, Dr. Facilier unveils his real plan and turns Prince Naveen into a frog. Lawrence, having been abused by Prince Naveen for too long, agrees to take on his appearance to marry Charlotte and split her money with Dr. Facilier.
Tiana is catering the party that Charlotte is hosting to welcome Price Naveen. She learns that someone has outbid her for her restaurant, and while in despair she comes across Prince Naveen who has escaped. He mistakes Tiana for a princess and promises to give her the money she needs if she will kiss him. She agrees but after the kiss she instead turns into a frog. Prince Naveen and Tiana are then set off on an adventure to become human again and set everything right.
Disney takes great care in maximizing the Blu-ray experience here. Most notable about the 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer is the vibrancy of the colors. They explode off the 1.78:1 screen. Also well rendered is the sharpness of the lines are sharp and the clarity of the details. I didn't notice any artifacts in the picture. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track immerses the viewer within the movie. The many instruments in Randy Newman's New Orleans score are identifiable. The dialogue is understandable. Ambiance from many locales can be heard from the surrounds.
The extras are definitely worth watching and add value to this collection. I wasn't sure that I would ever watch it again but some of the extras actually heightened my enjoyment of the movie and I will definitely watch it again with more appreciation of the depth of the story and all of the work then went into making it.
An audio commentary by co-directors/co-writers John Musker and Ron Clements along with producer Peter Del Vecho is provided. From the first cell, they point out valuable and interesting information. There is Work-in-Progress Version that played in the upper left corner allowing viewers to compare the film's early stages with the final product. "What Do You See? The Princess Portraits Game" gives younger viewers the opportunity to pick princess out of fireflies.
The following extras are all presented in high definition. "Bringing Animation to Life" (8:08) illustrates how they used live action footage to help the animators create more real life scenes. It is really interesting to see how these techniques help the characters move more realistically. "Magic in the Bayou: Making of a Princess" (22:11), "The Return to Hand Drawn Animation" (2:43), "The Disney Legacy" (2:31), "Disney's Newest Princess" (2:51), "Princess and the Animator" (2:26), "Conjuring the Villain" (1:50) and "Return to the Animated Musical" (3:13) all provide behind the scenes information help create a stronger connection to the movie and deeper meanings. There are also Art Galleries, Deleted Scenes (11:43) and a music video for "Never Knew I Needed" by Ne-Yo (4:04).
At first I didn't think that The Princess and the Frog lived up to the old Disney glory. But after viewing the extras and pondering on it a little bit, I have changed my mind. The characters have depth and charm and the story is well developed with a good message. This is traditional fairy tale with a modern twist. The princess is a strong independent character who doesn't need to be rescued. Yes, she ends up with the Prince in the end but only because they are the perfect team who bring out the best in one another. You want them to end up together to take on the world.
As a bonus, Randy Newman works his magic and creates a great soundtrack. The songs really help to create the mood for each scene and bring the New Orleans setting to life. If you have been on the fence on giving this movie a try, jump in with both feet and be prepared to be delighted.