The Princess and the Frog turns 12: all the curiosities

The Princess and the Frog turns 12: all the curiosities

The Princess and the Frog turns 12

In general, fairy tales tell that, at the kiss of the princess, the frog turns into a prince. However, things do not always go as planned and the protagonists of this Disney classic know it well, after having both been transformed into… frogs. The Princess and the Frog is the animated film that tells this funny and tender story of dreams and love, set between the streets of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker (former directors of numerous other animated feature films), it fits into the "canon" of the animation studio as the 49th Disney Classic and the first title of what is considered the "Second Disney Renaissance". The theatrical debut of The Princess and the Frog is dated 11 December 2009 and today, in celebrating its 12th anniversary since that first screening, we discover together the details and curiosities.

The plot

New Orleans, 1926. Tiana is a young, aspiring chef who has cultivated a dream shared with her father from an early age: to start a restaurant of her own in which to cook the delicacies of Cajun cuisine. To make it happen, she is saving every single penny she earns thanks to the two jobs she does daily as a waitress, struggling without taking a day off to buy a former sugar factory to convert into a restaurant. Meanwhile, Naveen of Maldonia has arrived in the city, a penniless prince whose parents have cut his food because he is idle and dedicated only to women and entertainment: enticed by the persuasive promises of the voodoo sorcerer Doctor Facilier, Naveen is deceived and transformed into a frog.

It is during a masquerade party for Shrove Tuesday, organized by the rich Eli "Gran Papa" La Bouff and his daughter Charlotte, that Naveen meets Tiana: dressed as a princess, the prince believes that she really is and he asks her for a kiss to return to her normal appearance, with the promise that he will reward her with great riches useful for the opening of her restaurant. However, since Tiana is not a real princess, the kiss turns her into a frog too. In the involuntary exile that awaits Tiana and Naveen in the marshes of the bayou, they will nevertheless meet two unexpected friends, the alligator and musician Louis and the firefly Ray, who will lead them in the presence of Mama Odie, a voodoo shaman who can help them regain the humanity.

A return to the origins

With its entirely hand-made drawings and animations which, although supported by new technologies, do not make use of 3D, The Princess and the Frog decrees the return to the classic animation techniques that have made Disney so famous and the reversal of a situation that has marked the animation house for many years with failures and economic flops. How did the success of this animated film and the Disney Revival come about, however? Let's take a few steps back. It is 1989 and US cinemas are sporting everywhere the poster of a film destined to lead the way in a decade of spectacular and immortal Disney animation: The Little Mermaid. To it, one after the other classics that will remain forever etched in the memory of young and old, or Bianca and Bernie, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and the Lion King, followed by Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan and Tarzan, a title that closes the decade in 1999.

At the gates of the new millennium and for several years to follow, the animation house does not achieve the desired results. Dinosaurs, Lilo & Stitch, The Emperor's New Groove and Koda, Brother Bear represent the only real blockbusters of this period, however titles such as Atlantis, Treasure Island or Cow to the Rescue turn out to be box office flops. It is not even enough to move towards the new 3D animation techniques thanks to CGI, to raise the numbers on the graphs up to the desired results: Chicken Little - Friends for the Pens, The Robinsons - A Space Family and Bolt - A Hero to Four Paws receive only a warm welcome. It is 2006 the year in which Disney acquires Pixar and the management passes into the hands of Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, who push for a renewal with the creation of a product capable of reviving the glory years of the company.

Who to entrust such a daunting task if not two Disney veterans? It is above all John Lasseter who strongly wants a return to origins for the studio and thus contacts Ron Clements and John Musker (Basil L'Investigatopo, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Il Pianeta del Tesoro) for the direction of the new title that will have to raise the fate of the animation studio, together with the historic composer Alan Menken for the creation of the soundtrack. Despite Disney's statements in previous years relating to an abandonment of traditional animation techniques in favor of 3D, Lasseter lets the two directors decide the best direction to take: Clements and Musker then head towards the classic techniques, basing their project on the tale of the Brothers Grimm The Frog Prince with a mixture of elements taken from the novel by ED Baker, Spells, Kisses, Frogs and Princesses. The staff also includes veterans of the caliber of Andreas Deja (animator of Roger Rabbit, Scar, Gaston and Hercules) and Eric Goldberg (the Genius in Aladdin or Phil in Hercules).

New Orleans, jazz and those classics that have made school

One of the secrets of the success of The Princess and the Frog (available in the collector's version at this link) is probably its originality. Although the Grimm fairy tale is European in nature, Clements and Musker decide to give the plot an overseas tone that takes advantage of the musical edge of Disney animated films to combine the two elements in a setting that makes music its own. cultural signature. The Princess and the Frog is therefore contextualized in the New Orleans of the 1920s, between jazz, Creole cuisine and magic (especially voodoo). The two directors want not only to impart an "American" character to the film, but also to drop the plot in a location where the magic represents an underground element of the place and in a certain sense also tend to make Lasseter happy, who loves New Orleans and he considers it his favorite city. In this context, even the protagonist of the film represents a novelty: Tiana is in fact the first African American Disney princess to appear on the screens, but not only. It is perhaps also the first girl to put her dreams of personal fulfillment before the search for true love, struggling with extreme diligence to build the future she has always dreamed of, a true emancipated woman who knows precisely what she wants from life.

Perhaps not everyone knows that, in this regard, Ron Clements and John Musker are inspired by a real and famous figure from New Orleans: chef Leah Chase, who has fulfilled her dream of opening a very successful restaurant, a project that she created with her husband, just like the protagonists of The Princess and the Frog, Tiana and Naveen. Good food is what unites people, as Tiana's father also says, however music is also capable of binding souls. The figure of Randy Newman, composer of the film's soundtrack, fits in this sense. In fact, if initially Lasseter entrusts the task to Alan Menken, the doubt that he could produce music that is a little redundant and too similar to that of the previous films, pushes the executive towards another choice. In fact, Newman grew up in New Orleans and is a jazz composer: who better than him can bring the right notes in a similar animated film? This is how the 8 songs that make up the soundtrack of The Princess and the Frog fit in, receiving two Oscar nominations for best original song.

A fairy tale about a frog who turns into a prince receiving the kiss of a princess; an American city full of life, music, food and energy; a story of emancipation that in a certain sense breaks the traditional canons. All this inspires the creation of The Princess and the Frog, but not only. Clements and Musker intend to make the animated film as close as possible to the classics of the past by taking the latter as an example. As a reference for the drawings and animations, Lilli and the Vagabond come to the aid of the authors, whom the two directors consider "the pinnacle of Disney style", but also La Carica dei 101 and La Bella Sleeping in the Wood, applying however more angular and stylized lines to the illustrations for the new film. The scenes set in the bayou exploit the same naturalistic style of Bambi's backdrops, while the figures of Tiana and Naveen transformed into frogs are inspired by the lines and movements of Pinocchio's Jiminy Cricket. A declaration of love for the classics that have made the history of Disney, in short, based on the preference for lines, rather than volumes (as it happens in CGI), which leads to a result defined as excellent unanimously.

The Princess and the Frog: all the curiosities

Three and a half years of hard work are required for the production of The Princess and the Frog, which obviously also includes casting and dubbing. At work on the latter, we find Anika Noni Rose in the role of Tiana, Bruno Campos in that of Naveen, John Goodman as Eli "Gran Papa" La Bouff, Jennifer Cody the daughter Charlotte La Bouff, while Jim Cummings, Peter Bartlett and Jenifer Lewis are Ray, Lawrence and Mama Odie respectively. In this regard, some aspects are quite interesting: Eudora, Tiana's mother, is voiced by Oprah Winfrey, who is so enthusiastic about the project proposed by Clements and Musker during a trip to Disneyland that she asks to be part of it; Doctor Facilier, on the other hand, is voiced by actor Keith David, who lends the character not only his voice, but also the inspiration for his movements. Furthermore, The Princess and the Frog is one of the few Disney films to use the same voices, in its original version, for both speech and singing. For the part of Tiana, several famous singers turned out to be candidates for the casting: Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and even Beyoncè. In the Italian version we find some names known to dubbing such as Karima Ammar, Luca Ward, Luca Laurenti, Pino Insegno and Sergio Cammariere.

As in the Disney classics that are respected, even The Princess and the Frog has its good dose of quotes and easter eggs. Doctor Facilier, for example, is inspired in appearance and clothing by Baron Samedi, a voodoo deity and ferryman of the dead. The girls surrounding Prince Naveen upon his arrival in New Orleans are caricatures of some women who actually work at Walt Disney Animation Studios and even on the tram that Tiana jumps from at one point we find the code A113, the classroom number in which many of the Disney graphic designers studied at the California Institute of the Arts. In a sequence it is also possible to find the famous Maga Magò for some frames, when the alligator Louis imitates her appearance in describing Mama Odie.

After a long production, The Princess and the Frog finally makes its debut in cinemas Americans on December 11, 2009, with a warm enough welcome. Against a budget of around $ 100 million, the Disney animated film has box office revenues of $ 270 million and generally positive reviews from the industry press. Not the resounding success that other Disney films had previously achieved, but at least a return in style for the animation studio that can count on this title to kick off a new "golden age". The Second Disney Renaissance thus kicks off, although not everyone is enthusiastic about The Princess and the Frog. In fact, the film receives accusations of racism from the African American community, which emphasizes various aspects present within it.

Already during the first presentations of the film, when it is still in a state "Embryonic" in 2006, the African American community lashes out at him. The initial title, The Frog Princess, the protagonist's name "Maddy", too similar to "Mammy", the occupation of a maid in the service of a rich white family, are only the fuses of a fire destined to be fueled by new accusations at the release of the film. In fact, if Disney runs for cover by changing the title, the name of the young protagonist in Tiana and her profession as a waitress in a diner, new elements seem to arouse the ire of those who find offenses against their own culture. Voodoo, for example, inserted in The Princess and the Frog as a questionable magical practice rather than adhering more to reality as a true religious belief; Prince Naveen's “lighter” complexion than Tiana's; or even the disrespectful choice, according to many, to set the story in New Orleans shortly after the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed a large part of the city especially in the black neighborhoods.

In 2018 the princess Tiana continues to be talked about when, in appearing in the film Ralph Breaks the Internet, she presents herself with a rather different appearance from the original one, with a decidedly lighter complexion (aspect that has been changed after the criticisms that have ensued ). Today, some may find some of these controversies even more founded than in 2009, while others may find them only pedantic quibbles. What is certain is that The Princess and the Frog has somehow relaunched the Disney tradition and has itself become a new classic capable of introducing a new figure into pop culture, that of Princess Tiana, with great determination and desire to work. hard to make your dreams come true. A film that amuses, entertains, teaches and which is still rightly appreciated today.

Powered by Blogger.