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Princess and the Frog, The (Blu-ray Review)

9 Mar, 2010 By: John Latchem

Street 3/16/10
Box Office $102.8 million, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $44.99 Blu-ray Combo Pack
Rated ‘G.’
Voices of Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, Jenifer Lewis, Jim Cummings, Michael-Leon Wooley, Bruno Campos, Peter Bartlett, Terrence Howard, Jennifer Cody, Oprah Winfrey, John Goodman.

Disney’s rich tradition of animation has produced its fair share of classics. Even with a few recent clunkers thrown into the mix, it was something of a disappointment to animation fans that Disney decided to shut down its hand-drawn animation department a few years ago.

If all The Princess and the Frog ultimately accomplishes is supplanting the 2004 debacle Home on the Range from being Disney’s last contribution to the realm of 2D animation, then thank god for that. Fortunately, the film’s legacy will likely be a bit more significant.

The Princess and the Frog is a solid throwback to Disney’s modern golden age, which produced the likes of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. And while it may not be the instant classic of those beloved films, nor remove Pixar from its perch as the current class of the Disney studio, The Princess and the Frog is a welcome return to form.

The film covers all the bases of the Disney playbook but with a charming twist that takes us to New Orleans in the 1920s.

Tiana (Disney animation’s first black heroine), hoping to earn the money to open her own restaurant, finds a frog who tells her that a kiss will turn him back into a human prince. Instead, the kiss turns her into a frog, and the pair find themselves in the bayou on the run from the shadowy forces of the evil Dr. Facilier (an effective villain in the Jafar mold, but not quite ready for the baddie hall of fame). Along the way, the duo encounters the usual assortment of colorful sidekicks, all the while learning the vital lessons that will guide them to their dreams.

This really is an American fairy tale, putting the emphasis on hard work and determination but not at the expense of sacrificing the little things that give life meaning.

The animation is lively and clean, utilizing a rich color palette that will make any HDTV come to life. Only hand-drawn animation lends itself to the flights of fantasy needed to pull off this kind of material, especially musical numbers that otherwise would completely abandon the movie’s sense of reality. These are sequences that just wouldn’t work in live-action or CGI.

The songs are catchy, employing a suitable mix of jazz, gospel and zydeco, but none would be considered an all-timer that sticks with you.

The Blu-ray is loaded with extras that appropriately celebrate this new chapter in Disney animation history, such as an array of featurettes designed to subtly remind us of the film’s place in the Disney legacy.

There are also 12 minutes of deleted sequences and a cute “Princess Portrait” game, but the best extra is the commentary track, in which writer-directors John Musker and Ron Clements point out all the hidden details layered throughout the film.

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