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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Princess and the Frog is Disney's first movie to feature an African-American heroine, Tiana. The New Orleans-set story is a spin on the classic fairy tale about the princess who finds true love when she kisses an enchanted amphibian, but there's more to this tale than just romance: Tiana is a resourceful, hardworking heroine who's a strong role model and is one of the first Disney heroines who doesn't have to be rescued by a man. While some have been concerned that the movie might reinforce stereotypes -- and it's true that many of the supporting characters feel shallow (and the movie's voodoo subplot is far from subtle) -- overall the film does a good job of adding diversity to Disney’s hit parade. But while the movie is kid-friendly on the whole, the villain and his shadowy spirit henchmen can be quite scary, and one important character does die, which makes it a little too intense for the youngest viewers.
What's the story?
In THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) grew up loving fairy tales but not believing that good things happen when you wish upon a star. Hard work, her father told her, was the way to go. For years, she’s dreamed of making her doting dad’s dreams come true: to own their own New Orleans restaurant and cook good food for everyone. But when greedy real estate agents threaten to nix a deal for the space she’s been saving up for, Tiana has to come up with a plan. Meanwhile, Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos), the penniless crown prince of Maldonia, has descended upon the Louisiana bayous in search of a monied debutante to marry -- but a run-in with voodoo master Dr. Facilier (Keith David) turns him into a frog. As in the fairy tale, only a kiss from a princess will set him free. But transformations don’t come easily. Perhaps having a firefly (Jim Cummings) and an alligator (Michael-Leon Wooley) on your side helps.
Is it any good?
This Disney film has an old-fashioned look, in a good way. Gone are overblown CG effects; what’s left is good, old-fashioned hand-drawn animation and storytelling that thrums to the beat of a big, old-fashioned heart. What’s not traditional is the heroine, Tiana, who -- very refreshingly -- fends for herself and doesn’t need to be rescued as much as learn. Plus, a Disney staple -- the love song -- takes a surprising turn here, telling the story of one couple while illustrating the sweetness of another.
Yet, entertaining as it is, The Princess and the Frog lacks verve. Some songs -- “Evangeline,” for instance, as well as the jazz interludes --- are memorable, but many others don’t make an impression. And while the film doesn’t completely shy away from referencing the chasm between rich and poor -- the streetcar goes from the mansion section to a neighborhood lined with neat but tiny houses -- it treads very lightly. Those concerned about stereotypes might find a bit of justification in the voodoo storyline, which doesn't veer far from preconceived notions -- couldn’t New Orleans have been portrayed without a tooth-necklace-clad letch? Villains can be much more interesting than this.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether there are any stereotypes in The Princess and the Frog. Which characters or storylines might be seen as stereotypical? Why?
What do you think of Tiana as a heroine? How does she stack up against other Disney princesses? Does she send girls any new/different messages than previous Disney heroines?
- In theaters: December 11, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: March 16, 2010
- Cast: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David
- Directors: John Musker, Ron Clements
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses and Fairies, Great Girl Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Gratitude, Integrity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
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