Friday, March 26, 2010

A Princess for a New Generation

To this day I still have a lot of love for all of the Disney Princesses. I grew up watching the classics, like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, and then in my teen years I got to experience the Disney renaissance, with such new classics as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Each of these groups of Disney films had an impact on my life.

The early classics, which are now seen as stereotyped and female-weak by today's standards, still taught me to hope for good and may have aided in my love of playing dress-up. The new classics, on the other hand, gave female characters more intelligence, more sass, and more power over their own destiny, although for most the end goal was still to find love, even if it was love wrapped up in exploration and adventure. They were modern women, wanting to find independence and make their own way in the world. Good role models for any girl.

And then last week, the newest Disney Princess debuted on DVD and Blu-Ray in The Princess and the Frog. My entire family got to see this movie before I did in the theater due to my work schedule, so my first experience was when I received this Blu-Ray+DVD combo pack in the mail.

This movie had a new first for Disney - the first African American princess. Set in New Orleans, the story follows Tiana, a hard-working woman from a working-class family who has spent her life saving and working towards her dream of owning her own restaurant. She is focused on her goal with no dreams of having a prince come rescue her and give her all she's ever dreamed of. So when a penniless, happy-go-lucky prince - Prince Naveen - comes to town looking for a wife, she doesn't give him a second thought.

The story really begins at the costume ball when Prince Naveen, now turned into a frog by The Shadow Man, convinces Tiana to kiss him in the hopes that she will turn him human again. Instead, everything goes wrong and she is changed into a frog as well. Their adventure through the swampy bayou teaches Naveen that there's more to life than fun, and reminds Tiana that her dreams don't have to exclude love and family - reminding her of how much her late father loved his family while working towards his dream.

Included throughout is a wonderful musical score, filled with lots of traditional New Orleans jazz music that will please young and old viewers alike. And just like many of the older Disney films, you've got plenty of talking animals, magic, and in the end the villain gets what's coming to him and our heroine finds love with her prince. But unlike past stories, he doesn't sweep her off to his castle - instead, they pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, working hard without the benefit of fortune.

It's interesting to see the different message being given to children today. In place of the old message of "when you wish upon a star....all your dreams come true," the new message is "when you wish on a star and work really hard towards your goals, all your dreams can come true." Not quite as magical, but a lot more realistic, I guess.

Honestly, I loved this movie. The story is original, the characters are well-developed, and it stands the test of repeated viewings. Tiana is a great new addition to the Disney Princesses, providing an excellent role model for young girls. I also really enjoyed that this was in the old, hand-drawn animation style. I love the crispness of computer animation, but hand-drawn animation seems to have more warmth and emotion to it. My daughters find the animal characters fun, and they love the story and the music.

Bonus features include deleted scenes, a look at the making of the movie, and an identify-the-princess game, as well as featurettes on Disney's Newest Princess, The Return to Hand-Drawn Animation, Conjuring the Villain (my favorite!), and more! (Note: Featurettes are only available in the Blu-Ray combo pack.) Audio commentary is also available, but good luck trying to listen if your kids want to watch the movie.

The Princess and the Frog is available on DVD and a Blu-Ray+DVD combo pack that includes a digital copy of the movie for your computer or iPod, too. Don't miss out on adding this one to your collection.

Full disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this movie for review and no other compensation. A positive review was neither expected nor promised.

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