Theater Masks

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Princess and the Frog (Mild Spoilers)

Went to see Princess and the Frog last night. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it wasn't until the car ride home that I figured out what it was that didn't quite feel right to me about it.

First, the animation and music are fantastic. It was wonderful seeing Disney hand drawn 2D animation again on a big screen, and I hope this is the beginning of a new trend.

That said, I hope they fix some of their story problems. The film very obviously is meant to fit into the canon of Disney animation. The tropes we love from Disney past are all there: wishing on stars, funny sidekicks, believing in yourself, meeting your prince/princess...and the villain.

Before I start this mini-rant, I should say that the villains are usually my favorite part of Disney movies (beside the great music, of course). Ursula, Jafar, Maleficent, Cruella De Vil (best pun ever), Scar, Captain Hook, Gaston, Frollo, the queen from Snow White...a virtual gallery of villainy. What makes these villains so great? Easy question -- each villain has two things that make them stand out from each other: a very specific personality and a motivation for their evil machinations - none of the characters listed are evil just to be evil. Ursula wants what she believes is her rightful place ruling the ocean, Jafar wants money and to rule, Cruella wants those puppies, Scar wants revenge on his brother, Captain Hook is fueled by jealosy, Gaston by hubris, Frollo by unwanted feelings and paranoia, and the queen from vanity.

The problem with Dr. Facilier isn't a lack of personality - he has that in spades. The problem is he has no motivation for his evil machinations. The stakes are never REALLY laid out for us - what does he have to gain and what does he have to lose by doing the things he does? There's a vague reference to wanting to rule New Orleans, but if the "deal" he made went through, there'd be nothing left to rule anyway. There's nothing really pushing him, nothing that has him being any more than just someone striving to cause problems. And that's where the movie falls short for me.

By no means does this mean you shouldn't go see it - the movie is beautiful to look at, the songs are fantastic (and I'm not the biggest Randy Newman fan to begin with), and there is quite a bit of humor. Tiana's journey is interesting (if standard), and there's a solid message behind the whole thing.

Have you seen the movie? Comment below and tell me if I'm just off my rocker...?

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