Princess And The Frog (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (21st March 2010).
The Film

Hyping a movie is no small feat and Disney decided to take two major angles for their latest major animated feature “The Princess and the Frog” (2009). The first one that caught my attention was hyping it being Disney’s first 'Black Princess' which gave me major concerns considering Disney’s history of dealing with people of color and black people especially. I wasn’t quite ready for some sort of modern reincarnation of "Song of the South" (1946). After this hype died down with casting going into full effect and character name changes from Maddy to Tiana (since Maddy is suspiciously close to mammy), Disney began phase two of the hype: their first hand-animated feature since they realized how cheap and easy it was to throw together a CG film. On two levels I wasn’t quite sure how the hype would break, but “The Princess and the Frog” is a great success in Disney’s return to form while breaking down some barriers that have been around longer than necessary.

Set in 1920’s New Orleans, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) is the daughter of Eudora (Oprah Winfrey) and James (Terrence Howard) who as a child grew up spending time with the spoiled as her mother’s seamstress job took her all over the city. Her father on the other hand gave her a sincere love, and talent, for cooking as well as a fierce work ethic. After Tiana has grown older and her father has died, she is on the edge of achieving her and her late father’s dream of opening their own restaurant. Meanwhile, Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruno Campos) has recently arrived in New Orleans and is looking for a free and easy lifestyle which the voodoo Shadow Man Dr. Facilier (Keith David) who promises him the freedom and green he desires… by turning him into a Frog. In order to get himself back to form he stumbles on Tiana dressed like a princess and tries to get her to kiss him, but since she isn’t they both turn into frogs and now have to find a way to turn themselves back into human.

In terms of delivering on the hype the film does a fair job. The roaring 20’s in New Orleans it brings up the issues of class between the black community and the white community through Tiana’s family and the richer Eli “Big Daddy” La Bouff (John Goodman) family respectively. Lines from realtors about Tiana being of the wrong ‘background’ to own the real estate references the racial problems at the times. I don’t expect a disney movie to go full into the saddening history of segregation at the time, but it gives more acknowledgement than I would have expected.

But combined with the hand drawn animation style of the film, it builds a fusion. The animation looks great and is beautifully hand drawn but the part that really blew me away was the sequence for the songs “Almost There” where it’s all emulating the style of Harlem Rennaisance artists that combined art deco and European styles with the sort of African abstractions. They did some good research for the film and this sequence might be one of my favorite in Disney history. Combine that with some other great sequences like “Friends on the Other Side” where Keith David really shows off his pipes and sings away, with some great animation that are like voodoo and mardi gras all rolled into one.

Really great props have to be given to producers John Lasseter and Peter Del Vecho for pulling together some quality talent and a quality film. Direction by Ron Clements and John Musker, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Rob Edwards, brings together a solid presentation with a nice Disney story. At first I thought they went for the whole angle of hard work only will raise your lot, considering the many class conflict elements of the film, but at the same time it says that hard work alone isn’t enough to sustain anyone, rather there needs to be an element of love. Well played.

This movie is just a great amalgamation of what is lacking from so much animation today, with a great cast of voice actors who voices become the characters rather than a horde of celebrities using theirAnika Noni Rose, Bruce Campos and Keith David really bring the core elements of the cast together, and put that together with a nice script and some amazing animation sequences you have a great animated film, worthy of the disney canon while rising above some of their more problematic features and less inspiring ones too.

Video

With the hand drawn qualities of the film are really brought to life in the 1.78:1 transfer in 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 and brings out a great clarity to the animation. You get a full look at the backgrounds and character animation and some of the effects animation. For a film with such great styles that will vary between scenes it brings out a great new tone and variety to the film. The colors and shades are really effective in the animated style and it reaffirms how great animation looks in Blu-ray, regardless of it being computer generated or hand drawn, though there’s a lot of digital work that goes into that these days through some of the effects animation that you can catch, but it’s not distracting and it doesn’t take away from the hand animated look and feel.

Audio

As Disney typically does, the sound quality is great with the main English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track at 48kHz/24-bit. Considering all the great musical sequences in the film the audio moves well and brings together all of Randy Newman’s score and musical numbers. There’s a great mastering of the audio that matches it with the animation really well, in terms of effects and lip synching to the characters, a subtly hard touch especially with hand drawn animation. Still, it’s a masterful audio track that has a good soundtrack and feel to match the nice visual touches for a high quality transfer that I’ve come to expect out of Disney.
Also included are English Descriptive Video Service Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, French, Portuguese and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio with English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

Extras

As with most of Disney’s releases this is a part of a 3-disc combo pack that features a Blu-Ray, DVD version and a Digital Copy version of the film that all come on their own disc. However they still manage not to forget the special features on each disc with audio commentaries, featurettes and deleted scenes among other extras.

DISC ONE: Blu-ray

The first major option is to play the film with "Work in Progress" interactive feature which runs the same length as the actual film, but it creates a picture-in-picture screen on the upper left of the frame that shows the frame-by-frame hand drawn outlines that were created for the film. It’s sort of a way of disney showing off that they didn’t cg the entire film and give people obsessed with the hand drawn animation a bit more to see.

The audio commentary track with co-writers/directors Ron Clements and John Musker, and producer Peter Del Vecho. This trio does a great job of talking about how the movie was conceived, put together and orchestrated, balancing a technical commentary with behind-the-scenes anecdotes and stories in how the film was created. They manage to name drop Aaron Douglas, an amazing painter from the Harlem Rennaissance, as an inspiration for the “Almost There” sequence, which was impressive, but they also just know how to talk and discuss throughout the entire film. They point out all their small regrets, like not moving Naveen’s fingers a little bit when he’s mincing mushrooms, or giving credit to all of the great animators that have worked on the film. A solid and quality commentary that’s really worth listening to.

Next up are 5 deleted scenes, playable together for 11 minutes and 43 seconds or separately desxcribed below:

- “Intro” runs for 1 minute and 7 seconds, just introducing the scenes with Musker and Clements, explaining the scenes just shown as rough storyboard form.
- “Advice from Mama” runs for 1 minute and 36 seconds, a brief scene where Eudora is working on the Elaborate Princess dress for Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) and Tiana explains why she doesn’t need a Prince Charming, but Clements explains why it was cut.
- “Alternate Louis Introduction” runs for 3 minutes and 45 seconds, this alternate scene, cut for time reasons, showing the alternate introduction for Louis in the film that they had planned but cut before animation.
- “Stop and Smell the Roses” runs for 3 minutes and 20 seconds, taking place after the Shadow Man’s army is after Tiana and Naveen where the two contrast living in the moment and working for the future.
- “Naveen Confides in Ray” runs for 1 minute and 54 seconds, the scene was supposed to take place before the engagement and was rewritten for the film, where Naveen and Ray discuss love.

Then comes a music video for “Never Knew I Needed” by Ne-yo, the song that played over the credits of the film.

“Bringing Life to Animation” is a collection of two featurettes, with an introduction by Musker & Clements, showing off some of the storyboarded sequences based off of the live action reference footage from the film with some commentary added in.

- “Introduction” runs for , the duo introduces what will happen with the process of using live action reference for the animation of the film.
- “Dig a Little Deeper” runs for 4 minutes and 38 seconds and this covers the sequence with Mama Odie singing to Naveen and Tiana, showing off the live action reference with a side picture in picture of the final animated segments side by side.
- “The Proposal” runs for 2 minutes and 21 seconds, covering the scene where Laurence disguised as the prince is trying to convince Charlotte to marry him while he is transforming out of his Naveen form, combined again with picturein picture of storyboard sequences and live action reference shots.

“Magic in the Bayou: The Making of a Princess” runs for 22 minutes and 11 seconds, a featurette where John Lasseter talks about putting together the team for the film as well as the other producers, cast and crew on the film in purring together a hand drawn feature. There’s a great look at all the different animators that were involved for each character and different sequence in the film, showing off what they think about the stories and characters. It does a great job of showing off how they got from the base stages to the voice acting stages. Good discussions with the voice actors and other creative aspects of the film, providing a good behind the scenes look at both the animation and the acting and music elements of the film.

“The Return to Hand Drawn Animation” featurette runs for 2 minutes and 43 seconds. Here everyone gets to say how exciting it is to be involved in hand drawn animation again, almost as a way of pre-hyping for the next major feature and showing off how excited the animators were about the rebirth of hand drawn 2D animation within the studio. A nice, breif, featurette, with the animators. I really appreciate how they help to put a face on all the animators, a great look for the kids who may aspire to be an animator and seeing all these people who actually live out the job.

“The Disney Legacy” runs for 2 minutes and 32 seconds and this featurette covers disney’s history of hand drawn features while hitting on their key moments in animation. It’s great seeing the different animators talking about their history with disney and seeing what other projects they had worked on, while also showing off some of the great older Disney animators that had lead to the animators you see working on the film today.

“Disney’s Newest Princess” runs for 2 minutes and 51 seconds, speaking with the animators and producers, as well as Anika Noni Rose in this featurette about Tiana’s character as well as her family history, where Terrence Howard talks about the family story and they look at the formation of the character.

“The Princess and the Animator” runs for 2 minutes and 26 seconds, a featurette with the directors/producers, but mostly with head Tiana animator Mark Henn looking at his history of showing of Disney’s princesses. He speaks to the strength and drive to Tiana as well as Henn talking with Anika Noni Rose about the animation of the character.

“Conjuring the Villian” runs for 1 minute and 50 seconds, this brief featurette looks at supervising animator Bruce Smith and Keith David talking about the role of the villian in creating the villany of Dr. Facilier from Davdi’s performance and what Smith notices about animation to bring in the audience.

“A Return to the Animated Musical” runs for 3 minutes and 13 seconds, and as the title implies this featurette is about creating the grand scale animated musical in the Disney tradition, speaking with the same cast of producers and showing some great behind-the-scenes footage of Randy Newman as well as interviews with Newman and showing off the local artists.

Next are the art galleries, containing a dense amount of images as a way of showing off all of the great work that they put together for the film:

- “Visual Development” contains 166 images.
- 6 “Character Design” contains a section for each character:
-- “Tiana” contains 23 images.
-- “Prince Naveen” contains 21 images.
-- “Mama Odie” contains 9 images.
-- “Dr. Facilier & Lawrence” contains 17 images.
-- “Charlotte & Big Daddy” contains 22 images.
-- “Louis & Ray” contains 18 images.
- “Layouts & Backgrounds” contains 17 images.
- “Storyboard Art” contains 54 images.

“What Do You See: Princess Portraits” is an interactive game hosted by Mama Odie where Ray’s firefly family makes an image of a disney princess in the sky and you have to choose the image.

“Learn How to Take Your Favorite Movies on the Go” promo runs for 1 minute 4 seconds and explains digital copy.

Finally is access to Disney BD-Live that has all sorts of trailers and movie posters to download and watch with a Blu-ray player that has an internet connection and some memory space.

Bonus trailers are for:

- “Genuine Treasure: Tinker Bell” runs for 1 minute and 7 seconds.
- “Disney Movie Rewards” runs for 20 seconds.
- “Old Dogs” runs for 1 minute and 22 seconds.
- “James and the Giant Peach: Special Edition” runs for 1 minute and 1 seconds.
- “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue” runs for 1 minute and 39 seconds.
- “Fantasia & Fantasia 2000: Diamond Edition” runs for 1 minute and 17 seconds.
- “Disney Parks” runs for 32 seconds.
- “Blu-Ray Disc” runs for 1 minute.
- “Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition” runs for 1 minute and 9 seconds.
- “In Theatres This Fall… The Secret is Revealed” runs for 37 seconds.
- “Toy Story 3” runs for 1 minute and 32 seconds.
- “Toy Story & Toy Story 2” runs for 1 minute and 14 seconds.

DISC TWO:

This is a DVD version of the film, the featurettes are generally the same. The disc includes the audio commentary, deleted scenes, the “What do you See” interactive game and music video, along with the digital copy ad. Everything else mentioned above is Blu-ray exclusive, while there is 1 different feature on the DVD:

“Dylan & Cole Sprouse: Blu-Ray is Suite!” promo runs for 4 minutes and 45 seconds advertising the glory of Blu-ray.

The bonus trailers on this disc are:

- “Disney Blu-Ray: Magic in High Def” runs for 1 minute
- “Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition” runs for 1 minute and 9 seconds.
- “In Theatres This Fall… The Secret is revealed” runs for 37 seconds.
- “Toy Story 3” runs for 1 minute and 32 seconds.
- “Disney Movie Rewards” runs for 20 seconds.
- “Genuine Treasure: Tinker Bell” runs for 1 minute and 7 seconds.
- “Old Dogs” runs for 1 minute and 22 seconds.
- “James and the Giant Peach: Special Edition” runs for 1 minute and 1 seconds.
- “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue” runs for 1 minute and 39 seconds.
- “The Black Cauldron: Special Edition” runs for 1 minute and 6 seconds.
- “The World of Ghibli” runs for 1 minute and 28 seconds.
- “Disney Parks” runs for 32 seconds.
- “My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Super-Duper Super Sleuths” runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.
- “Toy Story & Toy Story 2” runs for 1 minute and 14 seconds.

DISC THREE:

This is simply a digital copy of the film.

Packaging

Packaged in a deluxe 3-disc Blu-ray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: A- Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


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