Returning to practical animation was pretty much the only thing for Disney to do at this point. Pixar has so monopolized CGI film-making both financially and more importantly in terms of quality. Other entries into the sub-genre are either awful or kids films that don't pretend to be anything else. But the Princess And The Frog almost recaptures that marvelous sense of wonder that pervades most if not all of Disney's intimidating archive. The nostalgia is operating an all cylinders here, from the songs to the storyline, it all seems to be Disney saying ' hey remember the time when we were awesome ', but in a good way.
The plot follows Tiana a waitress in what I assume is 1920's New Orleans, working long hours to save money to buy her own restaurant a dream she's held since childhood. Then there's Prince Naveen, a broke royal from a faraway land who has come to America to marry money. Naturally, dude gets turned into a frog by magic man Dr. Facilier and accidentally turns Tiana into one too when trying to restore his humanity. Swamp-set hijinks ensue. The film is hardly original, and I'm pretty sure every single narrative and emotional beat on display here has been in a disney film of some sort. But like I said, the plot itself is so generic it almost doesn't matter. This is an animated statement crying out for a simpler time. No heart-breaking emotional journeys here. But the vibrancy of the film is its saving grace. Jazz age New Orleans is a great setting for a disney movie, and all the energy and music work well for the atmosphere, even if the movie shows the same exaggerated attitude to it as Live And Let Die. Facilier, also known as the shadow man, is a great 2-D villain, brilliantly voiced by cult movie living legend Keith David, is admittedly a black voodoo stereotype, but a well executed one and that's all you want from a disney villain isn't it? The lead female is pleasingly empowered too, and not the whiny little pushover we've come to expect from this kind of thing.
For me once we left the city for the swamps, the whole thing became slightly less interesting. With some unfortunate hillbilly stereotypes and grating dialogue, it lacked the visual wonder and adventure of the human orientated action and for me the movie kind of derailed there. But look, its a kids movie. It looks great. Its very saccharine and allows you to leave with a big artificial grin on your face. But it doesn't reach the level of artistry in say Snow White or The Jungle book. It just reminds you of it.