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The Magic is Back

December 27, 2009

A few years ago, the powers that be at Disney made an announcement that made my heart sank.  They were going to shift their animation focus away from the traditional hand drawn animation that made them great, and spearheaded the renaissance that had begun in 1989 in favor of CG animation almost exclusively.  If you want to point the finger of blame, point it at Michael Eisner.  He was practically destroying the company when he dropped that bombshell.

Then something happned.  Eisner was out, and Robert Iger was in.  Not only that, John Lasseter, the head of Pixar (the gold standard of CG animation in my opinion) was named head of feature animation.  Lasseter strongly believed in Walt’s story telling principles, and even better, announced that 2 D hand drawn animation waasn’t going anywhere, and we would soon see THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, as proof.

Well, it’s out in the theaters now, and if you haven’t seen it yet, what on earth are you waiting for?  This is Disney doing what it soes best!  The animation is stunningly beautiful From the scenic sets, to the human characters, to the bayou critters-nothing gets short-changed.  The story has been moved from a mythical country to right here in the good old USA (New Orleans to be precise), during the jazz era.  It’s also been fleshed out to provide good messagesabout the need to work for your dreams, not just sit around wishing, the importance of family (both the title characters grow up in two parent homes, and the frog/prince is in the States as part of an exercise in tough love-how often do we see THAT?), and doing for your friends is more noble that being born into priveledge.   The bayou characters help provide some of the biggest laughs.  There’s Louis, a jazz loving gator who despite his size, is deathly afraid of hunters.  Then there’s Ray, a Cajun firefly who has courage and enthusiasm that measure 10,000 times his size.  Without giving away too much, one of these loveable characters will make the ultimate sacrifice to help Tiana and Naveen-it’s a beautiful moment , though in the end.

Now, what’s a Disney animated movie without a villain?  In this film, we have Dr. Facilier, known as “The Shadow Man”-and for good reason.  His voodoo alllows him to use his own shadow, and demonic minion shadows to do his bidding.  It is Facilier who transforms Naveen, and Naveen willl stay af rog, while his butler takes on Naveen’s form. as long as Naveen’s blood remains in Facilier’s talisman.  Let me take a moment to say something here.  Some parents out there won’t take their kids to this movie because they are afraid Facilier is too scary.  People, a villain is SUPPOSED to be scary-DUH!  This movie would be very BORING if we had no villain, and the prince had been a frog from the get go.  There would have been no drama, no neat effects animation, and no great song for the villain (I’ll get to the music in a second).  Without a mean scary villain like Facilier, this movie would have all the drama and intelligence of Britney Spears’ perfume commercial.  Parents, you can’t ALWAYS protect your child from scary movie elements, and you shouldn’t try to.  It’s good to be scared once in a while.  Even SESAME STREET’s golden era (before Elmo’s takeover) had deliberately frightening segments.  And our generation, at least this member, turned out OK.

I promised I’d talk about the music.  Randy Newman has penned some of his best songs since CATS DOM’T DANCE.  Every song captures one element of the New Orleans sound.   With the exception of Ray’s romantic ballad, I can’t think of a song where my foot didn’t start tapping, and I actually found myself singing quietly to myself-and I hadn’t even heard these songs before tonight.  That’s just amazing in my book.  I am seriously considering buying the CD.  Guess you could say that this is the best musical I have seen this year.

In closing, I can’t encourage you enough to see this wonderful movie.  If you have to wait for the DVD, that’s understandable, given the times we live in.  But do find a way to see it.  In the words of the bayou, “It’s goooooood,  I gar-on-tee!”

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