Movie #169 2020: The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Three words: underrated, underrated, underrated.

Yeah, yeah, I hear you, Buffy. But it bears repeating – this is one hell of an underrated movie.

The Princess and the Frog is Disney’s 2009 attempt to make up for past mistakes by finally including a POC (that stands for Princess of Colour, by the way) into their animated canon.

An adaptation on the classic fairy tale The Frog Prince, young waitress Tiana dreams of opening her own restaurant in New Orleans, full of soul food and fancy decor. Unfortunately for Tiana, she’s not a princess – her best friend, Charlotte, is. When Hispanic prince Naveen comes to the city, it seems like it’s a lock on for Charlotte to marry Naveen, but he gets mixed up with the wrong bad guy, and is suddenly cursed and transformed into a frog.

First off, I watched this movie on a whim before bed the other night, not expecting to enjoy it so much. Why did I not expect to enjoy it? Because it’s underrated. There was so little hype for this movie that it completely went over my head; I knew it existed, but no one told me just how joyous and delightful it was.

Disney make a good choice here to go back to the “classic” Disney animation, and it doesn’t look dissimilar to your classic Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty 2D style. Perhaps they were acknowledging that a movie with an African American princess should have been made way before 2009, as I already alluded to above, and it really works well.

Other styles of animation were also in play here, and it was excellent. A feast for the eyes, the sequence where Tiana sings the absolute banger Almost There about the of opening her restaurant was outstanding. 

It must have been so cool and so thrilling for young black girls to see this movie. Of course I can’t speak for them, but you have to admit that it has been such a long time coming, and the ridiculous boundaries that racism form are finally being dismantled, even if it’s only within the magical world of Disney. This is – at least – a chance for them to be seen in a way they haven’t been before.

There is no doubt that the best parts of this movie are its songs. Using the inspired choice to set it in Louisiana and around the bayou, it gave way to new styles of songs (jazz, blues etc) for good old Randy Newman to write. And every single one was catchy, relevant, and feel good. 

Each and every character was charismatic and integral to the plot: Ray the firefly (Jim Cummings) and alligator Louis (Michael Leon-Wooley) were particular stand outs. On the opposing side, you get the villainous Dr. Facilier (played by the wonderful Keith David), who ends up being one of the best Disney villains of all time.

This is a movie that deserves to be seen more. More people should be talking about it, and more people should give themselves over to joy. Quite rarely for me, I’d absolutely watch this one again, and I recommend it to everyone – even those who don’t have a child to show it to.

The Princess and the Frog is available to stream on Disney+, Sky Cinema, and NowTV in the UK.

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