Lee has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.
The Princess and the Frog is a Disney film that was released in 2009 and was actually one of Disney's first returns to form (traditional animation) since 2004.
I remember falling in love with this film. Even though it wasn't nearly as great as the films from the Disney Renaissance, it was still pretty good compared to the other films that Disney had released at the time.
I'm going to discuss some things I loved about it, as well as some points that have always bothered me. I'm going to crack a few jokes while giving my honest opinion -- as ever-- and if people can't handle that . . . Well, it's not my problem.
After seeing Anika Noni Rose in Dreamgirls, I had a huge crush on this amazingly beautiful and talented woman, so when I heard she was chosen to be the voice of Tiana, I was psyched.
Though I love Tiana as a character, sadly, she and I have nothing in common. I'm a wisecracking tomboy who has actually kissed a few frogs (thankfully, none have pressed charges) while Tiana is a super serious girly girl who hates frogs and doesn't know how to relax, man.
And yet, even though she and I have nothing in common, I still appreciate her as a strong female character.
Rather than being hung up on falling in love with the perfect prince, Tiana has goals and motivations that lie outside of finding a man. She's an independent woman who doesn't prioritize marriage and having children and instead wants to live for herself, pursuing her own dreams and goals.
It was utterly refreshing and reminded me of Disney princesses who took a similar path, such as Pocahontas and Mulan, two of Tiana's predecessors, whose lives didn't revolve around marriage and becoming domestic slaves.
In fact, the only thing I don't like about Tiana is that they named her Tiana. That's a modern black American name . . . Why didn't they just choose something from her time period?
I also love that Tiana was still allowed to be a flawed human being without being called an uptight slur -- not that they would do that in a Disney film.
The death of Tiana's father really had an impact on her psychological welfare. She became so determined to fulfill her father's dream of a restaurant that she forgot how to relax and have fun.
Probably my favorite part of the entire movie is when Tiana and Naveen (Bruno Campos) are frogs and they teach each other. Tiana teaches Naveen to cook his own food, and in turn, Naveen teaches Tiana to dance and have fun.
It's so sad when Naveen tries to dance with Tiana and she hops away, sadly turns her back to him, and says, "I've never danced." Then they dance to one of the best songs in the film, "Ma Belle Evangeline."
And later, when Naveen falls in love with Tiana, it's the cutest thing ever. Because she's a frog, he's forced to look past her physical beauty and see how beautiful her soul actually is.
What's extra cute is that she has no clue that he has fallen in love with her, instead rambling about her restaurant while he's clumsily trying to propose. She also doesn't seem to realize she has feelings for him until very close to the movie's end.
I don't know why, but I thought Tiana's obliviousness and Naveen's doting was very cute. When he fell in love with her, it was just so genuine.
Probably the nicest thing about their romance is that Tiana and Naveen saved each other, rather Tiana sitting around waiting to be saved.
Because Tiana is the protagonist, she is the one who saves herself by stopping the Shadow Man (Keith David aka Captain Anderson from Mass Effect) and also saves Naveen by teaching him to be a hard working adult rather than the infantilized prince he was.
In turn, Naveen teaches Tiana to chill the f*** out.
I thought it was well done.
It's just a shame that Naveen couldn't have actually been black. Yes, I've heard all of Disney's excuses and reasons, etcetera, etcetera. It doesn't change how I feel.
Miss Charlotte aka Lottie
Another thing I really loved about the film was Charlotte (Jennifer Cody).
Charlotte -- otherwise known as "Lotte" -- was a blast. She was hilarious and adorable. She was actually a caricature of the classic Disney princess, in that her entire life revolved around finding the perfect prince and thinking that she could just wish on a star and have him magically appear.
Tiana understood that wishing and hard work had to go hand in hand and tried to tell Lotte, but Lotte didn't listen.
And why would she? Lotte was a spoiled rich girl. She was used to getting what she wanted just by demanding it. Why would she value hard work?
I'm not complaining about Lotte. I'm explaining her beliefs and values, which were shaped by her privileged upbringing.
Lotte has her flaws (that scene where she turns down that guy who asks her to dance is both brutal and hilarious) but probably the greatest thing about her is the fact that she's such a wonderful friend to Tiana.
Lotte is filthy rich and could have just bought a restaurant for Tiana but knew that her friend wanted to earn it herself and respected that (even though she still covertly helped out by buying a bunch of pastries from Tiana for her party).
Tiana is turned down when she tries to buy a building for her restaurant (accurate depictions of racism? Check) and spends most of Lotte's party depressed about what a struggle her life (as a black woman) is.
Lotte comforts Tiana in a very sweet scene, giving her encouragement to keep going.
Later, when Tiana has been turned into a frog and starts to fall for Naveen, she struggles to keep the prince at a distance, knowing that it would hurt Lotte to make a move on him.
At the end of the film, Lotte discovers that Naveen has fallen for Tiana, and rather than pull Tiana's hair over it, she is happy for her friend and supports her!
It's not like Lotte and Naveen were madly in love and Tiana stole him or something. Tiana and Naveen fell in love while Lotte and Naveen had technically never met. Lotte recognized this and also recognized real love when she saw it. And instead of becoming bitter or jealous, she chose to support her friend.
This kind of sisterhood should be depicted more and more. We live in a society where sexism has forced women to compete against each other for limited resources and opportunities when women should be working together.
We are so powerful when we support each other. It's the entire reason the patriarchy functions to divide us.
The Easter Eggs
That "Little Mermaid" Easter egg was also cute.
I kind of feel like Tiana wearing a yellow dress that is similar to Belle's simple blue dress in Beauty and the Beast is kind of an Easter egg, too.
Tasteless Gay Jokes
You're probably wondering when I'm going to start ranting and complaining, but aside from Naveen being an ambiguous brown dude, I have no complaints about this film. It's wonderful.
Nope. I'm not even going to complain about that incident during the "Down in New Orleans" montage.
I remember someone stating that it was homophobic that this man was angry about another man (accidentally) offering him a flower. I never felt it was, though.
Mostly because I'm a lesbian who's had men in my face my entire life trying to sleep with me, when all I want is for them to go away. I know exactly how ol' dude on the streetcar feels.
Could you imagine if straight men had to deal with gay men in their face all day, every day? That's what women have to deal with, and it's usually not even something sweet like offering a flower. It's usually groping, stalking, public humiliation, catcalling, threats, violence, and slurs. That guy on the streetcar had it pretty damn easy.
At the same time, however, I can see how this might send a message to gay male children that liking other boys is "wrong." So yeah. There's that.
In that light, the joke does come off homophobic and we probably could have gone without it.
I also thought the Shadow Man (aka Dr. Facilier) was smooth AF.
I loved his song "Friends on the Other Side" and I also loved the dichotomy between him and Tiana.
Even though Dr. Facilier and Tiana are the complete opposites of each other, they have desires branching from similar circumstances. They are both poor black folks growing up in a racist environment that has sought to hold them back.
The difference between them is that Tiana chose an honest path to success, while Dr. Facilier chose to lie, steal, cheat, and kill -- Okay, he killed bugs, but he probably has some skeletons in his closet, I'm sure. Wouldn't be surprised if his mother's corpse wasn't under those floorboards he smoothly skates across.
My only gripe is that Shadow Man isn't a remotely memorable Disney villain. He will not be talked about for years and years like Jafar, Scar, Yzma, Ursula, Gaston, and so on.
I bet most people can't even remember his name and just refer to him as "the Shadow Man" or "that guy."
It's a shame. I feel he really is a good character but just needed a little something extra to be great.
The Side Kicks
Another very minor gripe of mine is that the supporting cast could have been better.
Ray (Jim Cummings) and Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) were admittedly great characters, but they are no Timon and Pumbaa.
Ray was adorable, but not enough that I was broken up when he died. /shrug/
I recall finding Louis' obliviousness to the fact that he's a terrifying gator to be hilarious. There were some people who called racism for the way he was depicted, but I don't see it and I . . . honestly don't care enough to try to see it.
I'm so tired of outrage. Like, seriously.
For the record, I'm never "outraged" in my articles here. I'm usually just telling it how I see it, stating facts, not being angry (i.e. sexism exists and men are doing it deliberately, not on accident).
I'm sure people read my articles and think otherwise, though. Especially since I enjoy cursing (for my own amusement) after every other word.
But honestly? I have become so chill over the years. It's not that I don't care about these issues. It's that I don't let it steal my joy or my energy anymore. I'm not going to let it make me outraged and angry anymore, see?
If I notice something these days, I will calmly acknowledge it and move along.
Like right now!
Alllll that being said, I thought the ending was lovely.
Tiana finally learned to have fun and lighten up. She also learned that accepting help is okay and doesn't make a person weak at all! In fact, she is incredibly blessed to have someone willing and ready to help her because they love her! I wish I had true friends and lovers like Lotte and Naveen!
And even though I have nothing in common whatsoever with Tiana, a part of me still wishes I had her when I was growing up. She is utterly wonderful.
The Princess and the Frog is probably the closest thing to a Disney Renaissance film we'll ever get again.
© 2019 Lee