When we heard that Walt Disney Animation Studios had decided that hand-drawn animation should not have died with the poorly received “Home On The Range” and that they were reviving the the Princess genre as well, with the first African American Princess to boot, too say that expectation were high is an understatement. The Princess and The Frog may have failed to meet those expectations, but it’s a solid effort on the road back for the mouse.
Disney called back a lot of the animators they had let go, rebuilt a whole new slew of animators desks, this time with a special new computer program that makes hand-drawn animation more efficient, and placed John Lasseter on notice – something magical had better happen.
Well there was magic, but not at the box office. I think a combination of a bad release date (it should have been a holiday offering) and poor marketing choices by Disney, led to some of the poor results. But it still brought in over $240 million at the world wide box office before it was pulled to make way for the DVD.
We all wanted the The Princess and the Frog to be a great film. Instead we got a movie that was slow in places, and with a story that lacked focus. But the animation was great, the music quality, and the characters are memorable enough to be featured in the parks for years to come.
Upon watching the film again I think it’s a big step over the films we had been seeing from Walt Disney Animation (although “Meet the Robinsons” is an underlooked gem if you ask me). I definitely see the foundation for more great films to come from Disney. They’re not back to “Beauty and the Beast” quality yet, but they’ll get there.
The single disc DVD comes with these exciting bonus features:
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary by John Musker and Ron Clements (co-writers and directors) and Peter Del Vecho (producer)
• “Never Knew I Needed”- Music video by Ne-Yo
Games and Activities
• What Do You See: Princess Portraits — A bayou-style quiz tests viewers’ knowledge of all of Disney’s beautiful princesses. Ray’s firefly family creates twinkling portraits of each princess and if
the player correctly identifies her, they can enjoy a tongue-cheek mini re-telling of that character’s story.
The Blu-ray Combo Pack edition comes with additional bonus features, including:
• Magic In The Bayou: The Making of A Princess — Co-writers and directors John Musker and Ron Clements take a freewheeling, behind-the-scenes look at the making of Disney’s newest animated film as it grows from an initial concept to a lavish animated film set in the enchanting world of New Orleans and the surrounding bayous.
• The Return To Hand Drawn Animation
• The Disney Legacy
• Disney’s Newest Princess
• The Princess and the Animator
• Conjuring The Villain
• A Return To The Animated Musical
• Bringing Life to Animation with an introduction by John Musker and Ron Clements.
• Deleted Scenes introduced by the filmmakers
• Art Galleries — A collection of storyboard art traces the visual development of The Princess and the Frog’s rich gallery of
characters and settings.
The DVD hits the shelves on March 16th, but you can pre-order it today.
A couple video previews of the special features on the DVD below the cut. Also some fun facts from the movie
Tiana, the ninth princess in the Disney line is a timeless heroine in the tradition of Snow White, Ariel, Jasmine and the rest of the beloved royal sisterhood. The movie comes to life with classic hand-drawn Disney animation from the revered team of John Musker and Ron Clements (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid) and a jazz-infused musical score from Academy Award® winning composer Randy Newman (Best Original Song, Monsters, Inc., 2001). A royal procession of exclusive bonus features, including games and specially-created featurettes, take viewers on a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the storied French Quarter of New Orleans and into the magic-steeped bayou for hours of can’t-miss family entertainment.
The Princess and the Frog transports audiences to glorious, glamorous New Orleans as Tiana, the first African American Disney princess meets her frog prince and gives him the fateful kiss that leads them both on a hilarious adventure through the mystical, magical bayous of Louisiana. The Princess and the Frog’s colorful cast of one-of-a-kind new characters joyfully raises the roof, with voice performances from stars including Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose (Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, 2004,“Caroline, or Change”), Keith David (Crash), Jenifer Lewis (“Strong Medicine”), Jim Cummings (“Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”), Michael- Leon Wooley (Ghost Town), Bruno Campos (“Nip/Tuck”), Peter Bartlett (The Producers), Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Jennifer Cody (Broadway’s “Shrek: The Musical”), Oprah Winfrey and John Goodman (Monsters, Inc.).
Princess Kiss Montage:
Featurette: The Return to the Animated Musical (Bonus)
· FROG FUN — Animators and visual development artists invited a host of real frogs into the studio in order to truly appreciate what makes frogs frogs.
· DISNEY’S NINTH PRINCESS – Disney’s newest princess, Tiana, joins ranks with Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, Pocahontas, Jasmine and Mulan. The Princess and the Frog is Disney’s first princess film since Mulan, which was released in June 1998.
· PAYING HOMAGE – During “Down in New Orleans” early in the film, the carpet from Aladdin is being shaken up on a wrought-iron balcony. Mama Odie comes across the lamp from Aladdin during “Dig a Little Deeper.” A Mardi Gras parade float is modeled after King Triton from The Little Mermaid—on it are caricatured versions of directors John Musker and Ron Clements (who also directed The Little Mermaid, Louis realizes his dream of playing with a jazz band and the band is called the Firefly Five Plus Lou after a Disney Animation ragtime band from the 1940s-50s known as the Firehouse Five Plus Two (the film’s piano player is even modeled after Disney Legend Frank Thomas was the piano player for the Firehouse Five Plus Two).
· ALL IN GOOD TIME — It took about 20 minutes for an animator to create one drawing for The Princess and the Frog. It took animators 20-40 hours to create the basis of an individual scene in The Princess and the Frog. That same scene then took another two–three months in the production pipeline before becoming a final scene in color.
· ALL THAT RAIN — Ron Clements was at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival when he got caught in a downpour and took cover under a table. Clements later added the scene in the bayou in which Tiana and Prince Naveen get caught in the rain.
· LATER GATOR — The well-known chef Emeril Lagasse voiced the part of Marlon the Gator.
· BLOWING HIS OWN HORN — Terrence Blanchard, who is a native New Orleans jazz legend and trumpet player, played all of alligator Louis’ trumpet parts in the film. He also voiced the role of Earl the bandleader in the riverboat band.
· PICTURE THIS — Filmmakers took more than 50,000 photos of local iconic images to use as reference and inspiration including places like the buildings, restaurants and the garden district.
· EVERYBODY LOVES A PARADE – Filmmakers were invited to participate in Mardi Gras aboard a float. At the end of the film, there are caricatures of the directors throwing beads off the float during the wedding parade.
· A GOOD CAUSE — During their time in New Orleans, directors Ron Clements and John Musker, and producer Peter Del Vecho volunteered for Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild New Orleans.
· ALL IN THE FAMILY — Some of the background characters were based on members of the production crew. The man with the horse in the opening sequence was based on supervising animator Eric Goldberg. Producer Peter Del Vecho’s likeness can be seen doing the tango across the dance floor at the Masquerade Ball. The girls swooning after Prince Naveen are all based on members of the production team. Marlon West (EFX supervisor) and Bruce Smith (supervising animator) inspired Tiana’s friends in the café, and writer Rob Edwards’ likeness is part of the band. Head of story Don Hall voices the character of Darnell. Storyboard artist Paul Briggs voices the character of Two Fingers.
· LOCAL TALENT — “Trombone Shorty,” a well-known local musician, played on “Down in New Orleans.” Al Hebron who was the filmmakers’ local tour guide was tapped to provide the voice of the riverboat captain.
· MULTI-TALENTED — Terence Simeon, Grammy Award®-winning local musician, played the accordion, rub board, triangle and squeezebox on the Zydeco song “Gonna Take You There.”
· ALL LIT UP INSIDE — Randy Newman provides the voice of firefly cousin Randy, who is a caricature of the composer. Newman was actually cast to voice several characters in the film—a raccoon, a turtle—but only the firefly made the final cut.
· PLAY IT AGAIN — One of the most thrilling moments for director Ron Clements was when he got a personal performance from Randy Newman. Clements arrived early to the session at Newman’s house and the Oscar®-winning composer played the first song he wrote for the film.
· MUSIC TO MY EARS — Music plays such an integral part of New Orleans lifestyle that filmmakers felt it important to reflect that diversity in the film. Oscar®-winning composer Randy Newman (Cars, Monsters, Inc., Toy Story) created an all-new score for the feature in a range of styles, including jazz, blues, gospel and zydeco; and featuring seven new songs.
· ANIMAL BEHAVIOR — Directors John Musker and Ron Clements visited the New Orleans Audubon Zoo for inspiration. They saw indigenous alligators, which inspired the film’s trumpet playing alligator, and spoon-billed birds, which influenced the birds in Mama Odie’s gospel song “Dig A Little Deeper.”
· NOW HEAR THIS — Sound designer Oden Benitez went to Jackson Square in New Orleans to record the sounds of the church bell and streetcar.
· LEGENDS — One of the most thrilling trips to New Orleans for directors Ron Clements and John Musker was when they recorded Dr. John and Randy Newman at the local recording studio The Music Shed (which looked like a corrugated steel shed). The Gospel Choir was also recorded in the studio, where artists such as Robert Plant, Fats Domino and Norah Jones have all recorded. Both Dr. John and Newman have strong connections to New Orleans.
· INDEPTH RESEARCH — Filmmakers took the Nanchez Riverboat tour to ensure the authenticity of the riverboat scenes. They also took a private tour of the streetcar system in New Orleans.