Disney Marathon: ‘The Princess and the Frog’

Weird thing about the spinning wheel that tells us which Disney movies to watch next in our marathon…this is the first time it’s given us a princess movie. Given what an integral part of the Disney brand the princess motif is, I’m surprised it took this long after our Snow White debut to get one.

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 9 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 7 year old princess wannabe) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: The Princess and the Frog

Released: 2009

Director: Ron Clements and John Musker

Cast: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jim Cummings, John Goodman, Jennifer Cody

Plot: In 1912 New Orleans, Tiana has struggled her entire life to earn enough to realise her dream of opening a restaurant. A chance encounter with a prince cursed to become a frog offers her a shortcut, but when things backfire Tiana finds herself feeling a bit green.

Review: I have a distinct memory from back in 2009 when this movie was just released. A person I worked with commented that it was good Disney was finally doing something other than the usual white, blonde princess story. I assume this was taking the marketing focus of an African American character being a Disney lead a bit further, as I was so surprised at how wrong this was I didn’t point out Jasmine, Mulan and Pocahontas. This doesn’t have any bearing on the review, it just stuck with me.

But yes, Tiana (Rose) is the first African American princess, including a long neglected American cultural group in their main canon. From a merchandising and representation viewpoint it’s amazing they took this long. It’s also nice to see the New Orleans jazz scene playing a role, as this gives the movie a very distinct tone and design, not to mention a spectacular soundtrack.

The Princess and the Frog starts very strong. We’re introduced to Tiana and her friend Charlotte as children. Charlotte is the daughter of a wealthy sugar hill owner, and Tiana’s mother is makes dresses for the privileged and spoilt Charlotte, giving the children a reason to know each other. Charlotte (Cody) is one of the funniest parts of the film, and it would have been easy to characterise her has an evil or stupid character. Rather she’s simply overly-excited and sheltered enough not to empathise with her friends plight. As the rich, privileged contrast to Tiana, she’s cast as a caring friend who simply cannot comprehend how difficult life is for others.

It’s a smart contrast then that Charlotte believes that wishing upon a star will make her dreams come true, whilst our main character Tiana values hard work and sees it as the only path forward. She’s certainly the first Disney princess who works two jobs in order to make her dream come true. Whilst Charlotte is concocting a plan to invite the visiting Prince Naveen (Campos) to a ball in order to gain a marriage proposal, Tiana is hired to provide catering to the event.

Naveen, meanwhile, has been introduced to the audience as having been cut off from his family’s riches and is more interesting in cavorting around the New Orleans jazz scene than anything else. He falls victim to voodoo shaman and con-man Doctor Facilier (David), who promises him riches only to turn him into a frog. In his new amphibious form, Naveen seeks out the kiss of the princess to magically break the curse, mistaking Tiana for a member of royalty and turning her into a frog as well. The two of them set out on an adventure through the bayou and its inhabitants on a mission to return to being human.

It’s at this point the movie runs out of steam for me. The new cast of talking animals feel out of place with the story we’ve been following so far, and they’ll very simple characters with basic motivations that get ticked off one by one. Eventually Tiana and Naveen fall in love and learn the accept each other’s different outlooks on life, eventually getting the happily ever after (after a clever twist in the tail).

After the first act comes in so strong, with well realised characters, beautiful animation and a number of great musical numbers, the remainder of the film feels very pedestrian. Even after two viewings I can’t recall the names of any of the bayou characters or the songs that are performed in the second half. The ultimate impression is a good concept with no follow through. It’s great to see an animation style for reflective of Disney’s early work being created with modern techniques, but the story isn’t there to prop it up.

During the opening act we get some amazing song sequences, including ‘Down in New Orleans’ and ‘Almost There’, which make the most of the unique setting for an animated film and stand alone as great numbers. We’re also a big fan of ‘Friends on the Other Side’, one of the best recent villain songs paired with some spooky visuals and bright neon colours.

It’s not a bad film by any stretch, but it loses momentum the longer it runs on.

Coolest Easter Egg: The King Triton float seen during Mardi Gras is an easy one to spot…but try and spy Jack Skellington from A Nightmare Before Christmas among Doctor Facilier’s shadowy companions.

Weirdest Trivia: Disney animators often incorporate mannerisms and physical features of their voice actors in the characters. Tiana is left handed to match voice actor Anika Noni Rose and Doctor Facilier has the same gap in his front teeth as Keith David.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN – mostly for the first couple of song numbers.



As much as we were thrilled to see Disney returning to traditional hand-drawn animation, this isn’t their strongest effort. Still plenty of fun, though.

Go ahead and click on those titles if you want to see our reviews for those films.

  1. Robin Hood
  2. Aladdin
  3. Big Hero 6
  4. The Sword in the Stone
  5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  6. Emperor’s New Groove
  7. Fantasia
  8. The Princess and the Frog
  9. The Aristocats
  10. A Goofy Movie
  11. Treasure Planet
  12. Chicken Little


Amelia surprised us with this one, as she usually gravitates towards princess movies. She still ranked it highly, but it’s beaten out but the wacky comedy offerings. We suspect the next movie may put a princess on the top of the charts though…

  1. Emperor’s New Groove
  2. A Goofy Movie
  3. The Princess and the Frog
  4. Robin Hood
  5. The Aristocats
  6. The Sword in the Stone
  7. Aladdin
  8. Treasure Planet
  9. Big Hero 6
  10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  11. Chicken Little
  12. Fantasia


Like myself, Joshua’s favourite part in this movie is Doctor Facilier and his musical number about having ‘friends on the other side’.

  1. Big Hero 6
  2. Aladdin
  3. Emperor’s New Groove
  4. Treasure Planet
  5. The Princess and the Frog
  6. Robin Hood
  7. The Sword in the Stone
  8. A Goofy Movie
  9. The Aristocats
  10. Fantasia
  11. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  12. Chicken Little