Television

Disney animators return to hand-drawn animation

MUMBAI: While the Pixar division was making money and winning awards by using computer animation, animators at Disney concentrated on the drawing board.


Disney‘s The Princess and the Frog is a return to the technique that made Disney synonymous with animation: hand drawing, one frame at a time.


It‘s a worthy cause and an honorable film, the first full-length Disney cartoon with an African-American heroine. When first announced in 2007, the project was called The Frog Princess and the heroine was a chambermaid in 1920s New Orleans.


Bowing to public pressure, both the title and the character were changed. Tiana is now an emancipated young black woman who is saving her money to open a restaurant, while her affluent white friend Charlotte is constantly wishing that someday her prince might arrive.


A self-sufficient heroine is a timely reversal of the Disney formula, yet it leaves us with little sense that this is happening in the segregated South of eight decades ago.


This colourfully rendered New Orleans is racially harmonious, a place where jazz and voodoo fills the air and every day is Mardi Gras.
 
When a prince named Naveen (Bruno Campos) of indeterminate ethnicity arrives in town for the big festival, a local sorcerer named Dr. Facilier (Keith David) turns him into a frog.


It‘s not clear why, but it has something to do with an imposter Naveen who tries to swindle Charlotte‘s family out of their fortune. Meanwhile, the real Naveen, who is now a talking amphibian, meets Tiana and begs her to set him free with a kiss. Instead, the kiss turns Tiana into a frog, too.


As the two changelings journey to seek the help of a voodoo priestess (Jenifer Lewis), the spoiled Naveen and the feisty Tiana show insufficient heart or humor to sustain our interest. (It doesn‘t help that the voice actors are relative unknowns.)


To borrow an image from this slow, unimaginative movie, The Princess and the Frog is like jazz played by an alligator.
 

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