The Princess and The Frog (2009)

Reviewed by Eric Larsen

Rated G. Our ratings: V-2 ; L- 0; S/N-1. Running time: 1 hour 37 min.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in
humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let
each of you look not to your own interests, but to the
interests of others.
Phil. 2:3-4

The Princess puckers up.

2009 Walt Disney Pictures

The first traditionally animated film from Disney since Home on the Range, The Princess and The Frog is a modern multi-ethnic twist on the story The Frog Prince. Having grown up watching Disney films and lov ing animation it was a true delight to see young and old of every race encounter this retelling with Tiana, her friends and family in this film.

There is a juxtaposition at the beginning of The Princess and The Frog of those who have everything they think they could want and those who work to get by every day. That could take place in many of the princess themed Disney films, but in this one it takes a hard look at what one wants versus what one needs. It skewers the perception that the words “Disney Princess” now brings to mind to make an important lesson to the viewer whether young or not so young any more.

Tiana and her father dream of opening their own restaurant if they can only save up enough money. She tells of her friend “wishing on a star,” and her father tells her to go on ahead and hope. However, he reminds her to never forget that life takes hard work and that love is what matters. It is balancing these two themes that is at the heart of the film and something with which we all struggle.

It is interesting to look at the deconstruction of wishing and how, in a way, it is representative of prayer in the film. Characters move from simply wishing their hearts out for their dreams, to sharing the hopes and concerns of their hearts. They struggle with what they want versus thinking of the needs of their community.

Early on in the film, there is a scene of an agape feast, where Tiana and her father provide the gumbo and invite others to eat. As everyone gathers, they bring whatever they can to contribute.

This carries on as Tiana, who has worked hard to put her dreams first, encounters Naveen who cares most about what is fun. Louis, an alligator, who only wants to be accepted, and Ray, a firefly, who loves and sees things a different way. Together they are made whole. And it all starts when Tiana goes beyond her comfort zone in the hopes of reaching her dreams and does what she told herself she’d never do by kissing that frog!

The directors of The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, and Treasure Planet “dig a little deeper” in Disney’s return to traditional animation and provide a tale that is worth seeing and hearing. Set in New Orleans in the early 20th century, it brings great joy but also the level of storytelling that we have come to value from the computer-generated Pixar.

John Lasseter not only produced this film but helped save the earlier form of animation. When things were at their most chaotic between Disney and Pixar, with Pixar possibly going with another studio and hand-drawn animation supposedly dead, Pixar made sure that the animation desks were bought and saved. It would be easy to simply continue on with computer animation being the hot ticket, but with the hard work, love, and now the success of this film, traditional animation appears to be back once more. There really is nothing like it.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. There was much concern and stigma about voodoo being in the first Disney animated film to feature an African American princess. How is magic used in the film?

2. How does Dr. Facilier’s attempts to con people resemble the temptation stories in the Gospels? Who pays the price of these magic deals?

3. How are the ways to get ahead in the film different from those in real life? How simple is it to get sucked into an “Almost There” mentality? How does Mama Odie see past this to remind Tiana, Naveen, Louis, (and ourselves) to look for what’s really important?

4. How might digging a little deeper help center and anchor us in whatever situation we face? Which forms of Christian practices help you “dig a little deeper” ?

5. How are the cast of characters a faith community? In what ways do they support each other? How can we similarly support each other with what matters?

6. How do you balance the need for joy with the needs of work and family?

7. How is prayer different from wishing? (For a hint, check out something that is in both the model prayer Jesus gave to his disciples and his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.)

8. How is this also a story of character transformation? That is what kind of a person is Prince Naveen at the beginning of the film? Who likes him the most? (And will tell you how good a lover he is and such.) What happens to him during their adventures?

9. Why is the prince willing to marry socialite Charlotte even though he does not love her? (He says to Ray, “I’m doing this FOR Tiana! If I kiss the Mardi Gras princess, I’ll become human, and then marry her. Then with her money I can give Tiana the money for her restaurant!” What is Tiana’s response when she realizes they love each other? ( “Naveen, wait! Don’t kiss her! I’d rather be a frog with you than be human and have nothing except a restaurant.” ) How does this show that Tiana also has grown in character? Relate this to what the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians.