Review: The Princess and the Frog

This post was originally published on on December 14, 2009. Republished here with permission.

princessandthefrogIf you follow this blog, you know I’m a little obsessed with Disney. I’ve been anticipating The Princess and the Frog, featuring African-American Princess Tiana, for over two years now. It finally opened on Friday, December 11th. I took my son and met up with a friend and her two kids (ages 3-1/2 & 2).

This review contains spoilers!

The plot goes something like this:

In turn-of-the-century New Orleans, little Tiana and her father dream of opening a restaurant. Tiana grows up. Her father dies (it wouldn’t be Disney if he didn’t). She works two jobs to save every penny she can to buy her own restaurant. Prince Naveen from Maldonia shows up. He’s been cut off by his parents because all he does is play music. He and his valet, Lawrence, meet up with Dr. Facilier, or “the Shadow Man” as the other characters call him. Shadow Man turns Naveen into a frog, and Lawrence into Naveen. When Tiana kisses Naveen, she turns into a frog as well. They spend the movie trying to become human again, and of course, they fall in love along the way. The moral of the story is that hard work, not wishing on a star, is the way to get what you want, but sometimes, what you want isn’t what you need.

The kids all enjoyed the movie, and paid attention as well as or better than you might expect for pre-schoolers. Jack’s favorite part was “when they got married”. K liked the “bad guy”. His little sister A said “eeewww” whenever Tiana and Prince Naveen kissed.

My friend didn’t like that the only black man in the film was the bad guy. Tiana’s father got a couple of minutes of screen time, and Naveen is very light skinned. Plot-wise, he had to be. Naveen’s initial plan is to marry the city’s richest daughter, Tiana’s white friend Charlotte. There’s no way a black man could get away with marrying a white woman in this time period and place. Why couldn’t Charlotte have been black too? I guess you’d have to ask Disney.

Tiana spends most of the movie as a frog, which is a little disappointing. But, she is a cute frog. The music in the movie is awesome, including jazz and gospel. I highly recommend the soundtrack. The movie itself is pretty tight, especially for an animated film, well-drawn, the dialogue is snappy. As a Disney fan, the movie is a definite win.

As the mother of a black child… Tiana starts out as a waitress, and ends up being the only Disney princess to pay her own way. As far as we know, Naveen remains cut off, so Tiana is a princess in name only. She and Naveen work together to build and establish their restaurant, Tiana’s Palace. As Jack says, “The princess is the cook and the prince is the waiter.” Even if Tiana wants to work – and I believe she does – could we not have at least seen the King and Queen of Maldonia writing a check or something? Why is the black princess the one that has to do all the work? Sure, Snow White and Cinderella start off as servants, but afterwards, you see them both in pretty dresses and castles. Instead of doing the construction, we could have seen Tiana overseeing the construction. We know she’s happy, but as far as we know, she’s also still poor.

The movie as entertainment gets an A. The movie as a statement on race gets a C, and that might be generous.

Did you see The Princess and the Frog? Please let me know what you think!


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