The Princess and the Frog

Russell Merritt is an adjunct professor in film studies at UC Berkeley and author, with J.B. Kaufman, of Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies.

You've heard it before. A princess kisses a frog and it turns into a handsome prince charming. But what if instead she turns into a frog? This is what happens to Disney's latest princess, an African American career girl living in New Orleans in the early 1920s, when she meets her playboy prince. To break the spell the couple hop off to the bayou and step into some deep voodoo, searching for a blind seer named Mama Odie. Gorgeously animated with bursts of bright purples and acid greens, the movie lovingly ransacks the signatures of nearly a century of cartoon stylists-John Held flappers and Harlem Renaissance murals mixed in with George Pal jungle freak-out Puppetoons and Tex Avery body-stretching acrobatics. At the keyboards we have Dr. John in the riotous opening number, and Randy Newman fronting a score that spans ragtime, zydeco, blues, and gospel. This is an old-fashioned cartoon feature-all hand-drawn-that moves with contemporary verve and bounce. Go on, give it a great big kiss.

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