The above illustration adorns this year's Christmas card from my friend, Disney animator, Nik Ranieri. Nik was the principal animator on the pictured character, Charlotte, the delightful status-seeker and childhood friend of Tiana, the heroine in Disney's new animated feature, The Princess and the Frog. I got a big kick out of Nik's illustration on his card - I can almost hear Charlotte singing Eartha Kitt's big song hit, Santa Baby, as she goes over her long list of Christmas gift requirements!
I have seen The Princess and the Frog and, though it may be a flawed film in some ways, I want to state for the record that I enjoyed the film very much. My criticisms are mostly in line with Mike Barrier's insightful and fairminded review, although I do disagree on a couple of points. I also have some minor quibbles about the visual aesthetic, but that's a very personal view. However, because of the fact that this is Disney's long-awaited return (after 6 years) to the art form it is best known for, and allowing for the fact that they have prudently opted to play it safe in order to test the waters before venturing into riskier territory, I am willing to cut them a lot of slack on this film. Though not perfect, the film still serves up a lot of solid entertainment with fun characters, fully expressive animation, and a winning music score. (Actually, on that last point I was leery, not having been an enthusiast of Randy Newman's music in general in the past, but the rascal exceeded my expectations on this one.)
However, I would be remiss in not admitting that this film is in trouble. Tragically, The Princess and the Frog is a victim of its having been released at a particularly vulnerable time, up against such worthy competition as Avatar, as well as such unworthy competition as that Chipmunks pic! I find it hard to fathom why kids and their parents would choose that latter film in such huge numbers, but I'll admit I'm very much out of step with today's popular tastes.
Over at The Laughing Place, Rhett Wickham has written a heartfelt plea to encourage moviegoers to go see Disney's revival of traditional animation because, if the box-office numbers aren't there, it's a very real possibility that the studio heads at Disney may conclude that there's no longer the audience for this medium in films. Rhett offers up a good argument as to why you should go see this film soon if you haven't already. I'm personally planning to see it once or twice more before it ends its theatrical run. My hat's off to all of the talented animation staff at Disney Feature Animation. They've been battling against the odds to create an entertaining film, and I think their efforts are worth supporting by casting your vote where it counts: at the box-office of your local theatre. Thanks in advance!