This morning, we took the girls to see Disney's The Princess and the Frog.
First, let me say that, while it is rated G, small children might find a couple of scenes with the villain frightening. While I knew there would be a villain, I didn't realize a couple of the scenes with him would be as frightening as they were. Cecilia insists she was not scared, but she did say she got upset when the frogs were in danger a few times. She also applauded whenever good won out over evil.
But, back to the film. Wow. It really is a very good film.
It begins with Tiana as a child listening to her mother tell her and her friend Charlotte the story of the Frog Prince while she sews a "princess" dress for Charlotte, the daughter of a wealthy client. Tiana grows up poor but surrounded by love and works exceptionally hard to continue her father's dream of one day opening a restaurant. Charlotte grows up sweet but spoiled and aspires to marry a visiting prince named Naveen. Naveen is a lazy, self-indulgent ladies man who is attracted to a local fortune teller named Dr. Facilier until Facilier (aka "Shadowman") turns him into a frog in a plot to secure personal riches. At a Masquerade Ball, Charlotte lends Tiana a beautiful dress and tiara and Naveen mistakes her for a princess.
You should see the film to know the rest, but there were some wonderful themes worth noting. "Shadowman" definitely comes across as an evil man with connections to the demonic - he has "friends on the other side," providing a wonderful teaching point for older children about the Church's teachings concerning tarot readings, palm readings, psychics, etc. and their connection to the demonic.
Madame Odie, another character with magic all her own, emphasizes that sometimes what we want is NOT what we need and we need to consider serious self-examination about what we truly need. She also provides the talking point that magic does not solve problems but the solutions to our problems need to come from within ourselves.
Tiana reminds us that we cannot simply sit and wish for things to happen but rather, God helps those who help themselves and if we want to achieve our dreams, we need to work for them. Naveen reminds us that all of live is not work and we were created to enjoy this wonderful world God created for us.
There were some complaints from the Cajun community about Ray, a cajun lightning bug, but they should be proud of their character. Ray is an endearing character who proves often to have more warmth and heart than most animated characters I've ever seen.
As we stood in the theater's hallway after the film and the adults took turns using the restroom, our girls were enjoying looking at the 8 foot cardboard display for The Princess and the Frog. While we were there, several little African American girls had their picture taken before the display. One I particularly noticed. She was wearing a dress, faux fur coat, tights, and black patent leather shoes and carrying a pink purse. She was absolutely adorable. Now, maybe she had some other event today that required her dressy attire, but considering she was getting her picture taken before the display, I had to wonder if she got all dressed up just to see this film. While I very much doubt it was intentional, Disney has taken far too long to do a story about a princess of African descent. While my girls no more distinguish Tiana from Cinderella in terms of their skin color, I could completely understand this little girl's desire to see a character, to dress as a princess, to see everyone celebrate a big-screen animated heroine who was like her in a unique way that the other Disney princesses have not been. Seeing the look in her eyes as she smiled at the larger-than-life picture of Princess Tiana, I almost began crying. (With 3 little ones, crying takes too much time.)
The music is fun, the colors brilliant, the story wonderful, the morals worth teaching and the animation stunning. Disney's The Princess and the Frog is definitely a film worth seeing and, with Christmas approaching all too rapidly, it is a wonderful film for the whole family to enjoy.
After years of such disappointing films as Home on the Range and Chicken Little, I left the theater thrilled to be feeling that the magic of Disney traditional hand drawn animation is back!
PS - the Church at the end of the film is St. Louis Catholic Church in New Orleans - so it would furthermore appear that our heroine is Roman Catholic.