I am a big fan of Princess and the Frog. It’s one of my favorite Disney films and I think they did a really good job with bringing a well known fairy tale to a new level of story. These are just my personal thoughts, as a fan, on how it could have been made better. You can agree or disagree, but that’s all it is: personal opinion of someone who is a fan of the film. On that note, if you haven’t seen Princess and the Frog and you want to form your own opinion of it… don’t read this blog post until afterwards.
So. Let’s talk Princess and the Frog. This is an interesting movie to me for a number of reasons, namely because I think it’s awesome that they used traditional hand painted animation to make it (yes, EVERYTHING in that movie including the backgrounds are done by hand!) and because I started off hating it and ended up currently loving it. This last little issue had me wondering: why did I initially hate it? I mean, there was the shallow reason that I held against it for a long time… I saw the character images they’d released as promotionals of Prince Naveen and I was ecstatic because he is FINE…
This was basically my reaction to Naveen ^
…Only to realize in the theater that he was going to spend THE WHOLE movie as… a… FROG.
I mean, I was just hoping for a liiiiittle more human Naveen screen time. (Lawrence in Naveen’s body doesn’t count, BTW, because we all knew what was really there underneath. Yeech.)
But beyond all of that, there was something else that was really bothering me. I’m a proud Disnerd, and even though I don’t live my life by the “true love’s kiss” type of motto, I clearly have nothing against it because if the true love theme bothers you, you really can’t be a Disnerd. But in Princess and the Frog, the idea of it seemed so in your face that it almost became a lecture. I heard what they were saying- that love is what you need to make you truly happy, but that wasn’t the lesson that I was feeling. Despite their words, I felt that it was more along the lines of: “Unless you have romantic love in your life, nothing else matters. Romantic love trumps all. Forget the love of family, of friends, forget all the dreams that you’ve been working so hard to accomplish. That’s all crap unless you have your prince.”
So where was that coming from? It couldn’t have been intentional because the storytellers had clearly been focused on making Tiana a hardworking woman and spent the entire film advocating that an independent, career driven person is not a bad thing to be.
Dancing? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Why wasn’t that message coming across for me, then?
I rewatched the movie tons of times trying to narrow it down and figure out where that was coming from. Initially I thought that it might have been stemming from the scene where the Shadow Man tries to tempt Tiana into giving him back his black magic pendant by offering her the restaurant she has worked so hard to get and by showing her how hard her father used to work. The plan backfires on him when Tiana is instead inspired to truly be like her father and not lose track of what is really important: love.
But everything that she said in this scene was true to both herself and her mission, so the problem couldn’t have come from there. At this point in the story, we see that Tiana has really fulfilled her mission by understanding her father’s message: yes, you need to work really hard to get what you want, but don’t let that focus become so sharp that you cut out everyone else in your life and forget about the value of love.
What a beautiful message.
Too bad they didn’t stick with it.
I figured out that the scene bothering me was one of the major ones following the temptation sequence. Tiana and Naveen have professed their love for each other, and Charlotte (the best character in the movie and arguably one of the best characters in existence… perhaps there’ll be a blog post on that later) agrees to kiss Naveen to turn he and Tiana back into humans without requiring him to marry her (Charlotte). But they are too late: the kiss doesn’t work, and Tiana and Naveen remain frogs. Charlotte seems deeply affected by the realization that her friend is going to remain a frog, and she apologizes and looks to be on the verge of tears as she sets frog Naveen down next to frog Tiana.
Far from being upset, Tiana and Naveen give each other this look. A look that says, “it doesn’t matter, because we’re still together.” A look of happiness. A look of contentment.
THIS look. ^
Excuse me, but did you two miss what just happened?
YOU ARE STILL FROGS.
I don’t care how strong your love is, you are human beings who have been trapped in frog bodies for all of twenty-four to forty-eight hours, and suddenly you don’t care anymore because you’ve found love? Tiana, what about your restaurant? You’ve worked hard all your life to build this up and now you’re willing to throw it all away just because you have a prince who loves you? I thought the message was to let someone in and allow yourself to love, not to chuck everything else out the window (including your humanity!). Tiana and Naveen not even caring that they’ve lost everything they knew because now they have each other…. THAT is the problem. That is where it got just plain preachy. Lost your humanity? Who cares, as long as you have love! Because all you need is romance!
The dumb thing is, they should at least be determined to get their humanity back because it would be very easy to do so. In the beginning of the film, Big Daddy LeBouff tells Tiana that he was elected King of the Mardi Gras Parade for the fifth year in a row, implying that it happens every year. So Charlotte is a Princess for one day EVERY YEAR. Why wouldn’t Tiana and Naveen just agree to wait it out another year, then be kissed by Charlotte, and then turn back human? Of course we all know that Tiana’s kiss after their marriage would turn them back more quickly, as it does in the film, but THEY don’t know that. They should have at least given a few lines to address it! But no, they’d rather stay frogs, as Tiana herself confirms to Ray a few seconds later… “We’re staying frogs, Ray.”
Have you two thought this through? You’re people and yet you are going to go live in the swamp as frogs for the rest of your life? Just going to leave your poor mama all alone, Tiana? She wanted grandkids, not a bucket of freaking tadpoles. On that note, do you even know how frogs mate? Did you consider the logistics of any of this? Did you all of a sudden completely forget about your restaurant that we know you’ve been working at for so long? AGAIN: I thought the message was to allow yourself to love and understand that that’s important, not that love is THE ONLY THING that’s important!
This is why it came off as so preachy to me. The Princess and The Frog is such a strong film until the love theme becomes in your face. And what makes it more annoying is it could so easily have been avoided.
Here are my musings on how that scene could, with minor tweaks, have been less preachy and more “our love is strong so we will get through this”, not “our love is the only thing in the world that matters”:
Maybe that ‘ol clock’s a little fast!
*Kisses Naveen repeatedly; nothing happens*
I… I’m so sorry.
*She places Naveen down beside Tiana. Both of them look dejected. Naveen sighs and then puts his hand on Tiana’s.*
Don’t give up.
^(or some variation on this sentiment)
Big Daddy is King every Mardi Gras! Next year…
*Tiana looks up at both of them and smiles as she realizes that her friends and family are there for her. She looks lovingly at Naveen, understanding that they will get through this together.*
*Tiana and Naveen hop over to Louis, who is holding Ray*
……etc etc, lead up to Ray speaking to Tiana and Naveen……..
How come… you two…
It doesn’t matter right now, Ray. What’s important is…
*She looks at Naveen*
…We’re staying together.
Oh, I like that very much. Evangeline… she likes that too.
SEE? SEE HOW SIMPLE IT IS? With just a few tiny line changes, we could have changed the scene from “Ha! I don’t care that I’m a frog as long as I have my lover!” into “Our love is so strong that we are going to find a way to get out of this! We’ll make our dreams come true… together!” Remember, Tiana herself said that Naveen made her dream complete, not that he was replacing it.
Wrong movie, yo.
And that would have made the scene when they turn back into humans in the swamp all the more satisfying, because we would know that they are determined to regain what they lost together and now, because they love each other…. Boom! It happens more quickly than they thought it would. As it is, that beautiful scene comes off as being just a pleasant bonus for Tiana and Naveen, something thrown in more for the audience’s gratification than for that of the characters.
BTW has anyone else noticed how LONG they were just… kissing? Unless it was a serious makeout going on inside that light bubble, that is a long time to just stand there with your lips placed unmoving against each other. Just saying.
So that’s my fan fix for today. If I could change one thing about The Princess and The Frog, it would be that particular scene so that the message of the movie would end up being more applicable to the real single independent people out there. Romantic love is a good thing, but it’s not the only good thing out there.
PS: Like I said earlier, this is not in any way meant to mindlessly hate on Princess and the Frog… it’s one of my favorite movies. I love the music, the general story, the animation, the characters, and the pairings… one of these days I might also make a blog post on why Tiana and Naveen are one of the best suited Disney couples out there.
…But that’s for another day.