A leap backwards

2010-01-23 00:00

DISNEY has a new princess. She’s African-American, very independent, and her name is Tiana. What’s more she’s been created using good, old-fashioned animation techniques.

Tiana is the star of The Princess and the Frog, which is loosely based on E.D. Baker’s novel The Frog Princess, which itself was inspired by the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale, The Frog Prince.

It’s the 49th animated feature released by Disney and the first since 2004’s Home on the Range to be traditionally animated.

John Lasseter, executive producer and chief creative officer for Walt Disney Animation Studios, described the film as a “return to the timeless world of hand-drawn animation at Disney”, adding: “It’s an ageless fairytale, but with a fresh twist that combines everything we look for in great stories: comedy, adventure, music — and most of all, the kind of heart that always sets Disney animation apart.”

With the advent of computer-generated animation, hand-drawn animation had almost been abandoned as an art form, and a special team had to be assembled to create the new film. The team included both older, renowned hand animators and a new generation of artists who were trained specifically for the film.

All the characters were drawn in pencil-on-paper first and then scanned into the computer against either hand-painted or digitally created backgrounds.

“At every turn,” Clements says of the process, “we realised that we could reach out and touch the legacy of the animated Disney fairy tale, and yet move in surprising and interesting new ways, rather than slavishly imitating or reproducing what had been done before.”

The Princess and The Frog is directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, whose previous animated adventures include The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and Treasure Planet. The songs and score were composed by Randy Newman.

Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the film tells the story of a prince named Naveen (voiced by Bruno Campos) from the land of Maldonia who is transformed into a frog by the evil scheming voodoo magician Dr Facilier (voiced by Keith David).

Naveen mistakes a girl named Tiana (voiced Anika Noni Rose) for a princess and has her kiss him to break the spell. But things go wrong and Tiana turns into a frog instead.

Together, the two of them travel to see the good voodoo queen of the Bayou, Mama Odie, befriending a trumpet-playing alligator called Louis and a hopelessly romantic Cajun firefly named Ray along the way.

The Princess and The Frog, which has proved to be a hit with critics and audiences in the U.S., will be released in South Africa on January 29.

WE REALISED THAT WE COULD REACH OUT AND TOUCH THE LEGACY OF THE ANIMATED DISNEY FAIRY TALE, AND YET MOVE IN SURPRISING AND INTERESTING NEW WAYS.

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