Almost There

Set in the 1920s, Princess and the Frog dodges direct issues of race. There’s one utterance at a party toward Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) that’s softly discriminatory in a Disney-friendly way. Princess and the Frog takes a different path, using inequality to show systemic social problems in this vibrant, lively New Orleans setting.

“The real power in this world isn’t magic. It’s money,” says a voodoo witch doctor, the villain, yet the only one with enough honesty to speak that truth. Princess and the Frog makes that its core theme. Tiana struggles to save funds while the rich white men around her live in mansions, spoiling their daughters. Tiana wants her own restaurant; that dream continues to slip away.

Culturally vivid, Disney uses traditional animation to give this fable flavor. It’s purely southern, at times with demeaning stereotypes, if so striking in celebrating the food and music as to let those comedic digs go. Tiana is splendid, living her life believing that work is an answer to all ills. A realist snaps her out of it – there’s luck involved too. Therein comes the prince.

Princess and the Frog sits in the background, overlooked, yet brilliant

Where The Little Mermaid asked to “Kiss the girl,” here it’s about kissing a frog. The fairy tale flips, turning Tiana into a frog too, forcing Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) to become an equal. Without his money, he’s the same as Tiana (or less, given Naveen’s lack of work ethic). It’s an intelligent way to draw further attention to Princess and the Frog’s theme, while developing the key characters.

If the wealth disparity moral doesn’t click, then further principles speak of being yourself. An enthusiastic, horn-playing alligator dreams of joining a band, begging to be human for his chance. Turns out he doesn’t need to; talent defines him. A small lightning bug becomes more than expected, without changing, and is Princess and the Frog’s unlikely hero. Good hearts win the day.

Overdosing on color, magical in song, and consistently funny, Princess and the Frog brings this all together in Disney’s traditional form. Princess and the Frog hit in 2009, on the cusp of recession, and joining in protest with those seeking to redistribute wealth.

If pencils ever return to paper at the studio, then it will happen when needed. This type of fantasy represents an intensely personal workflow, matched to Tiana’s own zeal. Pixar steals Disney’s critical appreciation now. Princess and the Frog sits in the background, overlooked, yet brilliant.

Video

The jump to 4K doesn’t immediately appear greater than the Blu-ray. A light aliasing and subtlest banding remain, more than likely at the source than the transfer. Resolution can only bring so much to imagery like this.

Rather, the boost comes from HDR. Princess and the Frog expends significant energy on musical numbers, blasting light and fireworks in droves. This intensity shows a dazzling variety, splashing color and dynamic brightness over these scenes. Little things count too. Chandeliers sparkle, and Ray’s lighted rear breaks free from nighttime darkness.

Increased color density furthers this release. Primary boldness and saturation bring Princess and the Frog bonus appeal. From clothes to cities, every hue turns magic.

Audio

Credit where it’s due – Disney’s Atmos track does utilize the height channels in spots. Listen as a cat leaps toward the ceiling in the opening moments. Songs spread not only through the soundstage, but the overheads too. It’s a precise, energetic track that with small touches, does better the Blu-ray. Surrounds capture ambiance in swamps or crowds during Mardi Gras.

If bass is needed (and it always is), then the Blu-ray remains superior. Drums lack power akin to Disney’s other Atmos tracks. Pinched range keeps the mix quiet, too thin for a movie so flashy. New Orleans’ musical style needs a beat this doesn’t provide.

Extras

Everything stays on the Blu-ray. Extras begin with five deleted scenes (11:45 total), including an introduction from directors/co-writers John Musker and Ron Clements. They return to intro the live action reference footage split into two sections. Likewise, they join producer Peter Del Vecho for a feature commentary.

Magic in the Bayou is the standard making-of, running 22-minutes, with interviews from numerous people who worked on the project. The disc then begins a flurry of five brief featurettes, ranging from two to three-minutes, none long enough to carry weight. They focus on the Disney legacy, their Princess line, animators, villain design, and music.

Princess and the Frog
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

While still producing a pure fantasy romance, there’s an honesty to Princess and the Frog’s fable often missing in Disney animation.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 30 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: