Disney makes fairy tale out of swampy story

By Azia Squire

“The Princess and the Frog”

Starring: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Oprah… “The Princess and the Frog”

Starring: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Oprah Winfrey

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker

Studio: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Grade: A-

“The Princess and the Frog” marks the first appearance of a black princess in a Disney fairy tale and the return of illustration — that is, traditional 2-D animation — to the big screen.

The animated musical is loosely based on E.D. Baker’s “The Frog Princess,” which is of course based on the fairy tale, “The Frog Prince.” Disney’s update manages to be both visually stunning and well-paced.

Set in early 1900s in New Orleans, “The Princess and the Frog” tells the story of Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a young waitress working hard to make enough money to buy a restaurant in order to keep the spirit — and legendary gumbo — of her father (Terrance Howard) alive.

She gets outbid for a building and, in a depressed daze, lets herself be convinced to help Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), her uproarious blond-haired, blue-eyed best friend, win the affection of a prince — any prince would do.

Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos), of the fictional Maldonia, happens to be the one Charlotte sees first.

But the evildoings of a voodoo magician, Doctor Facilier, played by a fantastic and devilish Keith David, turns Prince Naveen into a frog, which is how he stumbles upon Tiana. In frog form, Prince Naveen mistakes Tiana for a princess in her gown and tiara.

He bribes her to kiss him with promises of money that he doesn’t have, because unbeknownst to Tiana, his parents cut him off. With visions of her father’s restaurant clouding her reason, Tiana puckers up, only to be turned into a frog herself.

The two then embark on a journey to become humans again, making friends with a hilarious jazz-playing alligator (Michael-Leon Wooley) and a gentle-hearted Cajun firefly (Jim Cummings).

“The Princess and the Frog” might make audiences wonder why anyone stopped using traditional animation.

It’s gorgeously drawn with explosive use of color, which is most mesmerizing in Doctor Facilier’s scenes.

His mystical voodoo encounters are ripe with slick lime greens and plush purples, but the creepy shadow counterparts that do his bidding might be too much for children.

Doctor Facilier is one of the most entertaining Disney villains we’ve seen thus far, filling in for Tiana and Prince Naveen where they ultimately lack.

Though sweet-natured and dedicated, Tiana is kind of a snooze, blind to facts that are right in front of her. The charismatic Prince Naveen is a jerk and at times refers to women as objects — his verse in the song “When We’re Human” is about just that.

However, these flaws are not what keeps them from reaching that third dimension, it’s the fact that they’re frogs for the majority of the film.

Watching them in their frog-tastic hijinks is fun at times, but viewers can’t help but wish our first black princess didn’t spend most of the movie being green.