I WAS (arguably) part of the luckiest generation of children in the world. Born in 1986, just as I could perceive visuals beyond very basic television I was treated with a slew of Disney classics – often seen as the golden age of the fledgling company – t


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I WAS (arguably) part of the luckiest generation of children in the world.

Born in 1986, just as I could perceive visuals beyond very basic television I was treated with a slew of Disney classics - often seen as the golden age of the fledgling company - that shaped my attitude and delighted me with brilliant stories, catchy songs and some great McDonalds toys.

A first crush in Little Mermaid, a second crush in Beauty And The Beast, a first idol in the genie from Aladdin and then the first film tears in Lion King (when Simba's dad dies, wow, I broke down) - these were my childhood basically!

And then the evil demon Toy Story come along and messed it all up!

I jest, of course, but the golden age was definitely over (aside from the very good Mulan) and it seemed all over for the 2D animation house at Disney. Well, apart from a thousand dire sequels of the classics including Bambi 2 (what were they thinking!).

Well after a decade of computer animation, the wait is all over and from the trusted hands of Ron Clements and John Musker, who both co-directed Aladdin and Little Mermaid, we have The Princess & The Frog.

It seems to follow the traditional tale of the prince turned into a frog (or something like that, I forget) and that's about all I know.

It seems unfair that I'm this age, reviewing a film that is made to inspire and entertain those a lot younger than me, but I'll try my best.

Thoughts Afterwards

I THINK the only 2D animations I've seen in the last ten years have been the sublime works from renowned Japanese filmmakers Studio Ghibi.

It took me a while for people to sell me the anime style films, as I'd only really associated that style with... geeks and stuff.

But one watch of Spirited Away and I understood what all the fuss was about. I was hooked.

I've never hugely got into any other Japanese animation since then (except the short-lived Samuel L Jackson voiced Afro Samurai and classic late nineties post-modern sci-fi Cowboy Bebop), but have watched and enjoyed every Studio Ghibli film with a passion.

But they are missing something, and it took the simple story of The Princess and the Frog to remind me.

I think it's the starry eyed ambition of the lead characters or possibly just the bright eyed innocence... or just (here comes the cliché) the Disney magic that no-one else can quite pull off.

The thing missing from all these tacky sequels to the classics is a lack of heart, and things like the disastrously cringe-worthy Chicken Little feel like they are cash-ins more than little works of art to inspire kids and adults alike.

Well it seems there is good in the world once more!

Princess and the Frog gets the Disney heart pumping once more and, we can only hope, will reignite the studio's passion for shaping childhoods.

The fable stars a young Tiana, brought up in the swinging New Orleans and her dreams are moulded by her father's love of food. As she grows up she overworks herself to make her dream of her own restaurant a reality, finding no time for fun and coming across (if we're honest) as a bit of a jerk.

But it's these faults in her character that make her human, and instead of the usual 'I want to be a princess!' that we're usually faced with (and when does that really ever happen?) we follow her trials and tribulations.

Well up until the point that both her and a happy-go-lucky prince, in the process of finding a rich wife to indulge his extravagant lifestyle (he reminds me of a male Paris Hilton in a way), get turned into frogs.

What I was astounded by, as the plot unfolded, was the masterful characterization of some of the lesser characters.

We have an awesome crocodile who dreams of being a jazz player in a band (but due to the whole 'being a crocodile' thing it's rather difficult) and then there's the brilliant little firefly Ray (voiced by prolific voice artist Jim Cummings) who's romance is even sweeter than the two main protagonists.

As the opening credits revealed Randy Newman as the man behind the music I was a little sceptical. He's got his place singing You've Got A Friend In Me but I was hoping for something a bit different, more daring and to the time the film is set.

Well luckily, in true Disney style, that wish was granted. The score is (I think) Disney's first foray into jazz orientated songs and music, and it works perfectly. Each ditty was brilliantly catchy and it seemed to have a complexity to the music that's been missing from the studio; these aren't simply sing-a-longs that kids will love but also authentic New Orleans style jazz and swing.

Some slight concerns could rise from the baddies continued use of voodoo magic, a surprisingly dark aspect that could be contentious for some more conservative parents.

A switch of animations styles during certain aspects was a welcome addition though, as the movies most notable song and dance piece (the brilliant "Almost There") is met with some eye-catching art-deco style that is a nice change but also reminds everyone that 2D animation can still impress.

The script too is really beautifully written and I really liked the self-referential quotes dotted around. There's also the usual Disney schtick (that we all love):

Tiana - "Daddy never got what he wanted... but he had what he needed: love! He never gave that up, and neither will I!"

The Princess and the Frog is the best Disney movie since The Lion King and will hopefully reignite children's love affair with 2D animation.

The time has come for the traditional form of animation to reign supreme once more. I love Pixar but dislike everyone else's obsession with computer generated characters, which are often full of wooden characters and dated pop reference.

So take a trip to New Orleans with Tiana, Naveen, Ray and the saxophone playing crocodile Louis, just as you did in the nineties you'll be humming along with the kids and looking forward to a visit to the Disney Store afterwards.

TIM LINCE

4/5 Stars