Cast of ‘Princess and the Frog’ Celebrate 10 Year Anniversary of Film’s Release
This past week, the talented cast and crew behind Disney’s much-loved animated hit The Princess and the Frog reunited (not in the bayou) but in Beverly Hills for a 10th Anniversary event at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater! The event was held as part of the Marc Davis Celebration of Animation.
On hand for the celebration were Disney Legend Anika Noni Rose (voice of Tiana), Jenifer Lewis (voice of Mama Odie), Michael-Leon Wooley (voice of Louis), and Keith David (voice of Dr. Facilier), as well as director Ron Clements, producer Peter Del Vecho, screenwriter Rob Edwards, head of effects Marlon West, character animator Bruce W. Smith, and composer and Disney Legend Randy Newman. The event was hosted by Oscar-nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis—a self-admitted Princess and the Frog super-fan.
The event began with projections of some of the original concept art for the film before Rose’s a rousing performance of “Down in New Orleans,” backed by Kenny Sara & the Sounds of New Orleans.
Later, Clements recalled how Rose was only the second actress to audition for the role—and how she was just as determined as the very character he’d created. For her callback for Tiana, Rose had to leave Australia, where she was working on a miniseries, to audition in Los Angeles. Although she didn’t have much time to rest or prepare, Rose didn’t complain. “Never once did I feel, ‘Oh, my God! I can’t believe I have to do all this.’ Never once did I feel I was not where I was supposed to be. Never once did I feel like this girl was not me. I felt like I knew her from the moment I read the sides. And I’m going to cry, so…”
Wooley, meanwhile, didn’t know he’d won the role of Louis until Randy Newman casually mentioned it during a recording session. Wooley was working on a demo version the song “When We’re Human” when Newman popped into the studio. Before leaving, Wooley recalled, “I said, ‘Randy, it’s been a pleasure to work with you. I’m honored.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’m glad you’re playing the gator.’ I walked to the car, got inside and just [screamed]!”
Like Wooley, the larger-than-life Lewis confessed she was in awe of Newman. “My favorite part was being in the studio with Randy. I wanted to please him so much! I had sung so many of the songs when I was doing club work in New York,” she recalled, launching into a few bars of “Dig a Little Deeper” just moments later.
Lewis also revealed that she’d originally auditioned for the role of Eudora, which eventually went to Disney Legend Oprah Winfrey. “I said, ‘Darling, there’s nothing sweet about my voice!’” she recalled, eliciting laughter. “‘Do you have another part?’” Of course, her talents were better suited for Mama Odie, the 197-year-old voodoo priestess. Mimicking comedian Moms Mabley’s iconic voice, Lewis joked, “All you gotta do is take your teeth out!”
Before the Q&A ended and the screening started, Rose introduced her goddaughter, who was dressed for the occasion in a Tiana dress. “This,” the emotional star said, “is what it’s all about.”
‘Princess and the Frog’ was released nationwide on December 11, 2009. The film went on to receive three Oscar nominations, including Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song for “Almost There” and “Down in New Orleans.” The latter song earned Newman his 18th Grammy® nomination.
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