Everything You Need to Know about The Princess and the Frog
Disney recently announced that Magic Kingdom and Disneyland will do something brave.
Both parks will modernize Splash Mountain to remove the awkward Song of the South ties. In its place, Disney will introduce theming from a different movie.
Obviously, you have questions. Here’s everything you need to know about The Princess and the Frog.
We’ll even explore some ways that Splash Mountain may work with the new theme!
Introducing Princess Tiana
When Walt Disney produced animated movies, he relied on beloved fairy tales and myths.
During the 21st century, Disney has honored that tradition with titles like Frozen, Chicken Little, and The Princess and the Frog.
All of them retell long-established stories with classic Disney flair. However, Disney Princesses matter more due to their cultural significance.
So, Princess Tiana received more loving care in the character’s development.
She’s the ninth Disney Princess and, more importantly, the first African American.
Her story mimics aspects of The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker, which is itself based on a Brothers Grimm story.
In the fairytale, a woman kisses a frog, who promptly turns into a prince. In the movie, the opposite happens, as the woman joins the prince in frog-dom.
Disney broke with some traditions with this story. For starters, one parent died, but Tiana’s mother is alive. Similarly, her childhood friend is like a sister.
For once, a Disney heroine isn’t alone and forced to fend for herself…until she becomes a frog.
The development of The Princess and the Frog took more than three years. Along the way, the producers did something bold.
For the first time ever, a Disney Princess has a job! In fact, she has two of them.
Tiana works as a waitress at two places to save money to become a chef at her own restaurant.
This Disney Princess is unlike any other for a different reason. She defeats and causes the death of the villain.
For the first time, a Disney Princess is an independent woman while her man, Prince Naveen, is the damsel – well, frog – in distress.
Princess Tiana’s Friends
We’ve already mentioned Naveen, so let’s talk about the oddity of this character.
The prince isn’t a smart dude, as he follows a stranger into a dark alley in New Orleans.
Naveen wakes up as a frog, but he could just as easily be in a bathtub full of ice and missing a kidney. It’s just not a smart decision.
Naveen’s actually kind of stupid throughout the film.
Tiana has spent so much time working toward her (and her late father’s) dream that she doesn’t have any fun.
As a frog, Tiana loosens up and has a good time, which causes her to fall for that lovable goof, Naveen.
Along the way, the two of them meet a couple of swamp residents, as that’s where frogs live.
Ray the firefly brims with charm, as he’s an older firefly in love with a star. I look forward to seeing what Imagineers do with the lighting of this firefly.
After all, they’re bioluminescent creatures, and we all know what Disney has achieved with Pandora – The World of Avatar.
However, the character that people love the most is a gator named Louis.
This predator dreams of playing in a jazz band, and he somehow gets his wish…during Mardi Gras, no less!
Louis is chubby and sensitive and addicted to the trumpet. He is what animators believe Louis Armstrong would have looked like as an alligator.
Everything about that mental image should give you warm fuzzies, as should memories of Michael-Leon Wooley’s voice work.
The Splash Mountain re-theming will hinge on the implementations of Louis and Ray for their musical and visual possibilities.
I wouldn’t be surprised if that Mardi Gras band performance replaces Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah as the rousing post-splash singalong.
Obviously, New Orleans provides the setting for the movie. The Princess and the Frog embraces the rich culture and history of the Big Easy.
By choosing this location, Disney can combine two of the city’s great passions: music and food.
Many of the numbers in the movie celebrate that dancy jazz sound that has made New Orleans famous.
As for the food, Tiana’s a chef for a reason. It gives the movie’s producers a chance to show off the luscious Cajun and French cuisine.
You may not realize that Disney developed a period piece, although it’s never explicitly stated.
The Princess and the Frog takes place during the Prohibition era, which is weird because people drink in the film, including at Tiana’s fantasy restaurant.
The Bad Guy
Every storyteller knows that the hero won’t work unless the villain proves menacing enough.
I would argue that The Princess and the Frog features the best black hat of any Disney animated movie in the 21st century.
In fact, the dude literally wears a black hat. His name is Dr. Facilier, although he also answers to Shadow Man.
And I know that Disney agrees with me. When Disney’s Hollywood Studios used to operate Club Villain, the Shadow Man hosted the event.
This voodoo magic man isn’t all-powerful even though he seems that way. Instead, he’s more of a grifter with some stolen powers.
In the movie, Dr. Facilier gets his comeuppance when other ominous forces come to collect on some debts he owes.
Up until then, the Shadow Man seems like the most terrifying resident of New Orleans. And he’s the one who transforms Naveen into a frog.
The oddity of the story is that while they’re frogs, Tiana and Naveen mostly go unnoticed and thereby escape the wrath of Dr. Facilier.
I strongly suspect that this idea will also play a part in the upcoming ride.
The Special Touches
Directors John Musker and Ron Clements are living legends in the animation field, as they’ve directed classics like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.
The two men and the screenwriter, Rob Edwards, wanted to produce an authentic Louisiana film.
So, they spoke with a famous children’s writer named Coleen Salley, best known for the Epossumondas series.
Salley’s input on the film was invaluable, but she tragically didn’t live to see it. The producers honored her differently long before the movie came out, though.
The character of Mama Odie is partially based on Salley. In fact, her distinct dialect and accent pay homage to Salley.
I doubt it will happen, but I would love for Mama Odie to provide some narration on the next version of Splash Mountain.
An all-knowing 200-year-old voodoo priestess seems like the type of person we’d all trust to tell us a story. And that voice is so engaging!
Another distinctive member of the cast is John Goodman, who plays Eli La Bouff, aka Big Daddy.
This character functions as a father figure for Tiana, but he’s important for a second reason. As a massive glutton, Big Daddy scarfs down Tiana’s food.
In the movie, this doesn’t come up much. However, at Splash Mountain, it could connect the story to something obvious.
Park officials had already planned Tiana’s Restaurant as a Table Service eatery at an upcoming resort.
However, those plans are currently up in the air due to Coronavirus. Disney could just as easily build the same restaurant somewhere else.
Specifically, Frontierland at Magic Kingdom already hosts Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café.
Imagineers could easily re-theme this restaurant as Tiana’s and serve beignets all day! It’s one more reason to be excited about the re-theming!