Monday, February 21, 2011

Princess and the Frog - The Animation Empire movie review

First, let's start with my (proven) theory that the mom owns the family movie ticket. Accoding to this theory, the moms and daughters control the movie tickets, not the boys. When a boy wants to watch a He-Man movie or animated Batman movie (or Star Wars: Clone Wars, TMNT, Atlantis, Titan AE, Sinbad, Iron Giant, Treasure Planet, El Dorado, etc.) then the mom says "Wait for DVD" or "Go watch TV." Why? Because the mom would have to go too, and the mom (and sisters) don't want to watch a violent movie for boys. Appealing to the girls is much more effective than boys. (That's also why TV cartoons is a huge market for boys--they're free for mom.)

And that brings us to Princess and the Frog, a film marketed toward girls.

So Disney was upset that Princess and the Frog did not perform well. Why? First, I think it did better than it should have, BECAUSE it was aimed at girls. I'm also surprised at how well black ladies like it. It only did $270 million worldwide, but it only cost $105 million to make (cuz it was done in 2D). And the foreign release was really solid (like 60% of the sales).

I mean, I know girls love this movie. Know how? First, over 50 girls in the US got salmonella poisoning when kissing frogs after seeing this movie. Bad parents! Bad! Second, guess who's tweeting/twittering about how much they love the movie? Black girls:

So if the reason why it didn't do so hot isn't about the girls, then what's the reason? The movie. The movie? Yes, the movie.

Here are the four reasons why the movie didn't do well:

(1) Let's freak kids out by featuring voodoo and demons. Oh, great idea, geniuses! Sure Walt played with it with Fantasia, but that movie cost him a ton of money. He tried to play with the dark side again with Sleeping Beauty... also lost him money. Disney tried again in the 80s with Black Cauldron. Big flop. They were 0 for 3. Demons don't belong in Disney films. They didn't get that memo.

(2) Let's make the princess a frog for most of the movie. Oh, yeah, that makes sense! Why would girls want to see a princess, when they can enjoy a movie about what girls actually love... frogs. +2 genius points. Seriously, this was a frog movie. If they're going to make a frog movie, do it in 3D like Pixar does and really sell the world of the frog (and base it around a heart-wrenching story like Pixar does).

(3) Why would we want to tell the original fun and delightful fairy tale (that ironically centers more around the prince, which would have given the movie that boy-factor they were missing), when instead we could make the movie based on a teen romance novel (that was received with mixed reviews) that was based on the fairy tale? And then we'll market it like there's some sort of twist (that she turns into a frog too), even though the twist is half as creative as the Shrek twist, which is now considered normal. Yeah, great idea. It just made me want to go see the Shelley Duvall version with Robin Williams. And the original title was "The Frog Prince." Why not keep it? And in the original fairy tale, the princess was a princess. Why not make a movie about a princess instead of one about a frog?

(4) So... about these characters... The alligator, lightening bug, voodoo lady, and others (not even going to think about a squished bug turning into a star; let's kill your favorite character; it's okay... he's a star now). Cute characters. However, these aren't Disney quality. The characters and songs are fine, but I don't really care about them. Why? Because this is the story of frogs going on a road trip and running into other random characters. These characters don't really resonate. They don't connect well. Sure, Up pulled it off (disconnected characters united by a road trip story), but Disney shouldn't take those chances. It's hard to care about characters that don't seem driven or connected.

So there you go. Disney, don't worry about the girl/boy audience. Worry about (1) your villains, (2) your heroes, (3) your story, and (4) your supporting characters. That's why your movie didn't do so well. Don't blame the girls that they didn't shell out the money or the boys that they didn't show up. It was the movie, not the audience.

I would give the film four out of five stars, because it was great despite all the issues.

That said, I had to fast-foward through about 40% of the movie when watching it with my four and three-year old daughters. They don't need demons haunting their nightmares. Next time, Disney, try making a princess movie that isn't all about demons and frogs. =^)

(I didn't have to fast-forward through any of Tangled, so that's good. Read our Tangled review here.)



  1. Yeah you liked Tangled better for your kids ... 'cause having your own "mother" be the villian is much better than a "voodoo" man.

    Funny how "certain" people think this film was "too dark" maybe a more honest term is "too black"?

    Perhaps if Disney had invested in more modern animation it would have performed better at the box office. But then again, maybe not; We still have the "dark" factor to contend with.
    Tangled was a great Disney film. So was Princess and Frog. To me, the reason it didn't do as well is as clear as a bell. There are still a lot of caucasians and people of other races who just aren't that interested in a Black Princes... no matter what a great character she is. Sad...but true!

    1. The movie was terrible. I'm afro carribean and maybe race had a little to do with it like not relating for some people. But the movie sucked. 4 stars. Yea right. 1 star and keep it moving. Ending sucked

  2. Anony,

    That is ridiculous! The color of the skin had nothing to with the performance of Princess and the Frog. In fact, I think it had a positive effect. That's right, so many black girls and families came out to see it that probably wouldn't have that it would have done worse otherwise. All you have to do is go on Twitter and see that black girls loved it. They all came out to watch it. And they still enjoy it.

    Having a black princess brought more people to it, not less. Why it didn't do well had to do with the story or lack there-of. And yes, scary doesn't work. It didn't work for Disney with Fantasia and Sleeping Beauty (both lost a lot of money at first), and it certainly didn't work in the 80s with Black Cauldron. Demons are not good characters for family animated films. Plain and simple.

    So demons aren't the only reason why it didn't do so well. The other reasons are characters, motivation, and story. Also, they made a movie about frogs. What do you expect when you make a movie about frogs? Who is going to see it if you're marketing it toward girls? Not the boys and not the girls.

    The writing was on the wall. This was obviously not going to work. And the races had nothing to do with it. Just like race had nothing to do with the success of Aladdin.

    - TAE

  3. you said it your self "so many black girls and families came out to see it", which are themselves a minority, I'm not black, yet I'm from a minority too and I know that ignoring or denying the problem unfortunately doesn't make it go away, it is a sad fact that ... it wasn't the frogs what caused the movie not to do well... c'mon ..

    I KNOW the performance was great and everything, we're not saying otherwise :D

  4. My 3 year cousin woke up at 2 am with nightmares. So Disney and "Princess & the Frog", can kiss my royal ass. Sorry but I'm mad that this movie is supposed to show black girls that they dream big, but instead it places fear in their souls. RIDICULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Anony 2 (from April 8),

    Yes, the minorities did show up. The problem was that they showed up despite all the flaws, so the word couldn't spread about a flawed movie about demons, frogs, and disjointed characters (despite all the charms).

    Anony 3 (from May 21),

    Exactly! The problem was that when Lassetter took over as the Chief Creative Officer, he decided to do more fairy tales and went back to the legends who made Little Mermaid and Aladdin (and who helped a tad with Beauty and the Beast). And then all of Disney just let them lead. So the problem with that is that they were leading Little Mermaid and Aladdin, but there were three other influential individuals involved who were missing from this film (one's dead, one was passed for working on this film, and one works for another company).

    So they need to be more careful and Lassetter needs to get in deeper and control a little more (like he does at Pixar and on films like Tangled).

    - TAE


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