The Princess and the Frog is the first traditionally animated Disney movie we’ve seen in five years, since Home on the Range. Disney has put hand-drawn animation to the side, in favour of the “wow” effect of computer animation since the early 2000s.
But the past may have a place in the present, unless we are too excited about 3-D arms grasping at our faces to appreciate the way they did it back in the good old days.
Think about the old classics: Snow White, Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo, and Cinderella. All these films came out around the 40s but have been cherished by families all over the world since. Sure, they might be scary in some parts (especially Pinocchio) and harbour some secret sexual representation (if you pause Lion King at exactly the right moment, a dust cloud spells “sex”), but when you get down to it, the perfect formula is there – you always know there will be a happy ending.
But Walt Disney Production Studios hasn’t been creating any classics lately. Walt Disney, the man, died in 1966. The company has managed to make some great movies since then, only as time went on they just got worse. Instead of charming fairy tales, Disney moved towards live action films that aren’t very family-time worthy. I mean I wouldn’t sit down with a five-year-old and watch Freaky Friday, it’s rated PG for a reason. But that’s a reflection of our society’s changing social standards. Kids these days are so saturated with media that it takes more than a pretty princess to keep them from playing their Nintendo DS during a movie. Instead of the beautiful innocence of the old Disney movies, newer releases, including The Princess and the Frog, have to cater to a desensitized youth. Well that’s the excuse at least.
On the bright side, there’s Pixar, which has proven itself the front runner in the field of computer animation (sorry DreamWorks, Shrek was great but that’s kind of all you’ve got). The release of films such as Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles got everyone excited about animated films again. Disney picked up on this and bought Pixar in 2005.
Instead of rehashing classics and ruining them with crappy sequels and adding annoying extra songs to formerly glorious soundtracks (Lion King remastered anyone?), Pixar provides morally conscious stories that are fun for the whole family.
Last year’s WALL-E and this summer’s Up are the best family movies around these days. Instead of being full of crude humour and unnecessary violence that’s supposed to attract parents and kids alike, like this decade’s Disney blockbusters (those of you unfortunate enough to see The Haunted Mansion understand), these computer-animated masterpieces represent a good side of society. Among many healthy lessons, they call to question our negative effect on the earth and remind us you’re never too old to follow your dreams.
The Princess and the Frog seems like an attempt by Disney to go back to the basics in a mad search for a box office hit like the ones they used to take for granted. With Oscar-winning composer Randy Newman on soundtrack, and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Terrance Howard rocking the cast, this new cartoon flick might just be a smashing success this holiday season. But that won’t make it a lasting classic.
Computer animation is the future. The hand-drawing arts of the past should not be thrown aside, but they can’t trump new innovation. Still, out with the old in with the new doesn’t make sense when we can have it all.