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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 66.0° F  Fair
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Disney's superbly animated The Princess and the Frog trumps Pixar
Girl meets frog

A coup for traditional animation.
A coup for traditional animation.
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The Princess and the Frog, Disney's 49th animated feature film, is a riot of oozing ultraviolets, dank graveyard blacks and incandescent star-field blues, a palette that seems more fit for All Hallows Eve than the holiday season. No matter - the Disney 2-D animators, who have been losing face, of late, to their CG and 3-D brethren, here stage a bold coup on all things Pixar, and whaddaya know? They win. (For now, anyway.)

Set in 1920s-era New Orleans, this umpteenth version of what was originally a Grimm Brothers fairy tale makes the Crescent City a major character in and of itself while dusting off the old story of girl-meets-frog and tricking it up with all manner of jazzy hoodoo and bayou panache. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker are the guys behind Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, and they employ their keen senses of story, pacing and killer comic rhythm to support a new twist (several, actually) on an old amphibian.

If you've seen the trailer, you already know this is Disney's first animated film with a nearly all African American cast (the less said about Song of the South, the better), but being set in period New Orleans, any other racial take would seem bizarrely inappropriate. In Disney's retelling, the princess isn't a princess at all, but a servant named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) who dreams of owning her own restaurant one day.

Into her workaday life wanders a flat-broke wastrel of a prince by the name of Naveen (Bruno Campos), who, having recently been turned into a frog by the diabolical hexmaster Dr. Facilier (Keith David), mistakenly sets his sights on Tiana and ends up turning her into a bayou denizen as well. Hilarity does indeed ensue.

Randy Newman, who has fashioned an entire second act out of Disney songsmithery, contributes some inspired musical numbers, the best of which echoes the eerie show-stoppers in Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Additionally, the lush animation is superbly shaded and warm. It's Disney's best traditionally animated outing in ages.

The Princess and the Frog Cinema Cafe, Eastgate, Point, Star

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