Origins: Princess and the Frog

Princess and the Frog is a 2009 animated Disney film. The last film (as of now) that was animated in the two dimensional classic Disney style. Telling the story of Tiana, a hard working girl in New Orleans who through numerous events has to kiss a frog (Prince Naveen) which, inevitably leads to the happily ever after.

The tale this movie is based on is The Frog Prince by the Brothers Grimm, who have a plethora of stories under their name.  It is traditionally the first story in their collection. This tale tells of a spoiled princess who has to befriend the Frog Prince who she meets after dropping a gold ball into the pond. There are many different ways written throughout the years that leads to the Frog Prince becoming a Prince and this is most media today is triggered by the Princess kissing him. In other earlier versions the act of simply sleeping on the Princess’s pillow is enough to start the change. However in the Brothers Grimm version he only becomes a Prince because the princess, in disgust throws him against a wall.

The Prince is not the only one who suffers from the curse. His loyal servant Henry had his heart held together by three iron bands, which prevented it from breaking in his sadness from his master’s curse. Henry does get a happy ending too however with the renewal of the Frog Prince, Henry’s happiness breaks the bond in his heart.

There is also a Russian folk version of this tale titled “Tsarevna Lyagushka” which literally translates as The Frog Princess. In this tale the male and female roles are reserved with a male prince discovering an enchanted female frog, who then becomes a female sorceress once released from the spell.

The setting of 1920’s New Orleans allows for the inclusion of Louisiana Voodoo, which the antagonist of the film is proficient at. This brings a darker element to the film as voodoo is stereotyped by the nefarious practices of such things as curses. The use of Louisiana Voodoo was a great scene maker in the film, as ritual chanting and singing is practiced which ties in ideally with what is an animated music. Facilier, the voodoo witch doctor uses the songs to invite the spirits into this world and in invoking the spells he casts on people, in this case turning Prince Naveen into the frog. However as with anything that is played with that should not be, there is a price to be paid should you not fulfil the bargain made.

Tiana isn’t a princess in this story. She is a hard working member of the society who aspires to be a chef. To do this she is working two diner waitressing jobs to save up enough money to open her own restaurant. As a black female in 1926 Tiana was at the fore of those who are breaking out in the world. With music such as swing and jazz becoming common place in households – this can be heard throughout the film with Louis the Alligator being a notable inclusion – it was not unheard of someone having their own business.

The fantasy element of the film takes particular emphasis in the Louisiana Bayou, where the streams become slow moving, often becoming stagnant. These bayous are home to a wealth of flora and fauna including American crocodiles and alligators and a myriad of insects. Louis and Ray (a Cajun Firefly) lead the Frog couple to Mama Odie, a good voodoo priestess who lives in the Bayou, linking the idea that all things good and bad can live anywhere, even in the dark and dank Bayou.

In terms of romance, this films picks up on the initial bond and the realisation that they are in love, with the clock striking midnight before they are able to return to their human forms by Mama Odie’s magic, they can live content together as frogs in the Bayou, being married by Mama Odie, however as Tiana is now a Princess from marrying Prince Naveen, the curse is broken and they are human again much to the delight of Mama Odie and Louis. 

The finale of this film is the happy ending with Tiana having bought and refurbished the old sugar mill into the restaurant of her dreams and Louis being able to play his trumpet in front of humans without them running away. Much like its origin The Frog Prince, this movie shows how they are free of the bonds holding behind them.

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