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« The Era of Big and Tacky | Main | Comparing Disney Parks From the Air »
Tuesday
Mar022010

After All It's a Step in the Right Direction

Thoughts on "The Princess and the Frog", "Tangled", and the future of Disney Feature Animation.

By Lilly

After letting it sink in for a few weeks, I went and saw Disneyʼs The Princess and the Frog for the second time. This time I tried my darnedest to watch with less critical eyes.  After all, it is in 2D. After 5 years, I think I join many Disney fans in saying thank you (itʼs about time).

Now I have to admit, even after the second viewing, Disneyʼs The Princess and the Frog isnʼt my favorite movie of all time, it seemed a bit formulated to me (African American + Princess + a Prince with a personality + songs by Randy Newman = demographics and ratings–and was it just me or was Tiana a black version of Belle?), but Iʼll take it. The animation looked great and I thought the talent was excellent particularly Anika Noni Rose and Keith David–they sound great. And despite my petty thoughts on the plot, Iʼve read reviews, reviews and more reviews that rave about the plot, the characters and the whole experience. Well, I donʼt think weʼre quite there yet, but I guess I wonʼt complain too much.

I hope Disney also wonʼt complain too much. A $25 million opening weekend  may not have been a complete blow out, but it wasnʼt a crash either and I suspect so many positive reviews (itʼs rated 84% on Rotten Tomatoes) will give Disney plenty of continuing revenue, proving 2D animation still has its place in the world. I just wish this news would have reached them before they decided these beautiful concept drawings of Rapunzel, or should I say Tangled as it is now called, should be taken to the computer instead of the drawing board.

However, the filmʼs previous director, Glen Keane, has said although Rapunzel/Tangled will be in 3D, it is being designed to feel more like a traditional hand-drawn Disney Classic. Animators for this film will use a non-photorealistic rendering technique which will make the surface look like it is painted but still contain depth and dimensions. Well, I guess weʼll see. I can only hope the reason the filmʼs release date continues to be delayed is because they are making marvelous changes. Iʼll wish a star tonight that that is the case. At least theyʼve bagged the idea of intermingling it with the modern world back when it was entitled Rapunzel Unbraided. Whew, that would have been a catastrophe.

Overall, my greatest desire is that Disney will continue to take steps in the right direction. Hopefully we can put the days of The Wild, Chicken Little, Home on the Range, Brother Bear and Treasure Planet behind us. As Princess Tiana said, “Weʼre Almost There!”

 

Reader Comments (15)

I wonder if they're hoping for more than they'll ever get again, what with the DVD coming out very soon. Some films will do huge box office, but I think those will include family films less and less. I can buy the DVD for less (when it comes out) than it cost me to take my two kids to the movie in the theater. Something like AVATAR, that appears to be something that will look a ton better on the big screen than on a home theater setup or just a regular tv, will likely still do big numbers at the box office. (I'll probably buy the DVD of TPATF when it comes out anyway.)

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScott

2D animation movies are dead to children past the age of 8 for boys & 12 for girls. There will always be exceptions but I thought it was an extraordinary bold move for Disney to jump into CGI. CGI appeals to the kids (with 3D CGI probably being the next phase of that) & that's where Disney needs to go to remain competitive.

I would prefer for Disney to concentrate their 2D efforts on truly spectacular efforts that do not have to appeal to young girls, young boys, or some other "saves the industry for the moment" demographic. 2D animation efforts ought to be SPECIAL & EXCLUSIVE... Disney needs to wrap it's 2D movies around "spectacle" again, advertising the fact that it WON'T be on DVD for at least a year after it leaves theaters. When you cloak a property with a bit of exclusivity (both in format, theme & availability), people flock to it MORE.

Imagine a world where Disney releases experimental 2D movies (which would still have to be good beyond the gimmick factor) that appeals to animation buffs once every two years into select theaters for a limited engagement, then releases limited-edition DVDs akin to the Disney Treasures DVDs. In five years, people would be talking about Disney movies again with a certain aura instead of waiting for it to come out on DVD 6 weeks after it leaves the local multiplex.

Oh, wait... I just remembered Disney's "What have you earned for me yesterday?" fiscal policy. Never mind.

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

From the look of it, I think this is what a lot of us have been waiting for. A traditional story with great design. I hope there is no contemporary twist now that they are using the modern techniques of CG. But looking at the teaser, you get the sense that it only furthers the techniques of old, in a way that doesn't compromise tradition too much. Like you said, Lilly, "we'll see".

Great post.

March 5, 2010 | Registered CommenterFritz

I thought Tiana was MILES ahead of Belle in terms of representing a strong woman who wasn't helplessly dependent on men to get where she wanted to go. If bookish Belle was a good example for girls, then tenacious Tiana is an even better one.

*~*~*

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I personally would've liked if this was 2D but it looks really nice and as it is and if this is what they plan to do with their CGI department, I'll take it over Chicken Little and The Wild.
Oh, and for the record, Treasure Planet kicked ass!

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Ninja Pirate

oh, Brother Bear kicked ass too. probably the last GOOD movie Disney did for a while. 2D or otherwise

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Ninja Pirate

I love Princess and the Frog and felt that Tiana's strong work ethic and not depending on a man to rescue her was a breath of fresh air from the other Disney Princesses. My four year old son also loves that movie and has seen it so many times. Good songs and a great storyline....

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJes

I've watched both films and although I'm more a 2D advocate, Tangled was the superior film in every way. Story, Characters, Animation, Music, and just the feel. For me, it was like seeing the glory days of Disney... But in 3D.

I have nothing against 3D, but the fact that Tangled was just too good compared to the disappointing Princess and the Frog, I fear for the fate of Disney 2D... Hope the executives don't get the wrong idea.

December 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMac

Mac, I felt the same way about Tangled. Although I thought the songs were mostly forgettable, the storyline was one of the best they've come up with in a long time as was the character development. And although the animation was CG, it was beautifully done. I'm glad it was successful, I just hope it doesn't mean the death of hand drawn animation.

December 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLilly

The very first song that Rapunzel sung was undoubtedly too 'modern' to fit a Disney Classic theme. Same goes for the title. (I hate the title :P Why not just 'Rapunzel'? Not 'edgy' enough?)
But I do believe that Alan Menken kept the style overall Disney. The scores were fantastic in my opinion. Mother Gothel's songs were very Disney I think...

And since I'm writing in an Imagineering blog, I do have a question about the 'Tangled' characters that are in Disneyland. (Very nerdy stuff so beware!)

How does the story cannon work there? Usually kids will go see the movie and ask the characters about the story. Would the actors who portray the characters do not 'know' what happens in the end of the movie? Obviously Rapunzel's hair has not been cut, which means that all the scene where Flynn cuts her hair and the climax 'didn't happen' in DIsneyland.

So if the kids ask them about the scene that deals with that scene, how are the actors supposed to respond? Would they just act oblivious to the whole thing, or respond accordingly? If it's the latter, then the whole thing makes absolutely no sense. Am I thinking too much and Disney (as a corporate) isn't that keen on keeping things 'pure'? Am I asking too much that the park should be more thoughtful on how they execute the character performances?

So many things that bug that can easily break the illusion and perhaps disappoint the younger kids thinking 'That's not the REAL Rapunzel' or something like that.

I've read a few good articles here dealing with park characters... And I don't know. I think there are good ways to make them work... But maybe it boils down to parents wanting their children to meet the characters... :/

January 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMac

The story is still finished, the characters are living "post movie" if you will. And when the kids ask why she has long blond hair she says “there was just enough magic left turn it blond again, so I want to grow it out again!”

It's dumb, but hey, so is the answer Belle gives as to why the Beast still looks like the Beast in most of his meet and greets or the answer Ariel gives about being a mermaid in most of her meet and greets. At least they are consistently dumb! Haha.

In my opinion, they should simply be as they are when the movie ends. Then, you wouldn't get to take your picture with long haired Rapunzel or with Ariel the mermaid, but I personally feel character integrity is more important. I'm just a purist I guess!

January 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLilly

That answers a lot of my questions actually... Thanks Lilly. I agree with your thought about how characters should be maintained as they are in the end of the movie... But then again, most of the villains who perished shouldn't be there, which makes everything a garbled mess.

I thought of the idea how there should be a rotation of character progressions.

At the beginning of each week, the rotation would reset. Since I assume that most visitors don't stay for more than a week, the whole set up could work out okay.

For example, Rapunzel would have her long flowing hair on day 1, and she's only rarely seen doing her 'everyday routine' at a tower where people can meet and greet her there.

Day 2, she would actually be outside and meeting people on the streets with her flower braided hair.

Up until day 1 and 2, Mother Gothel is seen as well around the park, 'looking for Rapunzel'

And Day 3, Mother Gother would be gone until the next rotation is reset and Rapunzel is seen with her hair cut.

The character's response to visitor questions would be according the the character/story progression.

This way a character doesn't have to say stupid things like: “there was just enough magic left turn it blond again, so I want to grow it out again!”

That is just insulting the audience and their own work! >:(

I think this idea can work for any other characters that have a specific story line to follow such as Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, etc...

January 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMac

Um....I love it. It would be amazing. That totally solves all the problems because you could see the character in every stage, and that would especially work so well with the new Fantasy Land Expansion. It would take a while for the guests to catch on to what was happening, but then they would love it. The only annoying thing would be the guests that constantly try to tell the characters what happens at the end of their movie or the kids that try to warn the characters, but it wouldn't be more awkward than answering questions about why your hair is long and blonde when we all saw it get cut. Would you mind my sharing your idea with everyone in a post to see what others think?

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLilly

Sure, I'd love to have that idea shared, and with a bit of hope... Maybe Disney might implement something remotely similar. :) Thanks Lilly!

I haven't thought of the possibility of kids warning the characters... Now you mention it, I can totally seeing that coming. I guess either they could be oblivious or acknowledge their warning and thank them (be more passive).

This would kind of 'kill the magic' but an idea that was circulated with my friend and I was pamphlets. In the end, it is a park that people should be informed of what is what, when is when, and where is where. So there could be a scheduled timeline in the park pamphlet showing what stages of the character arc they are in so that no one will go:

'Gah!!! I FINALLY meet Rapunzel and she doesn't have her awesome long flowing golden haaaaaaiiiirr... NOOOOoooo!!' D:

Another side note is the latest 'talking Mickey' technology I'm seeing. It looks amazing and I think every silent characters should be implemented with this.

Characters such as Captain Hook, Smee, Queen of Hearts, etc should REALLY talk if they can... Seeing them silent is jarring for me.

Takes away a lot of their personality... :P

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMac

I'm REALLY late, but I've seen Tangled. It's a musical. Rapunzel's the main character. IT'S BETTER THAN PATF.

I think they dropped that awesome animation they were going to use before because of time. I heard originally it was going to be released in 2009, but they pushed it back.

Normal computer animation is quicker, and at least it's pretty if used right.

January 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJewels

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