We had the chance last week to see the new Disney movie The Princess and the Frog. It was an interesting movie and something that was very different from some of Disney’s past endeavors, but it also had a fell which has been missing from a lot of recent productions from the Mouse.

Here is my simplified impression: a little scary for younger kids, but an enjoyable movie with a good message.

If you don’t want to have the details of the movie spoiled then don’t read any further after the break. Having seen most of the previews for the film I expected the movie to start off in a totally different way; instead of meeting the heroine as a baby or a young adult, we get to see some interaction between her parents and her friends when she is around six years old. The big emphasis of the movie is finding out what you truly need in life. For some people they think that having a certain lifestyle, or certain possessions, will ultimately make them happy. The overarching them of the movie though turns this concept on its head.

At the very start of the movie we see the interactions between Tia (the heroine) and her parents. Her father and mother are a wonderful set of parents that are trying to instill proper values into the young Tia; in fact her father tells her that pursuing her dreams is a good thing, but only if she doesn’t lose track of what is really important in life. Of course as the story progresses, and Tia gets older, she loses sight of that message and instead falls into the trap that reaching her dreams is the most important thing in the world; more important than friends and enjoying life.

Prince Naveen has a similar tale. I wealthy prince from over seas his family has cut him off from his wealth because of his lavish playboy lifestyle. He comes to New Orleans with the intent to marry a wealthy bride so he can continue with the lifestyle that he has enjoyed for some many years. The events that take place once he gets off the boat of course sets the course for the movie as we see these two people go through the various trials of the story.

One of things that parents should be aware of is that there is a large aspect of the story dealing with Voodoo. In fact it is because of a Voodoo curse that the Prince is turned into a frog. The “Shadow Man” as the villain is called represents all the dark aspects of Voodoo; he makes a deal with the evil spirits “on the other side” in order to gain magical powers. Throughout the film these evil spirits are reflected as scary shadows that move about and can even interact with the physical world. To contrast the dark side of Voodoo there is a 197 year old blind woman who lives in the swamp that represents the good side of Voodoo. She is able to zap the evil spirits and protect the  Prince and Tia.

We also have a cast of other characters that all play a role in helping the two frogs on their journey to become human again. The two side kicks that come into play is a trumpet playing alligator that wants to be human so he can play along with the great musicians of New Orleans. The other is a backwoods firefly that is just a good natured…bug…who helps the lost party find the good Voodoo lady. There really is no reason for the bug to help them in their journey other than he is being nice to them. This comes back later in the movie though as the firefly dies in the end.

This was a really sad event which was compounded by the fact that they actually had a funeral for the bug. There are still moments of happiness though through the event but it can still be a little on the traumatic side.

In the end the frogs learn that what they were seeking in life isn’t what they really needed to be happy. They discover that true happiness comes from being loved and showing love. For the Prince that means learning to be a hard worker and being faithful to the person he loves. For Tia, that means giving up her workaholic nature so that she can spend time with the people in her life.

Overall I found the movie to be enjoyable and our kids seems to enjoy it without being scared, but I would have understood if they were. It teaches a good morale principle about what truly brings happiness in life and that is something that we should discuss with our children. I like that Disney is returning to the more traditional fairy tale plus hand drawn animation which was beautiful. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars if I actually had a rating system.