Thursday, January 7, 2010

Frog Kissing is probably not as bad as they say.

I finally saw The Princess & The Frog!

I remember when old-school animated films came out every summer. My sister was head over heels for the Lion King, and so, not to be outdone, I went through a Pocahontas phase - at least until Mulan came out. Pixar is fantastic, of course, but I missed 2-D drawings. I've been looking forward to this since my college friends told me about it. (They were excited about two Disney first in this film - an African-American princess and an interracial couple.)

Highlights for me:
  1. Tiana's can-do personality - I loved that she was working two jobs to make her dream happen before her adventure began, and I loved how more often than not, she was leading the charge and Naveen was stumbling to catch up.

  2. Lotty - She was spoiled and hilarious, but she had a good heart. She put her plans on hold without even a hint of temper tantrum to try and help Tiana. That's real friendship there.

  3. Prince Naveen - What can I say? I'm a sucker for the reformed rake. (In fictional character form, I might add.)

  4. The Shadow Creatures - Halfway through the film,when the Shadow Creatures were coming after our hero, my mom said, "If I was a kid, that would scare me!" I haven't been a kid for a while now, but they really freaked me out! If I was younger, I would probably develop a fear of the dark.

  5. Dreams...With Hard Work - Disney has come a long way from "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes." They give Tiana a dream with goals - one that can be accomplished through her own efforts, but Tiana also learned that you have to let your dreams change. You don't exclude the things you've always wanted, but your dream will just get bigger to encompass the things you never knew you needed. In other words, you can have your restaurant and your prince - if you're willing to wait a little longer and work a little harder to get both.
This isn't really a criticism exactly, but watching a Disney movie as an adult, I watched them construct the message. I knew exactly what they were aiming for when Tiana's dad came onscreen for the first time. Between that scene and the trailers, I had a pretty good sense of the rest of the plot.

The same thing happens in books. I call it the "stitching" of the novel, where a writer plunks down something - a character, a detail, a plot device - so obviously that you know it'll be important later. It's easiest to see it in young or immature writers (I'm not excluding myself here) - in the stories written while the writer is learning their craft. Later, when a writer has covered the basics, he or she learns how to mask their stitching - either embroidering over it with humor, or taking smaller stitches by using more subtle (and usually more beautiful) language.

J. K. Rowling is a master at masking her stitching. She dazzles you with the richness of her world - or she makes you laugh so hard that you remember the joke, not the detail she revealed. You don't miss the point exactly, but you don't recognize it until she wants you to. For instance, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, how did Harry, Ron, and Hermione figure out who Nicholas Flamel was? (HINT: Harry knew even before he reached Hogwarts.)


One more thing: I noticed that E. D. Baker's The Frog Princess has a sticker on it that says, Read the book that inspired the movie The Princess and the Frog, or something similar.

It's a good book in its own right; I read it when it came out. I know that it would be hard for Bloomsbury to resist, but I would be very wary of the outcry against it. The book and the movie differ greatly in plot, setting, characters - well, pretty much everything except the fairy tale they stem from and the fact that the girl protagonist accidentally becomes a frog too. E. D. Baker herself blogs about it here.

But after all is said and done, I'm probably going to purchase The Princess & The Frog DVD. Probably not right away, but eventually. I have this feeling...

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