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Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Princess and the Frog (Combo Pack)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Mar 5, 2010.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer

    Apr 24, 2006
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Matt Hough
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    The Princess and the Frog (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
    Directed by
    John Musker, Ron Clements

    Studio: Disney
    Year: 2009
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1  1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 98 minutes
    Rating: G
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 44.99

    Release Date: March 16, 2010
    Review Date: March 6, 2010
    The Film
    The heavily trumpeted return to hand-drawn 2-D animation in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog isn’t quite the triumph one was hoping for (certainly not in the same league as The Little Mermaid by the same directors), but it’s hard to measure up to a modern classic, and it‘s not an embarrassment that this new one ins't quite in the same league as its elder sibling. On its own, however, The Princess and the Frog represents fine storytelling with an emphasis on music and fantasy in the best Disney tradition. It’s a tuneful family film that may grow in one’s estimation as the years pass.
    With her fondest dream to own her own restaurant in 1920’s New Orleans, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) finds herself a victim of a voodoo spell cast by the nefarious Dr. Facilier (Keith David) on visiting playboy Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos). The witch doctor has turned Naveen into a frog who can only be transformed back into human form by a kiss from a princess. Mistaking Tiana as a princess due to her Mardi Gras princess outfit, Naveen’s quick kiss turns Tiana into a frog as well, a condition that can’t be reversed for either of them without the help of Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis), a bayou priestess they must set out to find. Along the way they pick up a pair of chums, trumpet-playing jazz gator Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) and grizzled elderly firefly Ray (Jim Cummings), both of whom aid the frog pair in discovering that their mutual animosity is masking feelings of a somewhat different nature.
    It’s a serviceable fairy tale, set in America for a change and constructed by the directors John Musker, Ron Clements, and co-writer Greg Erb based in part on “The Frog Princess” by E. D. Baker. In the classic Disney tradition, there are lovers who begin as antagonists, some helpful animal buddies who tag along on the adventure and win the hearts of the audience, a hissible villain in the Jafar mode (coincidentally, Aladdin was also directed by Musker and Clements) along with some henchmen who might actually scare smaller children, and a real song score which turns the film into a rousing musical. The Disney studio has always had the capability to turn out hand drawn animation of the highest caliber, and the animators here have really outdone themselves to spice up the film with as much color and razzmatazz as they can muster. Dr. Facilier’s character-setting “On the Other Side” is a riot of color and movement, and the animators also pull out all the stops for two other production numbers: Ray’s “Going Down the Bayou” where the thousands of fireflies light up the screen in an explosion of innovative composition and Mama Odie’s showstopping revival number “Dig a Little Deeper.” The animators also delve into some cleverly stylized poster animation for Tiana’s expository “I’m Almost There” that makes the return to the regular hand drawn animation of the majority of the film especially startling.
    Randy Newman has been engaged to write the song score of the picture, and while all of his songs catch the verve and swing of New Orleans jazz and blues, they have a sameness about them that put them one step removed from the more versatile and variable scores that Alan Menken provided for the modern Disney classics like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, in particular. When “Never Knew I Needed” comes up to play over the closing credits, its composition is so completely alien to all of the songs that have come before that it’s clear it wasn’t composed by Newman. (It was, in fact, written by Ne-Yo.)
    The voice cast is sensational. Tony-winning singing actress Anika Noni Rose is picture perfect casting as Tiana (and if the property ever goes to the stage, she could easily play it there) with a soulful, soaring voice and the determined moxie of the best recent Disney princesses. Bruno Campos makes a surprisingly appealing spoiled Prince Naveen, masterfully modulating from conceited to concerned most believably during the course of the film. Keith David has played so many nasties on television and in the movies that his Dr. Facilier is certainly no stretch for him. Michael-Leon Wooley and Jim Cummings make endearingly fun companions for the two leads. Jenifer Lewis predictably steals her scenes as the raucous Mama Odie. And in surprising cameos, Oprah Winfrey and Terrence Howard play Tiana’s loving parents with sweetness and concern.
    Video Quality
    The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s a gorgeous transfer with completely startling sharpness and detail, astounding color richness and depth, and not a hint of banding or line pixilation which can often affect less well executed transfers of hand drawn animation. There should be no complaints with this superlative high definition transfer. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
    Audio Quality
    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix makes full use of the surround sound field both in subtle ways (the chirps and murmurs of the bayou) and in the full use of all available channels for the marvelous instrumentation of the song score with easily discernible members of the orchestra occupying various sides of the front and rear channels. Dialogue is wonderfully recorded and always comprehensible, and there’s some slight use directionalized speech at certain points which adds a richness to the entire soundtrack.
    Special Features
    The audio commentary is by directors John Musker and Ron Clements and producer Peter Del Vecho. The three men are enthusiastic about their accomplishment and convey their love of the project in everything they discuss. Since there is no picture-in-picture video commentary, this is the next best thing with the three men most responsible for bringing the movie to the screen.
    The film may be viewed with picture-in-picture storyboards and rough animation which appears in the upper left hand portion of the screen.
    Unless otherwise noted, all of the bonus features are in 1080p.
    There are four deleted scenes which may be viewed separately or in one 11 ¾-minute grouping. The directors introduce the section and also introduce each scene explaining why it didn’t make it into the final film.
    The music video for “Never Knew I Needed” is performed by its composer Ne-Yo. It lasts 4 minutes.
    “Magic in the Bayou: The Making of a Princess” is a 22 ¼-minute documentary on the production of the film from inception through completion with the directors and some of the principal animators explaining the process throughout. This is presented in 1080i.
    “Bringing Life to Animation” is an 8 ¼-minute look at the live action reference film that was shot for animators to use in drawing two specific sequences: Mama Odie’s “Dig a Little Deeper” and “The Proposal” sequence. The section is introduced by the movie’s directors, and throughout we see the rough animation compared to the live action reference footage.
    “The Return to Hand Drawn Animation” is a too brief 2 ¾-minute montage of interviews with the animators at the Disney studios who were thrilled to be returning to the kind of animation they grew up loving and learning by.
    “The Disney Legacy” is a 2 ½-minute look at the quality heritage of hand drawn animation that the animators on this project were attempting to reach. Several animators on the project discuss Disney’s older generation of animators whom some of them met and discussed methodology during their earliest years at the studio.
    “Disney’s Newest Princess” is the closest featurette to an EPK offering in the package, 2 ¾ minutes discussing the new character and the actress who plays her in the movie.
    “The Princess and the Animator” introduces us to animator Mark Hanna who was the supervising animator for Tiana for the film. This vignette lasts 2 ½ minutes.
    “Conjuring the Villain” allows us to meet Bruce Smith who was the supervising animator for Dr. Facilier and Keith David who voices him. It lasts 1 ¾ minutes.
    “A Return to the Animated Musical” celebrates the contributions of Randy Newman to the song score for the film and the stars who sing his songs in the movie. This lasts 3 ¼ minutes.
    The art galleries allow the viewer to step through a series of storyboards, concept art, and rough animation for the settings and characters in the movie.
    “What Do You See: Princess Portraits” is a game in which fireflies gather together to illustrate various Disney princesses while the viewer attempts to guess which one is being pictured. Mama Odie hosts this game.
    The disc is BD-Live compliant, but the network had not been turned on during the review period.
    Trailers on the Blu-ray disc include Tinker Bell, Old Dogs, James and the Giant Peach, Fantasia and Fantasia 2000, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, Toy Story 3, Beauty and the Beast, and Toy Story and Toy Story 2.
    Disc two in the set is a DVD copy of the movie.
    Disc three in the set is a digital copy (DisneyFile) of the movie with enclosed instructions for installation on PC and Mac devices.
    In Conclusion
    4/5 (not an average)
    While not an instant classic, The Princess and the Frog is fast, funny, colorful, and deeply enjoyable. This Blu-ray disc package offers a complete selection of the highest quality of film trasnfer in picture and sound plus a generous helping of bonus features and both a convenient DVD and digital copy of the movie. This certainly comes highly recommended!
    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
  2. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator

    Oct 9, 2001
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    Thanks, Matt.

    This will be a blind buy for me. My faith in Disney animated features has been shaken in recent years. But, this seems like a return to earlier form...so I'll be giving it a try. I just couldn't work up the desire to see it in the theater...but I've been looking forward to a spin at home.

    It is fun that Jim Cummings is involved in this film. I didn't realize that.

    Glad to hear the home presentation is getting such high marks.
  3. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

    Dec 13, 1998
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    I have only watched a little of the movie and it looks wonderful. When watching "Magic in the Bayou", there are several excerpts from movies that have been released in HD, they show horrendous jaggies. It's a very jarring effect when compared to the rest of this special feature.
  4. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Jan 22, 1999
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    I noticed that the 1-disc BD doesn't mention the commentary track on the cover, but the DVD edition and the combo pack do. It's not left off the 1-disc, is it?
  5. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie

    Jul 30, 2003
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    I noticed this too. It seems like a flagging error when inserting the original footage and actually makes the footage look worse than SD.

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