The Princess and the Frog is loosely based on E.D. Baker's novel The Frog Princess and the Grimm brothers' The Frog Prince. The film, which began production under the working title The Frog Princess, will be an American fairy tale, Broadway-style musical set in the French Quarter of New Orleans. A prince named Naveen from the land of Maldonia is transformed into a frog by the evil scheming voodoo magician Dr. Facilier. The frog prince mistakes a girl named Tiana for a princess and has her kiss him to break the spell. However, the kiss doesn't break the spell, but instead turns Tiana into a frog as well. Together, the two of them must reach the good voodoo priestess of the Bayou, Mama Odie, while befriending a trumpet-playing alligator and a hopelessly romantic firefly along the way. Along with Tiana being the first “black princess”, this also marks the return of 2D hand drawn animation since 2004’s Home on the Range.
Along with the original name of The Frog Princess, the main character’s original name was suppose to be a Chambermaid named “Maddy”, but was later changed to Tiana, a waitress in a New Orleans restaurant, as Disney came under fire as “Maddy” was a reference to black slavery.
Disney had once announced that Home on the Range would be the studio's last 2D animated film entry to their animated features canon, but after the company's acquisition of Pixar in early 2006, it was reported that Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, new leaders of the animation department, had decided to re-open the door to Disney's tradition of hand drawn animation. Ron Clements and John Musker, directors of successful 2D Disney films The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Hercules, will be writing and directing.
The film promises to return to the Broadway-style musical in the style of the successful Disney films like Walt's classics, and the musical renaissance of the late-1980s and all of the 1990s. Rhett Wickham also reported that John Lasseter had personally asked Ron Clements and John Musker to direct and write the film, and had let them choose in what form (either traditional animation or CGI) they wanted the film to be made. Toon Boom Animation's Toon Boom Harmony software is being used in the digital processing of the film, as the old CAPS system Disney developed with Pixar in the 1980s is now outdated.
While the Goofy short How to Hook Up Your Home Theater experimented with paperless animation, the artists on The Princess and the Frog will use traditional pencil and paper that is scanned into the computers. Although a new pipeline for hand-drawn animation using Toon Boom Harmony has been developed at the studio, the actual animation process remains the same. The visual effects on the other hand, as well as lot of the backgrounds, will be created digitally using tools such as Wacom Cintiq tablet displays. Marlon West, one of Disney's veteran animation visual effects supervisors, says about the production; “Those guys had this bright idea to bring back hand-drawn animation, but everything had to be started again from the ground up. One of the first things we did was focus on producing shorts, to help us re-introduce the 2D pipeline. I worked as VFX supervisor on the Goofy short, How to Hook Up Your Home Theater. It was a real plus for the effects department, so we went paperless for The Princess and the Frog.”
The former trend in Disney's hand-drawn features where the characters were influenced by a CGI-look has been abandoned. Andreas Deja says "I always thought that maybe we should distinguish ourselves to go back to what 2D is good at, which is focusing on what the line can do rather than volume, which is a CG kind of thing. So we are doing less extravagant Treasure Planet kind of treatments. You have to create a world but [we're doing it more simply]. What we're trying to do with Princess and the Frog is hook up with things that the old guys did earlier. It's not going to be graphic…". He also mentions that Lasseter is aiming for the Disney sculptural and dimensional look of the '50s. "He quoted all those things that were non graphic, which means go easy on the straight lines and have one volume flow into the other -- an organic feel to the drawing."
A major thing in this film, not only is the return of hand drawn animation, but also the return of Disney “Broadway-style” animated films, like The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. So with that, the music would be an important part to the film. On November 13, 2006, it was revealed that Randy Newman would be in charge of the music in the film instead of Alan Menken and his new lyricist Glenn Slater. This change was due to John Lasseter not wanting the public to feel Disney being repetitive, as Menken was also working on another Disney fairy tale film, Enchanted, at the time.
During the Walt Disney Company's annual shareholder meeting in March 2007, Randy Newman and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band performed a song from the film called "Down in New Orleans", while slides of pre-production art from the film played on a screen. Other songs include "Almost There", When We’re Human", "Friends on the Other Side", "Gonna Take You There" and "Ma Belle Evangeline".
On December 1, 2006, a detailed casting call was announced for the film at the Manhattan Theatre Source forum. The casting call states the film as being an American fairy tale musical set in New Orleans during the 1920s Jazz Age, and provides a detailed list of the film's major characters, including the leading character, who at that point was to be called Maddy. In February 2007, it was reported that Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose were top contenders for the voice of the princess, and that Alicia Keys directly contacted Disney's studio chief Dick Cook, telling him that she wanted the role very much. It was later revealed that Tyra Banks was considered for the role as well. On April 19, 2007, it was confirmed that Anika Noni Rose would be voicing Princess Tiana. On July 5, 2007, it was reported that Keith David would be doing the voice of Dr. Facilier.
On May 8, 2007, BET and other online sites reported that Disney spokeswoman Heidi Trotta stated that some of the original release information was incorrect, and confirmed the USA Today names "Princess Tiana" and The Princess and the Frog to be correct. Trotta stated "Princess Tiana will be a heroine in the great tradition of Disney’s rich animated fairy tale legacy, and all other characters and aspects of the story will be treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity."
On August 4, 2008, the official website was launched with the first teaser trailer of the movie. On May 9, 2009, the official trailer was premiered on The Disney Channel.
The film premiered in theaters with a limited run in New York and Los Angeles starting on November 25, 2009, followed by a wide release this Friday, December 11, 2009. The film was originally set to be released on Christmas Day in 2009, but was changed due to the competitive nature of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel being released the same day.
With all movies, comes what else, besides PINS!! And the Princess and the Frog is no different.
This first button was released and handed out to guests of the theme parks and Disney Soda Fountain in the beginning of the year.
The Opening Day pin that will be shared between WDW and DLR this Friday (December 1th) for its release.