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First 1/3 of Princess and the Frog

I dropped into the big D23 Disney Fan Expo in Anaheim today, attended Bob Iger’s talk and watched the Disney Legends ceremony. The big surprise at the show was a screening of the first half hour of The Princess and The Frog (PATF). I’m now officially enthused. If the rest of the film is as good as the first 1/3 I saw today, it will be a huge hit for the studio — and just could revive Hollywood’s dormant interest in hand drawn character animation. They’ve got the visuals, the humor and the heart down tight on this one. I had a huge smile on my face throughout the screening. What I really like about what I’ve seen of PATF so far, is that it combines familiar elements of classic Disney and throws them into a whole new stew, completely different in tone from the rest of the traditional “princess” films. I’ll leave the plot surprises for you to discover – but I must quickly comment on one musical sequence: The “I Want” song. It’s called Almost There and it’s terrific. But it’s especially interesting as it’s visualized in an art deco/poster graphics style of the 20s (can anyone inform me which artist inspired this sequence?) and its directed like an homage to the 1936 Tex Avery short, Page Miss Glory!

The other PATF news today, is that the studio is opening the film early in L.A. and New York. It’ll open November 25th exclusively at the Ziegfeld Theatre in Manhattan. In L.A., the studio is playing the film for two weeks on the studio lot. For the first time I know of, the general public will be able to buy a ticket (at $30 bucks a pop) and screen the film in a Disney screening room! In addition, Disney will “dress” the backlot like a mini-Disneyland with PATF-themed attractions! For more information and tickets click here.

  • I’m so thrilled for this movie and the overall experience it is bringing, despite the grumblings based on some of the familiar gags in the promotional videos and latest trailer. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Dale Baer, Andreas Deja, and Eric Goldberg at their animation tables (and ask those questions every animator would want to ask!) while visiting a friend who worked at the studio back in August of 2008, and the enthusiasm in the air was completely contagious! Jerry, I’m so glad to hear that it’s coming together! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jason

    You know, I never thought I’d say this but…the most recent trailer for PatF left me cold. The animation is so generic, the character designs so uninspired (especially the frogs. I swear I’ve seen those frogs in other cartoons), and the music is by RANDY NEWMAN??? Why? Why him again?

    Not to mention that firefly. Ew!

  • This is good news. For Disney, sure, but more importantly for hand-drawn animation. If this is a hit, and meets the level of quality that the trailer suggests, this could show younger kids that the flow and beauty of hand-drawn animation is worth pursuing. I’m kind of eager to see this, despite my aversion to Disney’s musical numbers!

  • A HUGE shout out needs to go to Joe Pitt and Lorelay Bove for largely being responsible for making “Almost There” as special as it is!

  • can anyone inform me which artist inspired this sequence?

    Aaron Douglas

  • Excellent news, Jerry. I can’t wait to see this.

    Some people may roll their eyes at what they consider Disney storytelling cliches, but let’s not forget – Disney wrote the book on character animation, great songs and heart and when they throw their full artistic weight onto these things, these devices STILL work and can still produce great movies.

    What will help PatF is if Disney work to their strengths, which it sounds like they are. Extra details like awesome art direction or unusual sources for conceptual design are just icing on the cake.

    If we’re going to be mad at anyone, blame the Marketing people who made the movie look bad with shoddily-cut trailers.

    (And if anyone is hitting up D23 over the weekend, stop by the Boom! booth and say hi, I’ll be there pimping Pixar/Muppet comics!)

  • it combines familiar elements of classic Disney and throws them into a whole new stew, completely different in tone from the rest of the traditional “princess” films.

    Wouldn’t surprise me. The Little Mermaid was the same way in 1989, and was incidentally the first real thing Disney animation had done in years, if not decades.

    I really hope they don’t reveal too much else before this movie comes out. This is the first time in years I’ve been genuinely excited for a Disney animated film.

  • Sam Filstrup

    Glad to see the film is shaping up so nicely, now for an excuse to my non animation friends for seeing a princess movie.

  • shout out

    the entire song sequence in question as well as everyone who worked on it was supervised by Eric Goldberg.

  • It’s looks good !!!

  • Erin Siegel

    nifty! I’ve been looking forward to this film and hoping it’s not just purely a cash-in to extend their princess line. If it adds something to the art-form in any way, I’ll be satisfied. At least more so than I was with Enchanted which felt more like a white-washed homage/parody to classic Disney fairy tales films (glitter dragon? really?) than genuine respect for the tradition. Not that there weren’t some parts I didn’t like about Enchanted, but the conclusion left me going “meh”. I’m hoping PATF is as epic and sweet as it makes itself out to be.

  • I animated 3 scenes in the stylized art deco section of “Almost There”. We drew very clean and our drawings went straight into After FX, there was no cleanup. The animation of that sequence was supervised by Eric Goldberg.

  • Sounds very promissing. I really, really hope for a success and a return of traditional animation. I also hope to see more fresh and original stories brought to the screen with the pencil and paper.
    Can’t wait to see this film ! Does anyone know a releasedate for europe ?

  • tobor68

    i’ve seen the whole thing and can heartily say the rest of the film holds up to the beginning.

    that sequence at the beginning is a real show stopper. one of the many surprises in this movie.

    the whole industry (at least those of us who love traditional animation) need to shout from the rooftops about this movie. otherwise, i’m afraid that this may be 2D’s last hurrah.

  • I was worried for minute. Glad to hear it’s going so well. Thanks Jerry for easing my mind.

  • Kyle Maloney

    Im excited, but kinda worried that the quality might drop off once the princess turns into a frog. it seems to me too much of the movie involves her frog form. I originally expected to have her human throughout.’

    And the recent trailer isnt great compared to the other ones. a lot of potty humor and the annoying sidekick lightning bug. he didnt bug (no pun intended) me before, but if overused it’ll get old real fast.

    but Im hoping this was a case of “shove all the gross stuff kids will eat up and adults will cringe over” for this trailer and not really reflective of the final product.

  • I was at the Legends Ceremony at D23 yesterday as well. The screening was an unexpected surprise. Plus, Ron, John and Peter were there as well.

    This movie works. Hell, even Walt Disney would like it. I’ve no patience with the naysayers and their silly complaints. This film will kick butt at the box office this fall. Trust me.

  • In non-election years, I think movie trailers take over as the leading focus of internet concern trolls.

  • I, too, worked on the “Almost There” sequence, splitting my time between drawing and following up the brilliant Eric Daniels in ToonBoom’s Harmony application. Watching the entire sequence on the day we finished it left me with a shiver like I’d never experienced before.

    I’m extremely proud to have been a part of this film. So glad the buzz thus far is positive.

  • Matt Sullivan

    Another I want song?

    I like that hand drawn is c oming back, I just worry they’re making the same film they made 10 years ago.

  • Worst line in the trailer “this is going to be good” by some off screen old lady. I guess they need to tell us its good.

    Aside from that I’m happy it looks good, frankly I don’t care if it IS good, only that it makes a LOT of money and opens the doors for more 2D films again. I really want to get out of this quagmire of droll 3D crap that has been coming out in recent years.

  • Gobo

    the music is by RANDY NEWMAN??? Why? Why him again?

    Well, besides the fact that he’s a Grammy-award winning living legend, the movie’s set in New Orleans. I can think of very few songwriters I’d rather enlist to write Tin Pan Alley / New Orleans / Disney tunes.

  • Jason

    Wow, some people here must feel pretty insecure about this movie if they take such offense to someone expressing a little concern about it.

    Well, I’m sure it will be a success. No doubt little girls at least will like it. There, is that better?

  • Mac

    Thank you Jerry! Your enthusiasm for this movie has got me very excited.

    Victor Ens, I don’t know what all the European release dates are, but it comes out in February in the UK.

  • So don’t “stick a fork in them” just yet?

    Sounds good Jerry. This is exciting news indeed. Congrats to everyone involved. I’m sure you’re all super excited. :)

  • Acetate

    I can’t wait !

  • briank

    Doug Walker was responsible for the design and layout of the song. Doug is a tremendous designer and i am glad to see that his work on this sequence is being appreciated. great job to all the artists on FROG.

  • Eric Goldberg

    And further shout outs: the great Doug Walker on layouts, and the equally great Sue Nichols Maciorowski on the inspirational design pass, not to mention stellar animators Bert Klein, Hyun-min Lee, Frans Vischer, Bill Waldman, the aforementioned Sandro Cluezo, and animation apprentice Sarah Airriess. Glad folks liked it!

  • “Hollywood’s dormant interest in hand drawn character animation.”


    Can we PLEASE drop this idea, that this will do anything except temporarily revive Hollywoods interest in that particular same Disney/Bluth type movie they used to keep making. The rest of us will be entirely unaffected, and it will contribute NOTHING to either audience or Hollywood understanding, of the possibilities for 2D outside of that narrow remit.

    Good luck for those involved, but the rest of us would like the future back, please.

  • Matt

    I’ll be there on opening day. This movie looks beautiful. I’m so glad John Lasseter put hand drawn animation back in Disney. No one ever did it quite like they did, and it’s so exciting to see it returning. The animation looks gorgeous!

  • Last I heard, animated feature film production was still a business. Consequently, we have to make movies that sell.

    I’m cool with experimentation and pushing the creative envelope. However, I wish you good luck with finding a studio or financial backing that will allow you that lofty “future.”

  • Doug Walker? You mean the Nostalgia Critic? Or a different Doug Walker? The reason I ask is because Doug Walker of is a designer as well.

  • Joe Pitt

    Working on “Almost There” was a great experience and a leap of faith with trying out a modified pipeline. Everyone did a fantastic job on it and it was a pleasure working with such talent. I just want to give a HUGE shout out to Eric Daniels for the amazing work he did taking Lorelay Bove’s beautiful final frame designs and translating them seamlessly to final composites. Lorelay did all color work for this sequence and gave it to Eric and I to figure out ways to take a very tied down pencil animation test and to marry the two together to achieve a hand made, painterly look. So a fantastic job to all who worked on it. I’m very proud of it!

  • Trevor

    Damn, hearing all you Disney folks chiming in just makes me wish I was there already! Gotta be patient.

  • Sounds great, Jerry ! Thanks for the report. Needless to say, this is on my most-anticipated-movie list.

    I’m really glad to hear about the “Almost There” sequence trying a little something different in terms of the look and the pipeline. I’ve known Eric Daniels for many years (going back to the Bluth days) and he is a very talented , very smart guy who moves seamlessly between the traditional and cg worlds (he won an Academy Award for helping develop the “Deep Canvas” painting app at Disney) , so I’m glad to see him getting some props here. Way to go Eric and everyone else !

  • I’m very excited about this movie. Just as Snow White invented the animated feature genre, this movie will reinvent 2D feature animation & make it more popular than ever!!

  • Congrats guys, you killed it!!!

  • Dave O.

    Cautiously optimistic. The studio does not have a great track record for its animation division for the past -say- 10 years. Frankly, a 14 year old could have put together a better trailer. All giddiness for something new aside, the animation and character designs aren’t all that surprising. I hope to be proven wrong but my assumption is that this film will plop right out of the Disney mold.

  • Ed Thompson

    I am not sure I am excited about another ‘Princess’ Disney film, but the hand drawn aspect doesn’t bother me at all. If it has a good story, songs and competent animation people will go see it. Computer generated animation was an almost guaranteed hit for a few years, but the novelty has worn off. Bad computer gen’d animation now does as poorly as any other type of movie that is just thrown together. And movies that are well written and produced, whether live action, stop motion, hand drawn, or computer drawn do well. The new novelty in movies today of course is 3D. This IS a repeat from the 1950’s, 60’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Maybe when they can produce holographic movies this will finally cease to be a gimmick.

    I hope PATF does well. I will see it no matter what, and I will withhold forming an opinion until I see it. As far as Randy Newman doing the music, I hate every non-movie album he has made. And I have loved the music in every movie he has scored. I hope he does many, many more.

  • startend

    The more I read these comments, and the more I see ANIMATORS ON THE FILM comment as well, the more confident I am about this film. Thanks for the post!

  • Kyle Maloney Rap

    “Damn, hearing all you Disney folks chiming in just makes me wish I was there already! Gotta be patient.”

    Agreed. Their excitement is contagious. and I think its great that we have a community here where we can all discuss this.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Jerry did you check out this other Disney story at D23 today?

  • I can’t wait for this film. Looks great, hopefully it will re-open doors for more hand drawn films! Great job all who worked on it.

  • doop

    I’ve seen the whole film, and it is nothing short of fantastic. It’s up to us to buy a ticket and support all the talent and hard work that went into it. It’s been a long time coming, but this may very well be the beginning of the 2D animation renaissance in features.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    It sounds great! I’m hoping it will be a hit,and I hope the Disney Studio will continue making animated features that will appeal to all age groups.

  • Eric Goldberg < as always, very gracious and very thoughtful as he once again thanks the animators that he supervised.

    If any animator has an opportunity, try to work with Eric for a project.
    His passion for this art only spreads. So positive.

    Hoping for a huge success with this traditional film :-)

  • Ptarii

    You know what guys, if you like it great, if not, well, can YOU do better? Gather that much $$, a crew, actor and actresses and distribution? I see people complaining, and I’m not saying you can’t air your dislikes, but honestly, what the hell do you accomplish by it? The whole world now knows your opinion? And you, still stuck in that tiny studio basement as an overtly critical fanboy and/or working that TV show you have no guts to get out of and chase your damn passion.

    BTW, to the Frog crew: Kudos. Especially to the people doing Facilier and Prince Naveen.

  • Jason

    Ptarii, I think you’d better learn to roll with the punches. I have no idea whether you’re an animator, an artist, or one of those studio-basement-dwellers you speak about. But criticism doesn’t hurt anyone with self-confidence, and it’s hard to believe that artists like Goldberg lack that quality. For sake of argument, I’ve done some skimming over the web to see what the consensus of the preview of PatF is, and I’m seeing words like “good”, “cookie-cutter”, “out of the old Disney mold” etc. So I think the overall reaction is it’s a good solid film, but nothing extraordinary. And maybe that’ll be good enough. Who knows?

  • Dave-O

    @ Ptarri,

    No one’s being overly critical. Take a chill pill, dude.

    Part of a forum like this is that it isn’t all a love-fest. Its good to have a critical eye through the media hype, otherwise you are just playing into marketers’ hands.

    I think everyone’s enthused by a new Disney animated feature but their 2-D track record as of late and their reliance of formula are worth noting. John Lasseter is a huge fan of schamltz which is partly why real visionaries that work outside Disney storytelling conventions like “Lilo and Stitch”‘s Chris Sanders don’t work there anymore. I respect some of the work that Musker and Clements have done in the past, but my main reservations about this film is that they are at the helm of “Princess and the Frog”.

  • Kyle Maloney sums up my opinions about the new trailer. I like Ray’s design (the bug) but none of his gags seems especially funny so far.

    But I also hope they just put together a weak trailer and there are some interesting aspects in the movie.

    So far I think I’ll enjoy the movie, but I won’t find it as good as Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Lion King or Lilo and Stitch, and it doesn’t look better than Hercules, Emperor’s New Groove or Mulan so far either. But it’ll easily be better than Chicken Little, Home Of The Range, Brother Bear or Treasure Planet.

  • Acetate

    All this talk of great 2-D films has me wondering, does Disney have another 2-D feature lined up yet?

  • Yes, they do.

  • I’m with Floyd Norman on this one. I already see Princess and the Frog as a tremendous achievement; huge props to Disney for making the film available so early like this. No wonder why their marketing team is consistently referred to as the best in the field!

  • Justin

    Q: Does Disney have another 2-D feature lined up?