22nd October 2017
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March 8th, 2017 Cat: Bisnis Online

Most older adults have tender childhood memories of Walt Disney’s breathtaking but touching cartoon movies of the early years – Snow White, Bambi and Fantasia. Anyone who has visited Disneyland and found the opportunity to visit one of the studios where artists lovingly make hand-drawn animation, cel by painful cel, has often wished for the quality and the dedication of those times in todays world of the perfect 3-D animated movie. Disney movies has famously released its statement recently that it sees things this way too – that they wish to make and release at least one traditional hand-drawn animated feature every year.

This year’s hand-drawn, high-profile feature from Disney movies is ‘The Princess and the Frog’. The movie has opened in the top slot on its opening week too, though for a painstaking project in hand-drawn animation, a $25 million opening is seen to be less than encouraging. The Princess and the Frog has a special protagonist: the first Princess in a Disney movie who is an African-American. Of course, as anyone who has watched a little TV or visited a toy store recently must know, Disney has been pushing the glamour of this idea really hard with merchandise, masks and advertising. But some critics are not buying the whole equality thing Disney is trying. The prince she’s trying to kiss back out of the frog, is not black, they say.

Disney movies of the past used to be musical extravaganzas, like ‘The Little Mermaid’. And ‘The Princess and the Frog’ is a return to that rich musical tradition in Disney. Going hand-drawn in an era of ultra-realistic 3-D animation needs to be done with special sensitivity; and Disney seems to believe that the best mind for such a direction should be a pioneer in 3-D animation such as John Lasseter, one of the founders of Pixar. While the movie seems a little slow, taking off, critical opinion has been unequivocally generous. Perhaps Lasseter was just the right choice after all. Disney movies are not charged just by ticket sales, of course; most of their productions take on an after-life of their own in the collective consciousness, and drive a rousing business in Disney merchandise. If this movie succeeds in capturing the imaginations of children far enough to drive the sales of dolls, stuffed toys, action figures and children’s bedroom accessories, it can certainly be said, then, that Disney has succeeded in reviving the genre.

The last hand-drawn venture from Disney movies was ‘Home on the Range’ five years ago; it’s been noticed ever since that the hand-drawn variety does not catch on as quickly as a movie made on modern methods. But once they catch on they just become immortal. ‘The Princess and the Frog’ is about a waitress in New Orleans whose ambition it is to become a successful restaurant entrepreneur herself. She finds herself in a situation where she gets to kiss a prince turned into frog, to help it return to human form. She does so, but finds that her plans have taken a bad turn, and the spell has turned her into a frog too. If Disney can get past accusations that it is running on stereotypes to pander to its audience, it should have a hit on its hands.

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