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D23 2009: "The Princess And The Frog" Presentation

Attendees and fans alike on hand for Saturday of the D23 Convention were treated to a special presentation for the new movie, The Princess And The Frog, due in theatres this December. The presentation began with a finished sequence of one of the songs early in the movie where the story’s villain, Dr. Facilier (Keith David), meets the movie’s titular frog to be, Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos). Dr. Facilier entices Naveen with fortune telling and palm reading despite the reluctance of Naveen’s retainer, Lawrence (Peter Barlett). Facilier then ushers Naveen and Lawrence into Facilier’s “Voodoo Emporium,” during the musical number, “I’ve Got Friends On The Other Side,” and dadgum, Keith David can sing.  The sequence looked and sounded fantastic, and it is also equally fantastic to be seeing traditional hand-drawn animation on screen again.  The songs and music for the movie were written and composed by Randy Newman.

Following that first sequence, the creative team behind the movie were ushered on stage including directors Ron Clements and Jon Musker. Also on hand were writer Rob Edwards, and many of the individual character animators and artists for the feature. Clements and Musker talked about going back to hand-drawn animation for Disney as well as their pitch to John Lasseter, and the story being taken from the E.D. Baker book, The Frog Princess. They also showed concept design art made early into the development of the movie, as well as photos from their trip to New Orleans done for research since that would be the backdrop the movie.

Artist Josie Trinidad narrated an unfinished pencil-drawn story boarded sequence where Raymond the firefly (Jim Cummings) is picking some thorns out of Louis the jazz-playing alligator (Michael-Leon Wooley). Tiana (Aniki Noni Rose, the movie’s “princess” turned into a frog by kissing the frog Prince Naveen), starts making the group some dinner in a gourd she finds close by. The snobby Naveen wants to be served first. Before long, Tiana has Naveen mincing mushrooms with little succeess. Tiana continues helping him to learn how to mince mushrooms.  In this scene, Tiana and Naveen start growing closer with each other. Even seeing the sequence in this format was rather spectacular and as an artist Josie Trinidad has an excellent grasp of storytelling and of these characters.  The character animators also did some live pencil drawings of the characters they animated for the movie whilst providing commentary on where they got their ideas and inspirations.

Some additional features in the presentation were some early character animation tests complete with early dialogue, including a hilarious line reading by Naveen that had the audience rolling, “I do not take advantage of women . . . I only give them pleasure.”  Naveen is a hoot.

Before the end of the presentation, the animators introduced one of the later musical sequences in the movie where the heroes meet the Voodoo Priestess, Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis), who Tiana and Naveen seek because Odie can help make the frogs human again. Odie is 197 years old, blind, and has a pet seeing-eye snake. Her musical sequence, “Got To Dig A Little Deeper,” has a gospel flair as Mama Odie tries to tell the characters what they want is not necessarily what they need. The sequence was not totally finished, but all the sound and music was great, and the finished animated parts of this sequence looked great.

The Princess And The Frog is set for a December 2009 release.  Musker and Clements also announced a limited two-week advanced screening engagement for the movie in New York and LA on November 25, 2009; full details on the release and the special companion “Ultimate Disney Experience” show are available at Toon Zone News.

Return to D23 Expo 2009: Complete On-Site Coverage.

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