Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Of Royal Frogs and Golden Hair

It is impossible to navigate through the many worlds of Disney entertainment these days without bumping into some aspect of its overwhelming and very successful Princess franchise. It is therefore almost hard to believe that there hasn’t been a new Disney princess in well over a decade (well, even much longer if you consider it a stretch to include Pocahontas and Mulan as Disney occasionally does).

Now suddenly, two new and distinctly different princesses are looming on the Disney animation horizon. The long in development CGI and Glen Keane-helmed Rapunzel, and the much touted return to traditional animation that is The Frog Princess are both penciled in for likely 2009-2010 releases.

Of the two, it is Rapunzel’s future that seems somewhat tenuous. Jim Hill recently posted an excellent article on his site that chronicles the film’s long and occasionally troubled development. Former WSFA head David Stainton left a lot of problematic baggage behind when given his walking papers last year, reflected most recently by Chris Sanders removal from American Dog. Looking back at a New York Times article from September 2005, it seems that Keane and his Rapunzel project became the center of Stainton’s internal PR campaign for the elimination of 2D animation and subsequent transition to CGI. Ironically, based on buzz and some early conceptual art, it would appear that Keane and his crew are striving for a very “un-CGI” CGI look and feel.

It’s a shame that Keane and Rapunzel landed in the middle of executive mismanagement and the subsequent (and probably necessary) housecleaning initiated by incoming heads Ed Catmull and John Lasseter. According to Jim Hill’s article, the project’s fate will likely be decided this June. Here’s hoping for a positive and beneficial outcome for all those involved.

In stark contrast with Rapunzel’s recent under-the-radar scuttlebutt, Disney is attaching all kinds of bells and whistles to announcements involving The Frog Princess. The recent company shareholders meeting in New Orleans found Randy Newman performing his composition of the film’s opening number, while screens displayed concept art of movie’s young heroine Maddy.

As part of his comments about future WDFA projects, John Lasseter gushed about The Frog Princess:

“The main character of the story, our hero, is named Maddy. And I am very, very proud to announce that she is the very first African American Disney princess. We're really proud and excited about this. This is a fantastic story, this movie is going to be classic Disney, yet you've never seen one like it before.”

Again, the irony. The most famous pioneer of CG animation proudly announcing the return to traditional animation by the very company whose executives had danced on its grave less than two years before. But it is still very exciting news nonetheless.

Thrown into this “princess mix” is the up and coming live-action Enchanted featuring traditional animation, albeit from a third party production house. Its performance will no doubt be looked on as a barometer of sorts for these future potential entries in Disney’s lucrative “royal” franchise.


Anonymous said...

The animation for "Enchanted" is being produced by James Baxter Animation, so while it is being produced out-of-house, it's by a company with very strong ties to Disney and by an animator who knows the Disney style inside and out.

Anonymous said...

Yeh I just blogged about this over at Highbrid Nation, check it out if you get a chance. Anyway, it really is about time Disney gave little girls a black princess to look up to. Its long overdue. I also think its great that the film will take place in New Orleans. I'll definately have to take my neice to the Frog Princess.

Anonymous said...

Calling ANYTHING "written" by jim hill "excellent" is like calling the Geneva Convention "quaint." It ain't so. He thrives on spreading lies, scum and mis-information.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

I stand by my statements concerning Jim's article.

Your comments are broad and clearly mean-spirited. And written under the cloak of anonymity.

Unless you can challenge the specific content of Jim's Rapunzel article, these comments have no merit in this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Technically, Pocahontas IS a Princess, due to her being the daughter of her tribe's chief, therefore giving her royalty status.