D23 Expo held a panel for The Princess and The Frog with the crew from the movie. The panel presented behind the scenes discussions, clips, and some live drawing demonstrations featuring characters in the film.
Before entering the panel, we had to go pass metal detectors and bag searches. This was worse than waiting in line at an upscale club in Vegas. Everybody had to check in all recording devices including cell phones, cameras, and camcorders. But luckily, I had my trusty paper and pen to take notes. Yeah, you remember those don’t ya?
Home on the Range was supposedly the last 2-D animated movie in theatres from Disney, but after many years in hiatus and John Lasseter’s help, Disney’s 2-D animation is back with The Princess and The Frog. It’s a different take on the classic story of the Frog Prince and I’m pretty excited about this project because it’s a return to a 2-D animated fairy-tale classic with singing.
Joining the panel are directors Ron Clements and John Musker (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid). Also on stage:
- Andreas Deja, animation supervisor for Mama Odie, the “fairy godmother.”
- Bruce Smith, animation supervisor for Dr. Facilier, the villain who practices voodoo.
- Eric Goldberg, animation supervisor for Louis, the jazz-loving alligator.
- Randy Haycock, animation supervisor for Prince Naveen, the frog prince.
- Michael Surrey, animation supervisor for Ray, the firefly.
- Josie Trinidad, storyboard artist.
- Don Hall, story supervisor.
- Rob Edwards, screenwriter.
The following is a loose transcript of the presentation:
- The first clip shown was a song-and-dance number by Dr. Facilier called “I’ve Got Friends on the Other Side.”
- Disney bought the rights for E.D. Baker’s version of The Frog Prince called The Frog Princess.
- It was John Lasseter’s idea to have the setting take place in New Orleans, which is also one of Walt Disney’s favorite cities.
- It was also John’s idea to hire Ron Clements and John Musker to direct.
- The movie takes place in the 1920s, about a young African-American dreamer named Tiana who wants to open up her own restaurant.
- Prince Naveen loves jazz music and visits New Orleans.
- Randy Newman is hired to compose. Him being partly raised in New Orleans is a bonus, since that’s the setting for The Frog and The Princess.
- Since Ron and John never visited New Orleans, John Lasseter encouraged them to go check it out.
- One of the directors is seen in a photo holding a book titled, “Idiots Guide to Voodoo” while in New Orleans.
- Princess Tiana’s goal to owning a restaurant is based on a person John and Ron met in New Orleans. Her model was that restaurants help bring people together.
- 30% of what the story artists created ended up in the final movie.
- There was a story hiccup when it focused too much on Tiana wanting to be a business owner/entrepreneur.
- Now the story focuses on a father/daughter relationship. Tiana’s dad teaches her how to cook, thus creating a father and daughter bonding time that leads to the message of “food bringing people together.”
- We were then shown a musical clip of Dr. Facilier and Prince Naveen being entranced by his magic.
- A clip is then shown of Tiana and Prince Naveen as frogs doing some impromptu cooking. Prince Naveen doesn’t know anything about cooking, since he always had someone cook for him.
- Prince Naveen had to be handsome in the movie, so animation supervisor Randy Haycock would ask his daughter which of his different sketches of the prince were handsome. The final verdict? Prince Naveen now has Jonas Brothers eyebrows.
- Prince Naveen and Tiana have teeth in frog-form.
- Bruce Smith joked about how Soul Train inspired how he perceives Dr. Facilier.
- Bruce mentions that Dr. Facilier is what happens when Captain Hook and Cruella de Vil got together and had a child.
- Dr. Facilier was also influenced by Jim Carrey, Jack Lemmon, Usher and Michael Jackson.
- Eric Goldberg studied real alligators for his drawings of Louis, the alligator.
- Louis is a nervous gator and has many phobias.
- Louis is at his element when he’s playing jazz music.
- Ray, the firefly, is very positive and a hopeless romantic.
- Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh, Tigger) does the voice for Ray, the firefly.
- Mama Odie is 197-years-old blind priestess with a seeing-eye snake for a pet.
- Since her animation is limited because she is blind, more emphasis is focused elsewhere, including her loose skin under her chin.
- Mama Odie is loosely based on 60’s Margaret Rutherford.
- As frogs, Prince Naveen and Tiana can’t resist the urge to eat flies.
- Charlotte, Tiana’s friend, is obsessed with becoming a princess.
- Real voodoo symbols weren’t used because they didn’t want to conjure spirits, jokes the writers. Part of the real reason was because voodoo is a real religion and they didn’t want to step on anyone’s toe.
- An average background in the movie would have around 15-20 levels of layers and would sometimes take the artists 10 minutes to look for a particular layer.
- The last clip shown was a music number by Mama Odie called “Dig a Little Deeper,” which is a song about finding who you are.
That’s it for the presentation.
If you can’t wait to watch the movie and insist on seeing it before everyone else, you can check out the official The Princess and The Frog site and get tickets in the LA/NY area and have a chance to see the weeks earlier with an added tour inside Walt Disney Studios, which previously wasn’t available to the public. For the rest of you, you can check out the movie across the nation when it opens December 11, 2009.