Some things that I found especially striking:
- It has the strongest sense of place of any Disney animated film. Disney's princesses, through Ariel, hail from generic fantasy kingdoms. The recent diversions from this rule are Mulan (who's technically not a princess, though she is a Disney Princess^TM), Belle (as Jerry Orbach's Lumiere sings, "after all, Miss, this is France"), Pocahontas (colonial America) and maybe Jasmine. I say "maybe Jasmine" because while she's from a generic THIEF OF BAGHDAD fantasy kingdom, it's the rare Disney kingdom that's actually named: "Agrabah." THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, by contrast, could not be any more set in Jazz Age New Orleans. Moreover, when we meet our romantic hero Prince Naveen, we actually learn the name of the place he's a prince of: Malbonia. (This immediately tells me that THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG shares continuity with Gordon Korman's THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING AT MACDONALD HALL! Always a good thing.)
- The princess and prince have a really atypical dynamic for a Disney movie. Prince Naveen is not a perfect prince. He is an ass. He is also broke, and looking to marry for money. (!!) This is *way* unusual for a Disney movie. It's not that his family is impoverished nobility, with their only assets a worthless title -- that would have been an amazing departure -- but what we get is still pretty good: Naveen is such an irresponsible, philandering, free-spending jackass that his royal parents have cut him off. By contrast, Tiana, our new princess, starts out as a waitress with ambitions of being a restauranteur. She works multiple jobs and saves all her money. She believes in the virtue of hard work, by God, and she is dedicated and focused. In short, she knows what the hell she's doing. Naveen gets better over the course of the movie, naturally, but I confess I have a hard time seeing them as a successful couple; the dude has the attention span of a mayfly. They play better as really close friends.
- Tiana is a *great* princess. Seriously, she's a terrific character, and a great addition to the Disney Princess line. I have not cared much about most Disney Princesses as characters, but right now Tiana is up there with Belle for me. In fact, if they make a superteam, Tiana should head it, because she knows how to get shit *done.* I honestly hope the direct-to-DVD sequel to this has Tiana going on her first visit to Malbonia and turning the place upside down ruthlessly because if she's going to be a princess it's going to be of a functioning kingdom, goddammit. I suspect that Prince Naveen is not all that popular with his subjects, but when the people meet their new princess, they're going to go nuts for her.
- For the record, this is my modern Disney Princess superteam:
The Leader: Tiana
The Bad-Ass: Mulan
The Smartypants: Belle
The Hottie: Jasmine
The Comic Relief: Ariel
(I suspect that Belle and Tiana will get along like a house on fire, and if there is ever a seige or something Tiana will run the logistics so smoothly that General Mulan will have absolutely everything she needs, and Belle and Ariel will be making horrifying weapons that Belle read about in a book once and Ariel collected bits of from a shipwreck because they looked neat.)
(The Comic Relief *would* have been Giselle from ENCHANTED, but Disney decided that she wouldn't be included as part of the Disney Princess line so they wouldn't have to pay Amy Adams for use of her likeness. Alas!)