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Disney Returns to Hand-Drawn Animation with The Princess and the Frog

Time Magazine’s choice as the Best Motion Picture of 2009, “The Princess and the Frog” marks Walt Disney Animation Studios’ return to hand-drawn animation, a return to the classic fairy tale and a return to the musical – in the tradition of “A Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”

“If there was a single lesson we could take from Walt Disney himself to take Walt Disney Animation Studios into the future,” says executive producer John Lasseter, “it is to leverage the richness of its past: its beloved storytelling forms, its successful characters, its musical opulence—all of these are an essential part of our newest hand-drawn project.”

The filmmakers saw the hand-drawn medium was as vibrant and appealing as ever, and ventured into recapturing and reinventing the art form with reverence, purpose and a renewed sensibility. “At every turn,” director Ron Clements says, “we realized that we could reach out and touch the legacy of the animated Disney fairy tale, and yet move in surprising and interesting new ways, rather than slavishly imitating or reproducing what had been done before.”

Once upon a time, not so many years ago, the traditional hand-drawn Disney animation gave way to new technology, leaving behind the single art form most closely identified with Walt Disney himself.

In 2006, when John Lasseter and Ed Catmull took the reins of Walt Disney Animation Studios, they understood that traditional handcraft of Disney animation certainly had not lost its value as either art or entertainment. And although his greatest fame has come from pioneering in the field of computer animation, Lasseter’s love was not exclusive to his own specific form. He grew up with and began his career in the traditional animation that Disney invented, nurtured and developed over decades into an art form all its own. New animated features were being considered, in whatever animation technique was deemed most suitable.

“We were invited to pitch ideas for new hand-drawn Disney features,” director John Musker recalls. “We were all particularly inspired by the Brothers Grimm tale of ‘The Frog Prince.’”

Producer Peter Del Vecho has taken great personal pleasure in being part of the rekindling of a great art form. “There’s something really rewarding about watching the animator put down pencil to paper, and then when you’re watching the film, you forget all about the individual pencil lines and those characters are really coming off the screen. You kind of take them home with you in your mind—each of the characters is rich and has a life of their own.”

Music was another element of the Disney legacy that the creative team wanted to reach back and touch, but take in a new direction, too. Clements and Musker pitched the film as a musical, but not in the traditional Broadway-style form that Disney had pioneered in 1937 and reinvented in the 1980s. They pitched the idea that the music would be a tapestry of zydeco, blues, gospel, jazz and all of that distinctly American sound.

The return to tradition allows audiences to once again share an opportunity to see whether true love can really triumph, to strive for an ending where everyone lives happily ever after, and to leave the theater humming that song that they can’t seem to get out of their heads.

Opening soon across the Philippines, “The Princess and the Frog” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International.

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