The Princess and the Frog 10th Anniversary Celebration

It's a big year for princess anniversaries. I recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of The Little Mermaid at the D23 Expo with Jodi Benson, where they teased the upcoming live TV special with Auli'i Cravalho. To my delight, another one of my favorite princess movies also celebrated an anniversary last night at the prestigious Samuel Goldwyn Theater, which is used to screen films for Oscar consideration. In honor of the 10th anniversary of The Princess and the Frog, the theater opened to the public for the Marc Davis Celebration of Animation. Countless members of the cast and crew attended the screening, including Anika Noni Rose, who played Tiana, Keith David, who played Dr. Facilier, Jennifer Lewis, who played Mama Odie, composer Randy Newman, and director Ron Clements (John Musker did not attend this screening or The Little Mermaid celebration at D23). Can you believe it's already been ten years? It feels like just yesterday that I drove to my local Florida movie theater in eager anticipation for the next hand-drawn Disney Princess.

The beautiful theater, famous for its larger-than-life Oscar statues, ushered all attendees upstairs, where they received a program listing the panelists. Prior to the film, the screen lit up with a slideshow of concept art for everything from Tiana's character models to the design of the bayou and Mardi Gras parade. A band at the corner of the stage played traditional New Orleans music as guests shuffled inside. This went on until they stopped to introduce Anika Noni Rose. I barely had time to get my camera ready when she ran onstage to perform a stellar rendition of "Down in New Orleans." Her performance was followed up by a speech from the theater manager and an interview with key members of The Princess and the Frog cast and crew hosted by Quvenzhan√© Wallis, who starred as Annie in the 2014 theatrical remake of the musical film. I was surprised to see someone so young hosting the panel. Quvenzhan√© is sweet 16 now, but her spirit and energy were contagious as she interviewed the panelists with fangirlish excitement.

I've been to a lot of Q&A screenings, but this one stood out because of the energy behind of the panelists. You could see that they were all incredibly excited to work on this film and had a lot of fun doing it. Anika expressed how much she wanted to be a part of it as soon as she found out it would have the first black Disney Princess. Jennifer Lewis was an absolute riot as she redirected questions to share jokes and stories with the audience. She discussed how she was asked to audition for Tiana's mother but felt that her voice didn't have the right level of softness. When she asked what other roles there were, the casting directors asked her if she could do an old woman voice, which she responded to with hilarious enthusiasm. Randy Newman discussed how he knew his songs wouldn't win any awards like the Broadway-style princess songs that he "can't stand," but he was happy to write '20s-style jazz songs that "would never win anything." At the end of the discussion, Anika Noni Rose brought her adorable goddaughter, June, on stage, and discussed how her parents asked permission for her to wear her Princess Tiana costume to the event. There were a few grown-up Tiana cosplayers in the audience as well.

I've watched The Princess and the Frog countless times on DVD and streaming, but this was the first time in ten years that I was able to experience it again on the big screen. I have to admit that watching it on such a scale simply cannot compare to watching it on a TV or computer. The movie came as a surprise during a time that Disney claimed they would no longer make hand-drawn films, although this is still the last one they did to date. There are so many beautiful little details that the animators incorporated into this film that you just would't notice on a smaller screen, such as the fireflies in the bayou and the pedestrians in the bustling city of New Orleans. The transformation scene at Tiana and Naveen's wedding is still one of my absolute favorite animated sequences of all time. Charlotte's antics are just as funny and entertaining as ever. Seeing this movie with such an enthusiastic audience reminded me of all the reasons I love it so much. I was also pleased to meet up with an old friend and get my picture taken with one of the Oscar statues. Overall, it was a night I'll never forget.

Moving to Los Angeles has granted me so many wonderful opportunities that I could have never experienced anywhere else. I was amazed by how affordable and accessible this 10th anniversary screening of The Princess and the Frog was and how smoothly the event was run. Seeing Anika Noni Rose perform live onstage was unforgettable. The energy of the bubbly Quvenzhan√© Wallis made the Q&A fun and entertaining. It was wonderful seeing one of my favorite movies on the big screen again for the first time in ten years. I'm looking forward to attending many more events like this one in the future.


Chris said…
What a fun event! It would have been so awesome to see this. Every time I think about moving to LA I think about being able to attend events like this.

And what a great picture of two awesome people at the end. ;)

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