Anika Noni Rose
Friday, 29 January 2010
A New Twist on an Old Tale
"THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG" is the sixth collaboration by the veteran team of Ron Clements and John Musker, the team behind "The Great Mouse Detective," "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin," "Hercules" and "Treasure Planet." The animation duo was drawn to the project because of its compelling story and comic promise.
"John Lasseter loved the idea," Musker recalls, "and the idea of New Orleans as a setting, with all the cultural, historical, visual and magical ideas that great city offered us. We decided that the Jazz Age added an element of both nostalgia and musicality, and we really wanted to play up the fairy tale archetypes."
"THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG" is, of course, inspired by the fairy tale "The Frog Prince" from the Brothers Grimm. But the filmmakers had to put their own spin on the story. Screenwriter Rob Edwards says the writing process is an extremely collaborative one. "Most of my writing is done while walking through the halls and talking to the storyboard artists and the animators and some of the voice talent and the directors," he says. "The easy part is going back to my office and just writing it."
On the bend of the Big River, New Orleans sparkles with opulence, adventure, romance, music and magic. Here in the "once upon a time" of the Jazz Age 1920s, among the wrought-iron balconies and beckoning alleyways of the French Quarter and environs, a most unusual tale unfolds.
Tiana is an attractive, independent, hardworking young woman. She has no time for romance and the dalliance of dreams, she has a love of cooking, and plans to be a successful restaurateur, fulfilling the love of food that is her father's legacy. But in spite of her hard work and diligence, obstacles keep Tiana's goals out of reach.
Down on the Mississippi riverfront, a handsome and gregarious jazz fanatic has arrived in the Crescent City: the royal outcast Prince Naveen from far-off Maldonia. A little spoiled, irresponsible and indolent, perhaps, Naveen has made his way through life on his good looks and undeniable charm. His position attracts the evil Dr. Facilier, a practitioner of dark magic, whose effort to steal Naveen's royal privilege results in the handsome prince's transformation into a frog.
Naveen's attempt to use the old fairy-tale standby of a kiss to return him to human form only results in Tiana being transformed, too, and the amphibious twosome find themselves cast adrift in the Louisiana bayou, pursued by frog hunters and seeking the good magic of a mysterious 197-year-old priestess named Mama Odie.
Helping them along in their precarious, awkward, but truly laughable journey are a lovesick Cajun firefly named Ray and a Jazz-playing alligator named Louis; and although their way is fraught with peril, the contrary pair bring out each other's better selves, overcome their differences and their obstacles, and discover that dreams do come true-but never in the way one might expect.
In the end, love wins out, and the differences that seemed so very important before seem to fade away into the bayou.
Edwards says his goal was simple: "I want to tell an honest story about two wonderful people who meet and fall in love. I want to tell it to my friends and my friends' sons and daughters, and that's it."
But does "THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG" have the makings of a classic? "What makes a classic?" asks Edwards. "Compelling characters, strong points of view, humor that's both sophisticated for parents and fun for kids, great music. You want to make a kind of rollercoaster ride with great highs and lows. You should laugh, you should cry. You should be touched, and I think if it touches people, then everything else falls into place." REF:- Disney Press Release
The Cast of Characters:
"TIANA (voice of Anika Noni Rose) is certainly not the typical fairy-tale princess. Her daydreams are not of faraway kingdoms or castles in the clouds, but of personal success and a thriving business. "She has dreams of opening the finest restaurant in all of New Orleans," says screenwriter Rob Edwards. "It's a dream that's been instilled in her from her father."
Tiana is an attractive and independent African-American woman, hardworking and strong-willed, but still a loving and loyal friend and a compassionate soul. She treasures her mother and holds her father near and dear to her heart, and although she knows the way won't be easy, believes that she can achieve her ambitions if she works hard enough.
In her sensible pursuit of her life's goals, however, Tiana doesn't really appreciate what is happening on her way to them. She can never simply slow down and enjoy herself. She has no time for romance, and is certainly not about to waste her time mooning over men-let alone kissing any frogs.
Supervising animator Mark Henn, who is behind Disney heroines Ariel ("The Little Mermaid"), Belle ("Beauty and the Beast") and Jasmine ("Aladdin"), found Tiana particularly appealing. "I think you can more easily identify with her, or want to cheer her on. Our animated leading ladies have evolved over the decades, from just being 'princesses in peril' like Snow White-characters to whom events happen, rather than figures of action motivating their own story. It was an easy character to fall in love with and get in her corner. Tiana has her own motivating desire, and decisions that drive her and make her interesting and sympathetic." REF:- DISNEY
. Oprah is the voice of the Princesses mother.
. The princess Tiana is an African-American princess.
. The character was drawn to look like Anika.
. There is also a Tiana doll available.
Tell me about your character Tiana in The Princess and the Frog?
Tiana is a 19 year old Chef in New Orleans and her dream is to own her own restaurant and she hasn't quite got the means to do that yet. She is a lucky young woman as her family are so supportive as they tell her to dream and to know that you can get anything and achieve anything through hard work and love. She hasn't got the love figured out yet. She meets a frog who says that if she kisses him he can help her find her dream. She does but unfortunately she turns into a frog and she goes through this great adventure.
Tiana is a strong independent woman who knows that she can achieve anything - do you share any similar characteristics with her?
My grandmother always said 'If it's to be it's up to me' - meaning if you want to do something you set your mind to it. There is no defeat in life until you concede. My family was always so extraordinarily supportive of me and about what I wanted to do. I think myself and Tiana have had very similar paths - I come from a small town where there were the naysayers around. There were people who said 'why do you want to do that' 'you are never going to make'. I always knew I could and I did.
Did you always dream of being in a Disney movie?
I did - I really did, ever since I saw Fantasia when I was 2. This was a dream I had for my entire life and to have it come to fruition is above and beyond.
I loved so many of them - it changed as I got older. I loved Aristocrats, Lady and the Tramp and The Jungle Book. A lot of favourites.
You are a very successful Broadway and film actress - is your preparation different when you are a voice of an animated character?
No - it was the same. I called New Orleans and spoke to people there so I had the dialect and I read a lot about the place and I had been there before - I also listen to a lot of Jazz and to be honest at some point you just have to go for it.
What's it like being Disney's first African-American princess?
I am extraordinarily pleased and just thrilled that it came about at a time when I can do it. It's amazing to me to be able to do this part.
Any particular medium you like the most?
I like to be challenged so I like to do them all. I like to stretch myself. I do feel that I will always act on the stage. It is the thing that keeps me as an honest actress.
The movie is based in a real life setting of New Orleans - is that an important significance?
I think it's important to remember how magical New Orleans is now and how it was before. The architecture the food, the music and I think it's wonderful to show New Orleans in the light that hasn't been seen in the last few years.
Everyone around the world will remember you as Lorrell Robinson in Dreamgirls - did that open many doors for you?
I think it has but it certainly brought me to the notice of Anthony Mingella. I don't think I know yet how it has opened doors for me but it certainly has brought me more attention.
What was it like performing at the Oscars? And being nominated for a Grammy?
It was amazing - so wonderful. We were nominated for the Grammy we didn't get it but it was so nice to be recognized and nominated.
What would be your ideal role?
There are a few musical roles that I would love - I would love to do My Fair Lady - I think Keira Knightly is doing it in a movie remake and I'm a little bit bitter about that. I think it's a gorgeous piece.
Is this your first time in Ireland?
Yes - I am hoping to explore Dublin today as I have a few hours off.