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Disney in-jokes add to the fun of “The Princess & The Frog”

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Disney in-jokes add to the fun of “The Princess & The Frog”

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If you feel a slight breeze coming from the West Coast today, that’s that huge sigh of relief coming from all of the artists & animators who worked on “The Princess & the Frog.” Given the estimated $25 million that this new John Musker & Ron Clements movie pulled in over its first weekend in wide release (Not to mention the 83% freshness rating that this new Walt Disney Pictures release got over at RottenTomatoes), it would appear that Walt Disney Animation Studios is back in the hand-drawn animation business to stay.

Oh, sure. There are those within the entertainment industry who will grouse about “Princess & the Frog” grosses. Who will say that $25 million in ticket sales for Disney’s first new hand-drawn animated feature in over five years – while solid – ain’t exactly stellar. Know this, though: “PATF” had the highest opening weekend gross ever for an animated feature that was released during the month of December. Which bodes well for where this film will be sitting, box-office-wise, as 2009 gives way to 2010.

Of course, in order for “Princess” to really go over the top here, Walt Disney Animation Studios would like to encourage folks to go back and see “The Princess & the Frog.” Which is why someone who worked on this film just sent me an e-mail which reads:

Prince Naveen as a smiling frog
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Did you know …

  • That – as the film’s title sequence is getting underway while Dr. John is singing “Down in New Orleans” – you can clearly see the carpet from “Aladdin” being shaken out by someone who’s standing on a wrought-iron balcony.
  • That – as Mama Odie is quickly digging through a pile of magical objects during “Dig a Little Deeper” – the lamp from “Aladdin” gets tossed to one side.
  • That – during this movie’s Mardi Gras sequence – one of the floats in that parade features a figurehead that is clearly modeled after King Triton from “The Little Mermaid.”
  • What’s more, riding on that King Triton parade float are caricatured versions of John Musker & Ron Clements, the directors of “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid” and “The Princess and the Frog.”

    Louis the alligator from the Princess and the Frog
    Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

  • In the film’s finale, Louis can be seen playing with a jazz band at Tiana’s restaurant. The lettering on the bass drum says that this band is called “The Firefly Five Plus Lou.” Which is obviously an affectionate tip of the hat to the Firehouse Five Plus Two, that ragtime band from the 1940s & 1950s which was made up of Disney Animation employees.
  • What’s more, the piano player in the “Firefly Five Plus Lou” is a caricature of Disney Legend Frank Thomas. Who was the piano player for the Firehouse Five Plus Two.

Outside of this e-mail, I’ve also heard that – among the toys that are scattered around the floor in young Charlotte’s bedroom during “The Princess & the Frog” ‘s prologue – is the pumpkin coach from “Cinderella.”

Can anyone confirm this last item? Or – for that matter – report in on any other inside jokes / hidden Disney references that you may have spied while watching this holiday release.

And speaking of the holidays … If you’re planning on doing any Christmas shopping on Amazon.com this year, could you please do JHM a favor and – before you begin your bargain hunting – click on the banner above?

If you do that … well, then Jim Hill Media then gets a teeny tiny chunk of whatever you spend. Which would be an awfully nice way to show your appreciation for all of the stories that you’ve read on this website over the past year.

Happy Holidays!

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  • The pumpkin coach -- or something that looks as much like it as to be virtually indistinguishable -- is definitely there, and I'm pretty sure I saw a doll on a shelf that looked a lot like Belle's ball dress from Beauty and the Beast.

  • During the end credits, look for a little shack at the edge of a swamp that resembles a familiar scene from Disneyland's POTC.

  • I noticed the Firefly Five Plus Lou thing but everything else went over my head, I guess.  =)  Leave it to me to get the really obscure ones.

  • Charlotte's cat is Marie from The Aristocats, complete with a collar that has an "M" charm dangling from it.

    Look closely at the mansions. One of them is Haunted.

    Tiana does a "Belle Spin" in the sugar mill. This is something that they parody in "Enchanted" as well.

    Notsodisneybut:

    Charlotte's dog is named "Stella" and is yelled at in Brando-esque fashion during the party. Also, Tiana's dismount from the streetcar comes right out of a tableau from "A Streetcar Named Desire."

  • A teapot in the shape of Mrs. Potts is seen in the opening scene.

  • I noticed a few thematic references, myself, and I'll probably notice more when I see it again:

    - The whole "wish upon a star" motif seemed an obvious nod to Pinocchio. Indeed, the entire film played (to me at least) as an extremely entertaining essay of sorts on that whole film's wishing conceit.

    - Early in the film, when Charlotte and the fake Naveen are dancing, it looked to me like a direct rotoscope of the final dancing scene of Sleeping Beauty. Was this a deliberate reference, a cost-cutting measure, or a subtle apology for cheaping out on the end dance in Beauty & The Beast?

    - When Naveen (as a frog) asks "why are those logs moving?" and looks at the alligators - could confusing alligators for logs (or vice versa) be a reference to Snow White?

    - Might the singing voodoo masks have been a reference to the Enchanted Tiki Room?

    - Ray confusing a star in the sky for a fellow firefly, and Tiana later correcting him, seemed to resemble Timon & Pumbaa's debate on the subject in The Lion King.

    - And, SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER This MIGHT be a bit of a conspiracy theory-esque stretch, but screw it, I choose to consider it a reference anyway. When Ray joins his beloved Evangeline in the sky, he turns into the second star. Or is that the second star....to the right?

  • One more I just remembered: the scene where Tiana and Naveen get their tongues hopelessly tangled after reaching for the same bug seemed (to me at least) to be this film's silly froggy take on the most famous scene from Lady & The Tramp.

    We always knew how keenly aware every Disney animator is of the company's rich legacy. And in this film, for the first time to such extents, do we see that love so richly realized.

  • I thinking about the Adventurer's Club as opposed to the Tiki Room w/ the wall of masks.

  • RE: the POTC shack- Right after it's shown, frog! Tiana and Naveen go down a waterfall.

    Also, when Tiana's reading on the trolley in the opening number... I caught the name Annette on the magazine cover.

  • These were mentioned in a post on Cartoonbrew:

    Ron & John:

    Seen on the Mardi Gras parade float, briefly caricatured when the cake splatter creates a mustache and beard on the Fenner Bros. during the masquerade ball, and also caricatured in the voodoo masks in several shots (notably when the masks surround Naveen as the snakes tie him to the chair).

    Frans Vischer: seen tossing beads off the parade float next to Ron & John (who he animated)

    Animators & artists Eric Daniels, Lorelay Bove, Joe Pitt, and Todd Jacobsen can be glimpsed sitting at a table during the wide shot of Tiana’s restaurant in the “Almost There” sequence.

    Walt Disney (animated by Andreas Wessel-Therhorn) can be seen clapping on a upper right balcony during the outdoor wedding procession shot, during the Mardi Gras shot with the flame jugglers, and most clearly in Tiana’s restaurant when Tiana hugs Charlotte during the “Down in New Orleans” reprise.

  • Charlotte had a Giselle doll in her room in the original trailer, though they seemed to remove it for the final film. Or was I not looking hard enough?

  • I spotted the Belle-doll on the shelf, as well.  A couple more:

    -A red-head dressed as a mermaid at the party when Tiana is turned into a frog (most noticeable during the chase scene after).

    -My husband swears up and down that he saw a couple dressed as Aladdin and Jasmine (in different colored costumes) during the same scene.

    As for the kitty being Marie, there's an argument that she's actually meant to parody Cats Don't Dance.  Lottie looks an awful lot like the villainous little girl from that movie, and who does she torment?  Cats...

    I can guess that they took Giselle out.  Don't they have to fight for use of Giselle because she's based on Amy Adams' likeness?  So they only have permission to use her for a few years?

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  • Am I the only one that noticed--before I even saw the movie--that the crocodile looks exactly like the one in "Peter Pan", just a different shade of green?

  • In the opening scene in lotties room right after you see through the window and start to see the full room you can see what looks like cinderellas castle in the left hand corner.

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