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The Princess and the Frog by Randy Newman

The Princess and the Frog

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 The Princess and the Frog(Soundtrack)  by Randy Newman
The Princess and the Frog(Soundtrack)  by Randy Newman
The Princess and the Frog(Poster and Memorabilia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Princess and the Frog(Soundtrack) by Randy Newman

The Princess and the Frog
Composed by Randy Newman
Walt Disney Records (2009)

Rating: 8/10

Buy The Princess and the Frogby Randy Newman from Amazon.com



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“RANDY NEWMAN has written both original songs and an original score for THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG that will sit nicely alongside of some of Disney's classics.”

A Newman Guarantee
Review by Christopher Coleman


Perhaps you, as I did, thought the age of traditional animation had come and gone. Most likely due to its poor critical reception and lackluster box office results, Disney's last feature release of this type was supposed to be HOME ON THE RANGE (2004). Thankfully, John Lassiter and Ed Catmull of Disney/Pixar had something to say about this. While they would continue to produce state-of-the-art 3D animated features, the 2D animation tradition would not be left to die. The first fruits of that decision is Walt Disney's 40th animated feature, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. This feature would return Disney to the fairytale spin-off, this time loosely based on the Brothers Grimm's THE FROG PRINCE, but bringing the tale to 19th century, New Orleans.

There could hardly be a better composer for this feature than one RANDY NEWMAN. NEWMAN's association with Disney/Pixar goes back years; all the way to the first four Pixar feature releases: TOY STORY, TOY STORY 2, A BUGS LIFE, AND MONSTERS INC. And though none of these are among my favorite Pixar scores, Newman's trademark lazy-jazz-americana-sound infused a particular character in each movie as well as providing the blossoming 3-D studio with a good measure of audio-branding. In addition to his history with Pixar, NEWMAN also established himself within the world of the musical; among other things, adapting FAUST into a musical of his own.  Now, if that wasn't enough, NEWMAN spent a number of his formative years in living Louisinana; something that clearly impacted his musical identity. While reportedly, Alan Menken was set to write the music for the feature and was later replaced, it's hard to imagine that anyone other than RANDY NEWMAN would even be considered.

In the telling of THE PRINCESS IN THE FROG, directors John Musker and Ron Clements clearly enjoy playing against many of Disney's well-established-fairy-tale-conventions, if not taboos. The very concept of the princess turning into a frog upon kissing an enchanted frog-prince is most obvious twist, but there are many more: the classic wish-upon-a-star now having a companion, the death of a key character, the lead character being African-American, and so on. These are just a few reasons why the film itself ends up feeling fresh and not just a rehash of the Disney of old. On the other hand, the use of music in THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG adheres quite strongly to the traits found in the best Disney features of the 1990s including: memorable songs performed by talented voice-actors and an accompanying score that is both thrilling and emotional.

RANDY NEWMAN has written both original songs and an original score for THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG that will sit nicely alongside of some of Disney's classics. The first linch-pin theme of the soundtrack is found in "Down in New Orleans." First sung purely and with hope by Anika Noni Rose (Tiana) in tracks 2, 10, and then with the unmistakable edge of the great Dr. John in track 3, the Louisianan personality of the THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG is established. The central figure, Tiana, has her character, and ultimate hope of fulfilling the restaurant-dream of her father captured in "Almost There" (4), and the villainous antagonist, Dr. Facilier, is revealed through his own jazzy, anthem "Friends on the Other Side." (5). Echoing back to Terry Gilkyson's unforgettable song, "Bare Necessities" from THE JUNGLE BOOK, Newman writes the equally fun "When We're Human" (6) performed by Prince Naveen, Tiana, and there new friend, Louis, the alligator. Other friends the frog-couple pick up along the way, such as Ray (the firefly) and Mama Odie, also perform character-revealing and story-advancing songs such as: "Ma Belle Evangeline" (8) and "Dig a Little Deeper" (10). Each and every song is full of a particular vim and vigor that Disney toons are known for and every one of them was penned by NEWMAN.

While the vibrance of THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG is contained in the songs, RANDY NEWMAN truly surprises with his beautifully subdued score. In typical fashion, Walt Disney Records places all of the songs first and relegates the original score to the concluding tracks. To their credit, Disney does make 7 of the 17 total tracks, original score, which well represent RANDY NEWMAN's efforts. Tracks such as "FairyTale/ Going Home" (11) sit in sumptuously, subtle contrast to the energetic songs that proceed it. Newman keeps with Disney musical tradition as, amidst lush strings and woodwinds, he softly quotes some of the soundtracks' core motifs. NEWMAN is allowed to flex his action and comedic muscles in tracks, "I Know This Story" (12), "The Frog Hunters/ Gator Down" (13), and and "Tiana's Bad Dream" (14). RANDY NEWMAN truly impresses while blending the dramatic, symphonic sound with elements of Dixieland, Bluegrass, and Zydeco music. The ending result makes THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG one of, if not the, best score for an animated feature in 2009.

It is more than a little wonderful to see the 2-D animated film back in the spotlight. Disney/Pixar, Dreamworks, and Sony will continue to push the boundaries in the 3-D genre, but there has yet to be 3-D animated film that captures the same sort of musical magic of classics like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST or THE LION KING.  Perhaps doing a musical in 3-D animation is not practical, but it's clear that the public still has an appetite for this type of animated feature.  And with THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, Disney has also shown that they still deliver. While his past scores for Pixar films have left me a bit bored, this is a much different experience.  And that is because THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG is the perfect fit RANDY NEWMAN. His effort here must be given its due as his score has had much to do with the positive (and lucrative) reception the film has experienced.
 

Rating: 8/10

 

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Never Knew I Needed (Neyo) 3:37  ***
2 Down in New Orleans (Prologue) (Anika Noni Rose) 0:27  ***
3 Down in New Orleans (Dr. John) 2:25  ****
4 Almost There (Anika Noni Rose) 2:24  ****
5 Friends on the Other Side (Keith David) 3:35  ****
6 When We're Human (Feat. Terence Blanchard, Anika Noni Rose) 2:22  *****
7 Gonna Take You There (Jim Cummings) 1:44  ***
8 Ma Belle Evangeline (Jim Cummings) 1:55  ****
9 Dig A Little Deeper (Jennifer Lews/ Pinnacle Gospel Choir) 2:47  *****
10 Down in New Orleans (Finale) (Anika Noni Rose) 1:35  ****
11 Fairy Tale/ Going Home 4:17  ****
12 I Know This Story 5:26  ***
13 The Frog Hunters/ Gator Down 6:04  ****
14 Tiana's Bad Dream 6:22  ***
15 Ray Laid Low 3:21  ****
16 Ray/ Mama Odie 4:00  ***
17 This is Gonna Be Good 3:20  ****
  Total Running Time (Approx.) 56 minutes  
       

 
   

 

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