I felt like a child again as I sat, transported, watching Disney’s latest hit, The Princess and the Frog. It has all the old Disney magic – creative animation and whimsy (I loved when the fireflies burst into fireworks!), song and dance spectaculars, and a happy ending.
It’s really a relief and pleasure to go to a movie where everything works out well, to watch a fanciful tale of triumph that doesn’t involve abuse or other dark themes.
The Princess and the Frog also involves the classic Disney theme of love conquers all, albeit with a few twists, the first one being that unlike Sleeping Beauty, the would-be princess was awake (!) and a full participant in the process.
And this princess earned her crown partly through appreciating another old-fashioned value – hard work. But even that’s not really the point. Like the Harry Potter stories, in this film it is true that despite the magic, it is character that prevails.
It’s not what you want, it’s what you need.
And Disney labors hard to make that point, exhorting the hero and heroine to “dig a little deeper” (I’m humming the tune as I write) into themselves to achieve their full potential. “It’s not what you want, it’s what you need” sings the old voodoo lady of the Bayou, an unusual theme for such a jaunty tune.
In fact this is a philosophy inherent in Judaism; that the Almighty makes sure we all have exactly what we need but not necessarily what we want. What we think we want may not actually be good for us.
The prince needs to learn the importance of hard work and true caring, he needs to discover that money isn’t everything (although from a glance at the box office receipts, it means a lot to the creators at Disney!) and his counterpart Tiana, needs to learn that relationships are the most important accomplishment of all.
Since this is Disney, they do learn their lessons, just in time for the finale. And since this is Disney, we know that despite some harrowing adventures, our hero and heroine will ultimately survive so we can just enjoy the ride.
The movie is a real trip into a fantasy wonderland, every moment a pleasure and joy. Never has a life lesson been taught in such a creative and charming way – and appropriate for all ages.
Not all movies deserve their box office success but this is one I think we will be seeing, and perhaps discussing, for many years to come. Where else can you ask the profound question: would you be willing to remain a frog for the rest of your life for the sake of love?