Disney has changed over the past few decades. To many fans, this company, once lauded for its quality and artistic innovation, has become a shadow of its former self.
There can still be a lot to love with modern original Disney films… and a lot that leave something to be desired.
We’re looking at the highs, lows, and mehs of modern Disney. Welcome to Disneytober.
I was thrilled when I heard The Princess and the Frog was in the works, but I found myself disappointed with the final product. Wasted characters, confusing plots, and poor romantic pacing soured what could have easily become the next Disney classic for me. But with a little tweak to the recipe, this fun and charming story could easily fill my appetite for a great flick.
Here’s how I’d go about fixing The Princess and the Frog.
I actually really loved Tiana’s place in the plot, so there’s very little about her that changes in this rewrite. Instead, we’ll focus mostly on the supporting cast, particularly Facilier, Naveen, and Charlotte. We want to put Facilier in a position where his Trickster persona really has a chance to shine, as well as better develop Charlotte and the romantic relationship between Naveen and Tiana.
The YouTube channel Nando v Movies is famous for their “One Small Change” series, and I’m taking a page out of their book. But since Nando has a lot more experience with this than me, today I’ll be making not one but three small changes to this film: 1) Tiana’s father dies when she’s an adult, 2) Doctor Facilier can use magic on himself, and 3) Charlotte’s father actually does have her on a (rather large) allowance.
Let’s get started.
This post will contain spoilers for
The Princess and the Frog
We begin the film with a montage of Tiana growing up, working to earn money for the restaurant while her father works his own job and cooks with her. However, we see his health gradually decline until tragedy strikes, and he dies.
Is it taking a page out of the opening minutes of Up? Absolutely. Would it be heartwrenchingly tear-jerking? Without question. This change not only allows her father to feature in the film for more than a single scene (plus a flashback); it better establishes how important his presence was during Tiana’s formative years, further cementing her philosophy and her goal.
We next take time to establish the current setting of New Orleans. We see many characters actively avoiding Facilier. He resents this treatment, especially as he observes how the populace fawns over Big Daddy La Bouff. We also see that Facilier uses his magic talisman to cast all his cons and spells—but more on that later.
The scene at the diner where Tiana works plays out almost exactly the same: Tiana’s still working hard to buy a location for her dream restaurant. Charlotte and Big Daddy burst in, and as Tiana congratulates Big Daddy on his election to king of the Mardi Gras parade, the La Bouffs announce Prince Naveen of Maldonia is in town and that they’ll be hosting a ball for him. Though instead of Charlotte grabbing money directly from her father, she uses her generous allowance to hire Tiana for the catering. Meanwhile, Facilier’s been sitting at a back table, listening the whole time. He knows this is a chance for some fun—and to earn the respect and adoration he feels he deserves.
In this version, Facilier cuts his deal with Naveen at the ball, pulling the prince aside to work his magic switcheroo. As in the film, Naveen takes the bait and gets turned into a frog, but this time, it’s Facilier who takes on Naveen’s appearance. No more Lawrence.
Facilier facilitates all this magicking through his talisman, which we learn from his musical number is a gift from his “friends on the other side.” I took a little inspiration from 20th Century Fox’s Anastasia in that Facilier’s talisman, like Rasputin’s magic reliquary, is a gift from the devil at the cost of the user’s soul—which the devil will come to collect should anything happen to the magic artifact.
Under the guise of the prince, Facilier plans to return to Maldonia, ascend the throne, and kill Naveen and his parents, offering their souls to the evil spirits as payment for this transformation spell. While living the high life will be a nice bonus, Facilier’s not really interested in the wealth and power; he just wants attention and respect… and the chance to mess with people. With this plan, he’s fooling not only the prince, but an entire country. This is a high-stakes plan, however; the evil spirits inform Facilier that this is his last big gamble. If he doesn’t take over Maldonia by a set time, they’ll collect on his soul, talisman or not.
Just as in the film, the transformation spell is powered by Naveen’s blood and only lasts for short periods of time. This prompts Facilier to trap Naveen under a platter of food to keep the frog-prince close until Facilier can slip away from the party. Charlotte is, of course, making that difficult for him to do as quickly as he’d like.
As Facilier’s trying to give a clingy Charlotte the slip, Tiana learns she’s about to lose her restaurant site. She turns to Charlotte in distress, begging her for even just a little money that she’ll be sure to pay back, but Charlotte laments that she blew her whole allowance on the pastries she ordered from Tiana. She promises to try to talk to Big Daddy and see if she can get an advance, but she’s not hopeful.
All the while, the party guests are getting hungry and demanding Tiana’s attention. Distracted and distraught, Tiana accidentally grabs the tray containing Naveen, to Facilier’s dismay. When Tiana removes the tray lid to find frog Naveen, she freaks out. As in the original film, Naveen tries to explain his predicament, but Tiana is too terrified to listen as she tries to pelt him with random objects. This causes mass chaos at the party: guests run around shrieking, Tiana’s costume gets covered in flying food, Facilier tries to find Naveen in all the madness, and finally the frog-prince lands right in front of Big Daddy just as he’s informing Charlotte that she has enough allowance and he can’t give her an advance. Food’s everywhere, the guests are in a tizzy, there’s a frog on his tray—and Big Daddy, in a huff, yells he’s not giving out one single penny.
Meanwhile, Doctor Facilier’s spell is running out, but Naveen is now nowhere in sight. Frustrated, Facilier has no choice but to slink back to his base without his froggy prince.
Charlotte turns to Tiana, devastated she couldn’t win over her father—and sees Facilier in the prince’s guise sauntering away. She calls out to him initially, about to race after him… but then sees Tiana looking absolutely heartbroken. Charlotte chooses to help Tiana upstairs, even if it means she might lose out on her prince.
As in the original film, Charlotte lets Tiana borrow one of her princess costumes, and the kiss scene on Charlotte’s balcony plays out largely the same way: Charlotte leaves to try to hunt down her prince, Naveen and Tiana kiss, and Tiana turns into a frog.
Charlotte returns to her room, sighing that no one’s seen where the prince ran off to, but there’s no one here except for the two frogs. Charlotte takes this much better than Tiana, allowing Tiana and Naveen time to explain their situation. In this draft, it’s Charlotte, not Louis, who recommends they go to Mama Odie; I figured it wasn’t much of a stretch that the girl who believes in fairytales would have heard rumors about the mystical voodoo queen who supposedly lives in the bayou.
Thus (wrongly) assuming that Charlotte knows exactly where Mama Odie lives, Naveen drags her into coming with them. He’s already hatching schemes of his own: since his deal with Facilier turned out to be a bust, he really will need to settle down with a rich girl, and Charlotte certainly fits the bill. He plans to use the travel time to woo her. And Charlotte is far too distracted by his flattery to inform him that she doesn’t actually know the way. Together, all three begin their quest into the bayou.
During and after each of the perilous situations the group finds themselves in (which will largely remain unchanged from the original film), the three characters begin to open up to each other, granting each a better understanding of who the others are, who they are, and what they truly desire. This allows Naveen and Tiana’s relationship to blossom more naturally over a longer period of time. Naveen realizes through his time spent with Charlotte that he actually does want more than a surface relationship with a rich girl. Tiana realizes that she can’t judge a book by its cover and that Naveen actually has a caring, compassionate side and some selfless tendencies. And Charlotte begins to realize that fairytales aren’t always as glamorous as she’d thought.
As in the original film, after speaking with Mama Odie, the group learns a princess’s kiss really is the way to break the spell. They all begin to lose heart… but it’s Charlotte, not Mama Odie, who realizes that since Big Daddy was elected king of the Mardi Gras parade, Charlotte will be crowned a (temporary) princess. They hurry back to New Orleans to get Charlotte crowned in time.
The trip on the riverboat will also largely play out the same. I actually really liked Naveen and Tiana’s chemistry in the original film, but I particularly loved how Naveen showed his growth by putting aside his desire for Tiana in favor of selflessly attempting to make her dream come true. So, as in the original film, Naveen learns Tiana is about to lose the restaurant site she’d always wanted. Once alone, Naveen swears he’ll propose to Charlotte at the Mardi Gras ball so he can get Tiana her restaurant.
But when they arrive at the parade, Facilier attempts to interrupt the proceedings. Much like at Charlotte’s party, chaos reins, driving away the parade-goers until only Facilier and the heroes are left. While Charlotte, Naveen, and their other allies must fight Facilier’s minions, Tiana manages to grab the talisman and threatens to break it. Facilier tempts Tiana with promises of her dream restaurant, but her rejection breaks his spell. She shatters the talisman, ruining any chance Facilier had of completing his objective in time. Mercilessly, the evil spirits devour him.
Naveen and Tiana embrace, relieved that the other is okay, and Naveen reveals his plans to try to get Tiana’s restaurant. Upon hearing this, Charlotte bids farewell to her dreams of marrying a prince, insisting that she could never get in the way of a true fairytale ending: even if it’s not one meant for her. Happily she insists on Naveen and Tiana getting married, sure that if she works as hard as Tiana has, she’ll find a fairytale ending of her own someday.
The spell is broken, Naveen gets Tiana her restaurant, Charlotte gets a job (with some implied love interest), and everyone lives happily ever after.
Anything I missed? How would you have rewritten The Princess and the Frog? Let me know in the comments below!
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The Princess and the Frog and all related terms are the property of Walt Disney Studios. And I am not affiliated with them.
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