Goldberg, Deja and Smith Talk Princess and the Frog
That's not to minimize the amount of anatomy and convincing physicality that goes into it as well. "One of the things that was a challenge on the character to make him feel lively was [the lack of extra bits] to make him look fluid. Many animated characters have a vest or floppy ears or hair or a hat with a flower on it. Louis had none of these things. All he had was his muscles, his bones, his fat and his flesh. And so we had to make him look lively using all of those things in a gator's construction and in his construction to make him feel as alive as possible. So, to a certain extent, I couldn't rely on a lot of tricks you could use like shape-shifting. We could invent things but he's real, flesh and blood alligator, even though he walks on two legs. You have to register that weight, that power, that physicality with him."
Of course, it's hard to do a character in love with jazz without the specter of Baloo hanging over your head, either. "That said, I didn't go back and look at Baloo specifically, but, like I say, we're all geeks, so we all have this stuff ingrained in us. But a lot of the humor is derived from Louis' enthusiasm and playing that against his weight and his construction."
Not surprisingly, given Goldberg's outstanding work on "Rhapsody in Blue" from Fantasia 2000, he was asked to work on the highly stylized "Almost There" sequence in which Tiana imagines her restaurant coming to life. "What they wanted -- and [Sue Nichols] provided many of the designs for it -- was a combination of Aaron Douglas, Harlem Renaissance, Vanity Fair covers from the 1920s: that kind of look that's stylish and of that period. And, yes, we're saying this is a magazine page come to life. One thing we wanted to do was not make it look like your standard Disney animation. We wanted to stylize the action more; we certainly wanted personality out of the characters, but in some cases, we'd do some stylistic choices like the crowd walking into the restaurant for the first time -- a block of people with their legs moving, which connects it back to the inspiration, if you will. Tiana is animated fully in a very stylized way as well.
"I think the thing that I enjoyed the most about this -- and the whole movie -- is animating to music and really determining the best cuts for the sequences, the best kind of movements for particular musical accents and so on and so forth. And there's a sense of liveliness to it, even though it's in a completely different style, still feels very musical to me. And we tried quite a few different techniques in order to get that on screen, too. It was a combination of hand-drawn animation and various other computer techniques to give it that kind of look. For example, all of them look like they're hand-painted. You can see the paint texture moving around within the characters. That's something that [TD] Eric Daniels devised with a computer program in terms of being able to have a painted texture that moved in synchronization with how the characters moved. Also, they made Tiana's feather feel more brush-strokey and then they tracked the drawn animation with the brush stroke feather in After Effects. And there were all sorts of techniques like that to composite it, to color it and to make it feel more hand done."