Goldberg, Deja and Smith Talk Princess and the Frog
For Deja, it's great to not only be back with another 2D film but also with a vengeance. "We had to think about that at first -- to go the extra mile and basically give it all you've got because we have nothing to lose. But then once we got into it, and started focusing on the work, because if you carry around the idea that this thing is going to make or break a medium, it can crush you."
And there was no question about Deja being drawn to the eccentric Mama Odie, the fairy godmother of Cajun country. "I was hoping to do her right away, even though she wasn't going to be a big footage character. I didn't care: I just wanted to have fun. And the notion of Mama Odie being a 197-year-old lady who lives in a boat that's stuck in a tree, she's blind and has a seeing-eye snake, is crazy and I loved it. How can you go wrong with something like that?
"I had one animator helping me out with a few scenes -- I could've done them all -- but I was running out of time because the story department held onto the Mama Odie boards for a long time. So I helped out with Facilier -- the transformation of his face during the song ["Friends on the Other Side"].
And what was his greatest inspiration for Mama Odie? The beloved British character actress, Margaret Rutherford (Miss Marple). "Those films were on German TV when I was a kid and I've always been fascinated by how she talks because there's no other person like her. And I've been freeze-framing her for years and studying how her lips move, way before this movie."
Deja actually had to lobby to do JuJu as well. "I said, 'Ollie Johnston did both [in The Jungle Book -- Shere Khan and Kaa -- because they interact so much.' You can take care of the connection and how they react to all of that. So I ended getting them both. And I wanted the contact very fleshy and to also show there's an affection between those two."
Meanwhile, Bruce Smith found the characters so embracing because "technology has come to us." For Smith, Dr. Facilier is a combination of Captain Hook and Cruella de Vil. "Even when I started the character, the first character I thought of was Captain Hook," Smith recalls. "I like the foppish brand of villainy that he brings. But there was also an elegance that came from Cruella that I thought would've been fun to explore from the male standpoint. Here's a guy, Dr. Facilier, who wants to be elegant, but isn't, and is more of a showman. And so I did think it was a perfect blend of the two characters. He's the love child of Cruella de Vil and Captain Hook."
Although Smith has worked on several Disney films (Tarzan, The Emperor's New Groove and Home on the Range), he's never been given a villain before. "I had a hand in designing him while the directors were guiding the story. At one point, I knew one of the issues was not making Facilier an omnipotent villain -- we had to have some real dark forces that he answered to make him that much more of a con man. But at the same time, we wanted to make sure that he has some threatening element to the film and is not just some sort of middle man: a guy who will do whatever it takes to have his dream realized.