Judging by what was screened Saturday at THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG D23 panel, 2D animation is definitely back at Disney.
The bold colors, imaginative designs, classically-drawn characters and flavorful Randy Newman songs and score for this early 20th century New Orleans fairy tale (with minimal CG enhancements) recall the previous Disney renaissance of the '80s.
A packed auditorium was treated to several scenes, concept art and other behind-the-scenes glimpses from a panel that included directors Ron Clements and John Musker, animators and artists Mike Gabriel, Ian Gooding, Andreas Deja, Eric Goldberg, Bruce Smith and Michael Surrey, Story Supervisor Don Hall, Writer Rob Edwards and Storyboard Artist Josie Trinidad.
The event began auspiciously with the toe-tapping Jazz number, "Friends on the Other Side," featuring the charming Voodoo villain Dr. Facilier, who turns Prince Naveen into a frog, which leads to a twist in which restaurateur to be Tiana turns into a frog as well.
Musker revealed that the biggest story problem was providing Tiana with emotional resonance for her entrepreneurial quest to own a restaurant. They decided to give her a loving father who passes on the dream to her. Not surprisingly, trips to New Orleans, including the landmark Dooky Chase restaurant owned by 86-year-old Leah Chase helped flesh out the story with the notion of food bringing people together.
Meanwhile, the animators discussed their inspirations while sketching. Smith revealed that Dr. Facilier is a cross between Captain Hook and Cruella de Vil. And Eric Goldberg showed how the insecure crocodile Louis went from totally cartooney to much more physiologically believable, also courtesy of trips to the bayou.
As a final surprise, they unveiled for the first time the "Dig a Little Deeper" musical number featuring the Cajun fairy godmother, Mama Odie (supervised byAndreas Deja).