Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Update: No Post This Week!

Hi everyone!

As many of you know (and perhaps some of you don't), I'm currently working on a fantasy fiction trilogy.

Unfortunately, I'm encountering some technical difficulties related to the trilogy and will need to take a break this week to resolve them. Because of this, I'll be pushing my posting schedule for Disneytober back a week.

Thanks for understanding, and I apologize for the delay.

In the meantime, you could take a look at some Victor's Blade-related content! The books may not feature a prince and singing princess-to-be like next week's post, but it's still chock-full of fantasy goodness... ;)

Friday, October 18, 2019

Top 10 Anime Villains

Author's Note: Previously this post lacked notation indicating which version of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure I was referring to. This has now been remedied.

We're taking a break from Disneytober this week to talk about villains!

Whether they want to take over the world or just mess with the main character, I love to hate villains. And anime has delivered some of the most memorable for sure. Today we’re taking a look at my top 10 favorite anime villains.

This post will contain spoilers for

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, My Hero Academia, Gurren Lagann, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and Trigun

You have been warned.

10. Dio Brando (2012-2013 JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure 2012-2013

Come on. What self-respecting anime fan wouldn’t have this JoJo villain on the list?

I haven’t delved far into the ridiculously over-the-top world of JoJo, so I’m sure I’m missing some fantastic villains later on, but I think anyone who’s watched this series can agree that Dio is the classic recurring villain of the JoJo franchise.

Dio was born bad, lusting for power and prestige. He commits his first premeditated murder at a young age, poisoning his abusive father. When the generous, kind, but naive Joestar family then takes him in, the psychopathic Dio plans to steal the family fortune by worming into the Joestar patriarch’s good graces. The fact this plan entails tormenting the biological son, Jonathan Joestar, is a nice bonus for Dio; he gets a sick pleasure out of turning Jonathan’s father against him, all while painting it as a friendly sibling rivalry when it’s anything but.

The “friendly rivalry” Dio has against Jonathan turns into a generations-long bloodfeud when Dio gains powers from a mystical Mayan artifact that turn him into a vampire, granting him super strength, crazy reflexes, and magic abilities. No matter how hard the Joestar family tries to get rid of him, Dio just keeps coming back, even when he’s reduced to a disembodied head.

Dio is grandiose, flamboyant, and completely full of himself: all the things you love to hate about Gaston from Beauty and the Beast plus the power and intellect of a master supervillain. All that combined with his relentless persecution of the Joestar family makes Dio a great recurring villain.

9. Hero-Killer: Stain (My Hero Academia)

My Hero Academia 2017

Despite being subdued after only a brief appearance in the My Hero universe, Stain creates a lasting impression that changes the world as the viewers—and heroes—know it.

A long-time admirer of the world’s number-one hero, All Might, Stain started out as a relatively normal person. However, Stain became disenchanted with the hero world when he saw societal constructs were encouraging hero work for money or power rather than saving people. In Stain’s eyes, the hero world had become utterly corrupt, leaving only All Might operating as a true hero. Determined to “restore” society by becoming a villain himself, Stain launches a crusade against “pretender heroes,” killing anyone who falls short of the standard All Might sets.

Both Stain’s appearance and the extent to which he holds his convictions are terrifying to behold. No hypocrisy here; Stain never once calls himself a hero, and he openly desires justice to be delivered upon him, almost welcoming his eventual demise—though it must be at the hands of the only hero he deems worthy to kill him: All Might himself.

Stain’s presence and worldview completely shift the paradigm in My Hero Academia. Fully-fledged heroes find his conviction so moving (and terrifying) that they’re frozen in fear when combating him. Long after his arrest, Stain sparks discussions among heroes, civilians, and villains about the true nature of the My Hero society and what it means to bring justice to the world. Through this exposure, Stain’s beliefs begin to seep into society: after all, what good is a society that trains and rewards heroes if they aren’t upholding true heroism? The ripple effect of Stain’s presence affects the microcosm of UA High, who are forced to alter how they handle their students’ security and instruction, as much as it does the world at large as a new generation of villains comes out of hiding to mold the world in the way they see fit. How many other villains can boast that level of influence?

8. The Spiral King/Lordgenome (Gurren Lagann)

Gurren Lagann 2007

This guy is a royal nasty bad.

Though Lordgenome was once a protector of humanity, he became the puppet king of the world-destroying Anti-Spiral race, promising to cull humanity so the Anti-Spirals would spare Earth from utter eradication. Lordgenome then raised up an army of sub-humans called the Beastmen and waged brutal war against humanity, forcing any survivors to hide in underground cities—all allegedly to ensure Earth’s population never grow past the Anti-Spirals’ specifications.

Try as he might to justify his actions, Lordgenome’s hypocrisy is quite clear. While the rest of humanity struggles to survive in their subterranean prisons, unable to dwell under the sun due to Lordgenome’s ever-patrolling mech-wielding Beastmen, Lordgenome himself lives in decadence on the surface, enjoying his fill of women and power. He does whatever he wants to amuse himself, even creating genetically-modified “children” until they no longer please him and then casting them aside to die in prettied-up caskets.

His inflated ego and pretentious posturing along with his sick and twisted actions make it all the sweeter when one of his cast-off daughters fights alongside the heroes to end his reign once and for all.

7. Kagetane (Black Bullet)

Black Bullet 2014

As suave and debonair as he is ruthless and intimidating, Kagetane mysteriously masquerades in a tuxedo and theater mask, concealing more of his identity than just his face. But what you don’t know only highlights the truths you do about Kagetane: he’s someone you don’t want to mess with.

Black Bullet 2014
With an almost Joker-like delight in violence, Kagetane kills as easily as he breathes. He wipes the floor with his opponents, making sure everyone in the room knows his strength. He’s always a step ahead and delights in showing off his intellect and skills.

He also has a sickeningly sweet-psychotic relationship with his equally murderous daughter, a tiny killer named Kohina, who gets irritated every time he warns her to keep one of his combat playmates alive. It’s adorable and horrifying as they tag-team to kill anyone who gets in their way.

6. Führer King Bradley / Wrath (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood 2009-2010

A fascinating villain, King Bradley is the result of a science experiment using alchemy, an attempt to purge series antagonist Father of his seven deadly sins. Father’s wrath was introduced into a number of human specimens with the goal of creating a vessel to become Führer of the country. King Bradley was the first and only one to survive the deadly experiments. His brutal philosophy and unflinching brute force make him a terrifying opponent on the battlefield, but his exceptional intellect, keen observations, and uncanny reflexes make him an even more dangerous opponent in a mental game.

Though originally an ordinary human being, with the introduction of Father’s wrath, King Bradley became a homunculus—an artificial being and servant of Father—and sees himself as such. However, King Bradley’s contradictory creation seems to come with contradictions of its own.

For instance, while Bradley shares the other homunculi’s disdain for humanity—regularly calling them weak, feeble-minded, and pathetically flawed—even he admits that he has some human-like qualities. Despite living to serve Father’s designs, King Bradley openly admits that his selection of a wife was his own decision, indicating he possesses the human quality of free will.

This is hardly the only human quality King Bradley possesses, and they all contrast sharply with his homunculus traits. King Bradley is cold and calculating but has a deep-chested laugh. He lives to serve Father’s purposes, but he also has a distinct will of his own. He answers to no one and yet serves Father loyally. Despite his overflowing wrath, King Bradley also has a complex sense of respect, always commenting when he stumbles across a worthy opponent—before cutting them down ruthlessly. He’s a complicated villain I love to watch.

5. All for One (My Hero Academia)

My Hero Academia 2016-2019

I’m a sucker for the all-powerful, all-confident, completely overwhelming and totally wicked mastermind villain. And boy does All for One deliver.

His ridiculously overpowered ability—one that allows him to collect others’ superpowers and give them to whoever he wishes—makes him a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. But it’s not just his carefully-cultivated set of skills that make All for One a villain to end all heroes. In addition to his overwhelming confidence, All for One is incredibly intelligent, constantly considering all possible outcomes and creating contingencies for them. He’s always three steps ahead of the heroes, and he revels in it.

My Hero Academia 2016-2019
All for One is also sadistic and cruel, and he loves to twist the knife into any hero he comes up against, whether it be crushing the spirits of top-tier heroes or belittling his nemesis All Might any way he can. Every action All for One commits is meant to inflict pain on All Might, even down to All for One’s choice of protege: Shiguraki Tomura, the son of All Might’s former mentor. All for One revels in the fact he’s effectively turned the young man against the one person who would care for him more than his biological parents.

Even after All Might defeats All for One in combat, it’s unclear who the true victor really is. Behind bars, All for One still manages to get under All Might’s skin, jeering and gnawing away at All Might’s confidence… all while his secret contingency plans roll into motion without him even having to lift a finger.

4. Douman (Tokyo Ravens)

Tokyo Ravens 2013-2014 / Photo from ChariotWheel

Remember what I said about super-powerful, all-confident villain masterminds? Douman is all that mixed with the creepiness of a four-inch long spider.

Tokyo Ravens 2013-2014 / Photo from My Anime Shelf
This wicked old man has an affinity for the macabe and the supernatural. Wielding incredibly powerful magics, Douman is a literal disaster phenomenon, rated at the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane in the Tokyo Ravens universe. He easily outclasses almost any magic-user who goes toe-to-toe with him, even cornering the powerful instructor Jin Ohtomo in the past, forcing Jin to cut off his own leg to escape.

Like an unstoppable plague, Douman descends upon the magic-instructing Onmyo Academy, attacking teachers and students alike in order to obtain a legendary artifact that once belonged to the most powerful magic-user in the world.

Every creepy bit of the occult mixes with Douman’s insane power level to form this gleeful, terrifying villain. But power comes with a price: worthy opponents are so rare that Douman delights in finding a magic playmate who can withstand his abilities, and he’ll treat them with intrigued respect. His simultaneous lack of care for human life combined with this honor system makes him a fascinating villain. This unpredictability adds to the danger he poses but also makes it all the more interesting when Jin finally beats him in a dramatic showdown, after which Douman pledges to serve Jin with all the arcane magics at his disposal.

3. Medusa Gorgon (Soul Eater)

Soul Eater 2008-2009 / Photo from Netflix

I don’t think there has ever been nor will there ever be a villain I loathe more than Medusa. She’s nasty, she’s sadistic, she’s scheming and conniving, and she can’t wait to ruin lives in order to accomplish her goals. Manipulative, persistent, and dangerous, Medusa is a force to be reckoned with and by far the best villain of Soul Eater.

Medusa is a scientist and researcher at heart, and she seethes at what she perceives to be the world’s stagnantion.1 Determined to shake things up, Medusa works to unleash the power of the first Kishin, an insane being with incredible power gained by taking the lives of innocent souls.

In her lust for the first Kishin’s power, Medusa will do whatever it takes to succeed, including turning her own child, Crona, into a weapon for her use. Heaping scorn and abuse upon Crona seems to work wonders for Medusa’s plans.

Medusa is an exceptional actress and seductress, regularly fooling almost everyone around her with her clever disguises and gilded lies. The heroes consider her a tremendous threat even while holding her in a maximum-security prison cell. With how clever and cunning Medusa is, the viewers know it’s only a matter of time before she escapes again to cause greater chaos than before.

2. Envy (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood 2009-2010 / Photo from Netflix

My feelings for Envy are as complicated as the character himself. Charismatic and funny, sarcastic and savvy, Envy is tough to hate. With an almost Loki-like trickster attitude, Envy can charm the fang off a snake. However, Envy is also brutal, sadistic, and gleeful as he inflicts pain and sparks violence. Envy is yet another homunculus and the embodiment of Father’s jealousy. As is apt for such a vice, Envy has the ability to shapeshift.

Always eager to show humans how foolish they are, Envy leaps at any opportunity to trick humanity into displaying their worst qualities and to rob them of hope. Envy loves to manipulate and taunt, like when he gleefully murders Lt. Colonel Maes Hughes while under the guise of the man’s beloved wife.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood 2009-2010 / Photo from Netflix
But while Envy is a brutal murderer, he is also a pathetic being that lives up to his name: he is, deep down, envious of humanity and secretly wants to be like them—a prospect that equally disgusts and intrigues him. As he wriggles and writhes in his final moments, he beholds the best humanity has to offer and marvels that he can’t defeat their spirit, knowing full well that he is, in fact, inferior to them. When he’s offered mercy and a chance to redeem himself, rather than admit defeat to “pitiful” humans, Envy takes his own life, warbling and whining to his last breath.

Pathetic, eerily relatable, snarky, and brutal—it’s these varied elements make Envy such an enjoyable villain to watch. Even if he is a sick murderer whose death avenged Maes Hughes.

1. Legato Bluesummers (Trigun)

Trigun 1998

Sometimes you just want a villain you can completely and utterly hate. A villain so cold and rotten to the core, they only exist to be loathed to the bitter end.

That is the definition of Legato Bluesummers in the Trigun anime adaptation.

There’s nothing redeemable about Legato. There’s no sad backstory in the anime to justify his actions—to himself or to the viewer. He’s a sick, twisted individual who loves to see protagonist Vash squirm and suffer.

Legato is as intellectual as he is sadistic. And with his incredible powers, Legato is almost more dangerous to Vash than Vash’s nemesis. Legato always maintains his cool composure, knowing Vash can never pose any threat to him. This isn’t some facade that shatters during his final moments either: Legato is always in control—of himself, of Vash, and of the situation—and he knows it.

Legato serves as a messenger and torturer to Vash, summoning him to a final confrontation with Vash’s psychotic brother Knives and working to get Vash to break his own code of ethics before the brothers’ showdown.

Throughout the entire series, Vash upholds the ideal to defeat any villain without killing them. This has brought incredible pain and consequences to Vash, but he holds onto this ideal… until his final showdown with Legato.

Legato is the one to get Vash to break his code for the very first time—not Knives, not any other villain. Just Legato. He’s the one clever enough and powerful enough to finally trap Vash, forcing him into a situation where there are no other alternatives: Vash must either kill Legato… or allow Legato to kill innocents. Legato pulls off this entire complex trap without breaking a sweat. As he urges Vash with eerie calm to shoot him, he smiles, knowing he’ll die having accomplished his goal.

Trigun 1998

Long after the bullet fires and Legato’s lifeless corpse collapses to the ground, Legato’s influence lives on, haunting Vash with guilt. Legato’s cool demeanor, his irredeemable psychosis, and his smooth grin even as he breathes his last—all these qualities work together to make my number-one anime villain.

Notes and References:

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Trigun photos from officially-licensed DVD. Unless otherwise specified, all others from VRV.co.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and all related terms are the property of/licensed by Viz Media and Warner Bros. Entertainment; My Hero Academia, Tokyo Ravens, Soul Eater, and Trigun licensed by Funimation; Gurren Lagann and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood licensed by Aniplex of America; Black Bullet licensed by Sentai Filmworks. And I am not affiliated with any of them.

From Him, To Him

Friday, October 11, 2019

Disneytober: A Fresh Take on The Princess and the Frog, Part 2 of 2

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

You have been warned.

Disney 2009
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.

Disney 2009
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.

Disney 2009

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.

Disney 2009

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.

Disney 2009
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.

Disney 2009
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.

Disney 2009
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.

Disney 2009
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.

Disney 2009

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!

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.

The Princess and the Frog and all related terms are the property of Walt Disney Studios. And I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him

Friday, October 4, 2019

Disneytober: A Fresh Take on The Princess and the Frog, Part 1 of 2

Disney has changed over the past few decades. To many fans, this company, once lauded for its high 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.


Tiana, a young woman who dreams of opening a five-star restaurant, finds herself forever one step away despite all her hard work. Prince Naveen, on the other hand, has never had to work a day in his life; and even though his parents have cut him off from the family fortune, he doesn’t plan to start any time soon. His solution to poverty? Find a rich woman to marry, and quick.

But Naveen isn’t the only one in search of riches, and he soon finds himself a victim of voodoo practicioner and conman Doctor Facilier, who turns the prince into a frog.

Naveen frantically searches for a princess to break the spell. But his attempts to restore his human form go awry when he mistakes Tiana for a princess: a single kiss turns Tiana into an amphibian too. Together they must venture to Mama Odie’s home in the bayou to find a way to break the spell before they’re doomed to remain frogs forever.

Today we’re talking about The Princess and the Frog.

Disney 2009 / Disney Movies.com

I couldn’t have been more excited when I heard The Princess and the Frog was in the works. The news came during a terrible Disney animation drought: the studio’s last hand-drawn animated feature, Home on the Range, had come out a whole five years previously; and for a studio that put out a new film almost every year1 and had won its laurels from its captivating 2-D animated stories, this was remarkable, to say the least.

Remarkable and painful for a fan like me. I’d grown up on lovingly hand-drawn Disney movies about princesses and fairytales. But princess movies had started to feel like an extinct species; we hadn’t seen one of those since the 90’s, twenty years previously.

So when Disney announced it was making a hand-drawn, 2-D animated retelling of the classic fairytale The Princess and the Frog, I was ecstatic.

That excitement lasted until about halfway through the film as my thrill was slowly swallowed by a dark sinkhole of disappointment. Characters I’d enjoyed so much in the beginning felt wasted by the end. Some of the subplots were overly-complex and confusing. And the romance—the biggest thing a hopeless romantic like myself seeks—was paced poorly. I felt so cheated out of what could have been my new favorite Disney film, I never watched it again.

Until now.

When I picked out The Princess and the Frog to review, I was prepared to rant. But I remembered little about the film except my crushing disappointment. And since ten years of dusty memories does not a fair review make, I sat down to rewatch the film before releasing any critique.

During my second viewing, I was shocked and humbled to find a film I’d been far too hard on. The Princess and the Frog contains a metric ton of fun and charm, all of which I’d totally forgotten. The Princess and the Frog was a financial success,2 and rightly so. It has so much going for it. This film wasn’t the disaster of a movie I remembered; all it needed was a little bit more time to cook to produce a truly delectable dish.

This post will contain spoilers for

The Princess and the Frog

You have been warned.

The Good

The characters, of course, were the main course for me.

The Characters

Disney 2009

Tiana is a criminally-underrated Disney protagonist and one of the best role-models out of the Disney princess crew. Her work ethic and determination are inspiring as she chases her dream; she’s optimistic but grounded. Her adoration for her father and close relationship with her mother make her even more endearing. Her gentleness and patience are unparalleled; but she’s kind without being unrealistically sugary-sweet. For instance, even though her friend Charlotte La Bouff always gets what she wants, Tiana is never bitter or resentful toward Charlotte. For this quality alone, Tiana is truly admirable.

Disney 2009

Disney 2009
Speaking of Charlotte, she may not do a lot in the film (more on that in a bit), but I also really appreciated that she wasn’t your typical rich snob. She may be somewhat shallow and very spoiled, but she still tries to be a good friend to Tiana. For instance, When Tiana finds herself at her lowest point, Charlotte immediately comes to Tiana’s rescue.

All the side characters are memorable, entertaining, and quirky. You’ve got the trumpet-playing alligator Louis, the lovestruck lightning bug Ray, the voodoo queen Mama Odie—everyone has a distinct personality, which makes this movie very engaging and lively.

Disney 2009

Disney 2009
However, the character who steals the show is the main villain, Doctor Facilier. Even the other characters proclaim how charismatic and charming he is.3 Despite being one of the slimiest Disney villains to date, Doctor Facilier has an almost MCU Loki-level of charisma. Whether he’s swindling suckers or making deals with his evil spirit “friends on the other side,” almost every line Doctor Facilier delivers is musical, lyrical, and pleasant to hear. The best parts of this film are almost always when Doctor Facilier is on screen. Look no further than his excellent Disney villain theme, “Friends on the Other Side,” which certainly recaptured the magic that makes so many classic Disney villains memorable.

But Facilier’s song wasn’t the only catchy tune on the soundtrack.

The Music

This film’s soundtrack stands right alongside the rest of the classic Disney library, thanks in no small part to The Princess and the Frog’s return to the Disney Renaissance’s biggest inspiration: musical theater.4 5 Even with a more classic Disney sound, however, the soundtrack also cooks up a unique identity thanks to its Louisiana flavor, including Cajun bayou songs; jazzy swing tunes; and, my particular favorite, Tiana’s big band number “Almost There.”

Disney 2009

While some of the soundtrack’s lyrics may prove lackluster, each song successfully builds the setting, maintains the aesthetic, and emphasizes the film’s themes.

The First Theme

One of the film’s main themes is presented through Tiana’s philosophy: “If you work hard, you’ll make fairytales happen.” This is constantly contrasted by other characters who try to—or seem to—get everything they want without working at all.

However, the film insists this is true and rewards Tiana for her hard work: not just by giving her a restaurant in the end, but also by allowing her to stand firm for her convictions.

In the climactic end of the film, Tiana clutches the seat of Facilier’s power in her hand: a talisman that, if broken, will undo his magic and destroy him. Facilier needs that talisman back, so with a little magic dust he creates a vision of Tiana’s dream: her restaurant in all its glory. He promises to fulfill her desires if she’ll only give him the talisman.

Disney 2009

She’s earned it, he argues. She’s worked hard to get this far. She’s almost there; she just needs to make one last little choice to get there—or else she may never get it at all. After all, the building she’d been saving up for eons was getting snatched away by another buyer. How else would she ever realize her dream if she didn’t cut a deal with Facilier?

But Tiana refuses. She won’t take the easy way out. And this conviction—this theme—is rewarded in the end: her hard work does pay off; she does end up with her restaurant after all.

And the film doesn’t just maintain this theme with Tiana: other characters must learn the same lesson. Charlotte, who only ever wanted things handed to her with wishing and magic, doesn’t end up marrying the prince like she’d thought. Nor does Prince Naveen end up with what he wants without a lot of hard work: life-threatening and life-changing experiences to teach him the true value of what he’s been given.

The Bad

I was stunned by how much I found deliciously entertaining and well-made in The Princess and the Frog upon this second viewing. This wasn’t an utter failure of a film—though it did have a few burnt spots that robbed the dish of five-star status.

Daddy-Daughter Relationship

The relationship between Tiana and her father was one of the most heartwarming things in any Disney film to date—but it only gets about two minutes of screentime. This is a tragedy. This relationship shaped Tiana into who she is. And by killing off her father so early in the film, we lost the heart of what made this movie unique: the same problem that plagued Frozen.

And Tiana’s dad isn’t the only one who gets a disappointingly small amount of love.


Alas, poor Charlotte. It’s ironic how a character played for laughs really only existed to advance the plot. Whether operating as a false plot point or as one of the many foils to Tiana’s philosophy, Charlotte serves as little more than a cardboard caricature rather than a well-developed ally to Tiana.

Disney 2009 / Giphy.com

Charlotte also creates a plot hole. Considering the film sets up that she and Tiana are such good friends, I wondered why Tiana didn’t ever just ask Charlotte for a loan. We can infer Tiana’s hard work and pride kept her from doing so under normal circumstances (though this is never addressed in the film). However, when Tiana runs the risk of losing the building for her restaurant, it would make sense for her to turn to Charlotte in desperation.

But these issues are small compared to my biggest problem with the film and what initially turned me off from The Princess and the Frog altogether: its romantic pacing.

Poor Romantic Pacing

Modern Disney films tend to poke fun at themselves for characters falling in love in a matter of days, but what about over the course of three scenes? This is exactly what occurs in The Princess and the Frog; a true disservice both to the characters and the themes of the film.

Tiana and Naveen are still snipping at each other long past the halfway point in the film, no closer to understanding each other than they were in the opening credits. Then, one rescue later, they’re suddenly best friends, joking with each other and teasing and laughing. One self-cooked meal later, and they’re suddenly dancing under the moonlight, falling in love.

Three scenes and their entire relationship has changed! I couldn’t help but feel they were falling in love without even knowing each other.

The Competing Second Theme

Tiana’s “work hard” theme gets overshadowed by the film’s second theme: “Find and pursue what you really want instead of what you think you want.” Tiana thinks she wants to open a restaurant; Naveen thinks he wants money. But Mama Odie tries to get them both to realize that what they truly desire is love.

This theme is fine by itself, but the way it’s presented, it ignores the importance of why Tiana wants to open a restaurant. Owning a restaurant wasn’t just Tiana’s dream; it had been her father’s dream first. It’s Tiana’s way of memorializing her father and thanking him for all he’d done. It’s her way to create a place that would bring people together, and, more importantly, it’s a way for her to reconnect with her father—the man who meant more to her than anything else. So when Mama Odie tells Tiana that opening a restaurant in and of itself won’t make her happy, it presents a confusing message. Is it wrong to pursue one’s dreams just because you’re not sharing it with a significant other?

With both these themes competing for time and attention, they end up contradicting one another, leading to confusion. But Doctor Facilier’s plans were more confusing still.

Villain Issues

As much as I adore Facilier, there are some pretty key flaws in his plan.

#1: The Plan is Overly Complicated

Facilier turns Prince Naveen into a frog. Then, using Naveen’s blood, Facilier casts a spell that makes Naveen’s mistreated servant, Lawrence, look like the prince. Lawrence must marry Charlotte, kill her, get her family fortune, and split the money with Facilier.

This plan has too many moving parts. Why can’t Facilier just transform himself? Why have the middle-man, Lawrence?

#2: The Magic System’s Rules are Arbitrary

According to the film, Facilier can’t conjure any magic on himself. But why? No reason is given; the rule is simply arbitrary.

Disney 2009
And this arbitrary magic system provides further complications at the end of the film, when Tiana breaks the talisman that holds Naveen’s blood. The talisman’s destruction allegedly stops Facilier’s plans, causing his evil spirit “friends” to come to collect his debt, which—considering Facilier had promised them all the souls in New Orleans they could want—Facilier can’t pay.6 The voodoo spirits take his soul as compensation, resulting in his ultimate demise.

#3: It’s a Bad Deal

The progression of Facilier’s deal with the evil spirits is entertaining, but its logic falls apart upon inspection.

Facilier forms this deal using logical leaps neither he nor the spirits seem to notice. Facilier assumes he can control New Orleans if he gains enough money. He promises that once he has half the La Bouff fortune, he’ll grant the evil spirits “all the wayward souls your dark little hearts desire.”7 But simply having money does not automatically mean he’ll rule New Orleans; it’s not as though there’s some law that signifies that the man with the most money runs the town. This is also assuming the one in charge of a group of people has the authority to promise their souls to the evil spirits, since it’s established souls must be given to the evil spirits; they can’t freely take whatever souls they wish.

This deal is not only begun on false premises, but it ends on them too. When Tiana breaks the talisman containing Naveen’s blood, the evil spirits arise and settle their score with Facilier by taking his soul. But why does breaking the talisman seal Facilier’s fate? What’s stopping him from getting another magical item from the evil spirits to pursue a new plan? Just because the scheme with Naveen didn’t work out doesn’t mean Facilier can’t come up with another way to get more souls. The spirits never gave Facilier an ultimatum; there’s no time limit or any other restriction on his scheme. There’s no reason why, just because this plan failed, the evil spirits should consider Facilier unable to fulfill his end of the bargain.

#4: Not Established Enough

Facilier’s goal, summed up nicely on The Disney Wiki, is “[t]o become the wealthiest and most powerful man in New Orleans.”8 His parlor tricks aren’t power enough; Facilier believes “the real power in this world ain’t magic; it’s money. Buckets of it.”9

But why is this his goal? Facilier’s motive is only “briefly implied to be a result of a poor upbringing” and financial struggles which led to social snubs by the wealthy elites, who “either treated him with disrespect or ignored him altogether.”10 (The Disney Wiki).

But this motive is not established enough. We never directly see the rich sneering at Facilier, and we don’t see the rich persecuting him at all.

You may argue that, rather than seeking revenge for persecution, Facilier’s real motive is that he’s jealous of the rich and feels he’s not getting the respect he deserves. But if this were the case, they should have shown Facilier deeply coveting wealth, power, and respect. However, all we see is Facilier shooting two grimaces in Big Daddy’s direction. That just don’t cut it for establishing a motive.

Disney 2009

#5: Not the Right Fit

Disney 2009
Finally, a thirst for power isn’t the best fit for Facilier’s character. Facilier’s strengths come from his slimy but charismatic personality; he works best as a supernatural-based trickster who enjoys messing with people. Having his main goal be obtaining power (that is, ruling New Orleans) hardly complements that. The earthy drives of greed and social status contrast too much with his supernatural basis (the aspect that sets him apart from many Disney villains), and the way Facilier paints ruling New Orleans as a “take over the world”-type goal feels far too cliché and big-picture, wasting Facilier’s potential as a villain. He’s not built to be a domineering ruler; he’s built to schmooze and swindle people.

All these problems mixed to spoil this Disney classic in the making. But despite these issues, this film only needed three simple changes to combine its high-quality elements into one harmonious, flavorful whole.

But more on that next week!

Notes and References:
  1. “List of Walt Disney Animation Studios Films,” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, October 4, 2019, accessed October 4, 2019.
  2. “The Princess and the Frog,” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, September 25, 2019, accessed October 2, 2019.
  3. Prince Naveen; The Princess and the Frog; Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker; Screenplay by Ron Clements, John Musker, and Rob Edwards; December 11, 2009; Walt Disney Studios.
  4. “The Princess and the Frog,” Wikipedia.
  5. Sideways, “What Makes Disney Music Sound Nostalgic,” YouTube video, 20:51, June 30, 2019, accessed October 4, 2019.
  6. Doctor Facilier; The Princess and the Frog; Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker; Screenplay by Ron Clements, John Musker, and Rob Edwards; December 11, 2009; Walt Disney Studios.
  7. Ibid.
  8. “Dr. Facilier,” The Disney Wiki, Fandom, August 18, 2019, accessed October 4, 2019.
  9. Doctor Facilier; The Princess and the Frog.
  10. “Dr. Facilier,” The Disney Wiki.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Unless otherwise specified, all are from Netflix.com.

The Princess and the Frog and all related terms are the property of Walt Disney Studios. And I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him