Disney Dishes on Frog Princess

Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, and John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, revealed details on upcoming animated features during Thursday’s annual meeting of shareholders in New Orleans. Set for release in 2009, The Frog Princess will not only mark Disney’s return to theatrical 2D animation, but also a revival of the cartoon musical. Meanwhile, Toy Story 3 has been put on track for a 2010 release with both Tom Hanks and Tim Allen returning.

The Frog Princess is based on an original story by John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules), who will also direct the tale of love, enchantment and discovery. Set in New Orleans, the pic will introduce the newest Disney princess, Maddy, a young African-American girl living in the French Quarter. The story also involves a soulful singing crocodile, voodoo spells and lots of Cajun charm. The movie’s songs and score will be written by Oscar-winning songwriter/composer and New Orleans native Randy Newman, who previously contributed to the Toy Story Films and fellow Pixar hits A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc. and Cars.

“Like many of Disney’s most popular fairy tales, it has elements of magic, fantasy, adventure, heart, humor and music,’ says Cook. ‘The film’s New Orleans setting and strong princess character give the film lots of excitement and texture. We’re also thrilled to have John Musker, Ron Clements and Randy Newman lending their talents and creative energies to this project. John and Ron helped to usher in Disney’s second golden age of animation nearly two decades ago with The Little Mermaid, and are on track to create the Studio’s next great fairy tale adventure.”

Lasseter adds, “Aside from being longtime friends and colleagues, John and Ron are two of the most influential and imaginative filmmakers in the animation medium, and I am so excited to be working with them in bringing their creative vision for The Frog Princess to the big screen. They’ve come up with an original story that is deeply rooted in the fairy tale tradition, and it’s filled with great humor, emotion, and musical moments.’

Producing The Frog Princess is Peter Del Vecho, a 12-year Disney animation veteran who has a background in live theater. His credits include production manager on Hercules and associate producer on Chicken Little. Frog Princess will also serve to launch Maddy as part of The Walt Disney Co.’s successful Disney Princesses franchise, which is exploited across theme parks, consumer products, publishing, the Internet and other Mouse House businesses worldwide.

Disney CEO Robert Iger also mentioned during the meeting that he is reconsidering his opposition to releasing the 1946 feature Song of the South on DVD. The movie, which blends live action and animation to tell the tales of Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit, has long been shelved by the company in fear that some viewers may find the depiction of Jim Crow-era southern blacks offensive.

Photo: John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Disney and the Disney-owned unit Pixar Animation Studios, stands in front of the image of the black princess from the Walt Disney Company’s animated musical fairy tale called ‘The Frog Princess,’ which will be set in New Orleans and feature the Walt Disney Studio’s first black princess pictured on the screen Thursday, March 8, 2007 in New Orleans. The company unveiled the plans Thursday at its annual shareholders’ meeting in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Judi Bottoni)

AP via Yahoo! News – Mar 08 12:26 PM