Quality of Character
Tiana was genetically engineered to appeal to parents, myself in particular. Tiana comes from a humble upbringing in New Orleans. When her extremely hard-working father teaches her how food can bring a community together, Tiana latches on to that passion and decides her dream is to open her own restaurant (something her father had always wanted to do but never got the chance). Tiana works multiple jobs and totally sacrifices any social frivolities ("I ain't got time for dancin'!") in the name of WORKING HARD to achieve her dream. When her childhood friend (who is rich and spoiled by her doting father) talks about "wishing on a star" and hoping for dreams to come true, Tiana repeatedly pooh-poohs the notion of just sitting back and waiting for something to happen. I docked Tiana just the teeniest tiniest of point margins in this category, because she's a bit myopic in the pursuit of her restaurant, at the expense of developing much else in her life. It's such a minuscule complaint, though, and I only bring it up, because it's the essence of Tiana's entire character arc. I'd also like to point out that Tiana is a 100% Self-rescuing princess: she is the one who ends up breaking the voodoo charm that sends the villain to... hell or whatever (that's not clear), and she is the trigger for the Prince turning into a less shallow and more meaningful person. So there.
Overall Film Quality
The message that the film sends isn't to abandon hard work, but rather to embrace that, even if you can't reach your dream, you life can be a full one if you have people to love and love you in return. Ahhhhh Disney, that one hit me right in the ticker!
The movie is beautiful to look at, combining the best of hand-drawn animation with exquisitely detailed backgrounds helped along by computers. Seriously, look at the swamp, it is breathtaking (and I just said that about a SWAMP).
The film does a lovely job of GENTLY hinting at ideas of racism and sexism. A moment comes with real estate agents who make some negative comments to Tiana about a restaurant being too much for "someone like her" to handle. I say gently, because in true Disney fashion, it's such a tiny thing said in passing by a small character, that if you don't WANT to engage your child in a discussion on these topics (racism, sexism) you don't have to. It is, however, a GREAT way to introduce that discussion, particularly because the film is a period piece, and you can talk about the presence of discrimination before civil rights movements and such.
Bottom line, Disney takes a fairy tale we all know and don't necessarily love and create a film full of magic, heart and wonderful music.
Here you have it: the category that puts Tiana at 3 instead of possibly one or two: Prince Naveen is a dufus. He's a shiftless drifter prince who's been disowned by his family and is wandering around New Orleans playing a ukelele and listening to jazz while offering to buy strangers drinks with money he doesn't have. The only smart thing he does in the whole movie is fall in love with Tiana. Ok, he also eventually is willing to sacrifice his own happiness to help Tiana reach her dream of her own restaurant, and that's why his score is just average instead of completely in the toilet.
A good score, though not the best. Most of the supporting characters are great fun: a jazz performing Alligator, a Cajun Lightning bug, a wonderful bayou Voodoo Queen, great stuff. The issue is that the villain is very flimsy and has unclear motivation. Facilier aka "Shadow Man" is a voodoo man from the French Quarter who wants to take over the town? I guess? He has a decent villain song, but other than that he's just a sinister figure who does voodoo.
I am also going to take a moment to give special notice to Charlotte La Bouff. Charlotte is Tiana's childhood friend, who comes from a rich family and whose father indulges her every whim. Although Charlotte is a spoiled dreamer, she never becomes a brat. In fact she is HILARIOUS and I desperately want Disney to market Charlotte merchandise and have meet and greets with her at Magic Kingdom. [In Charlotte voice] Please please please PLEEEEEEASE!!!
You know what my problem is with Randy Newman scores? Randy Newman. His voice. It's not... uhm... good. It's fine if you're doing quirky little Toy Story numbers here and there but it definitely wears on you. Why is the Princess and the Frog AWESOME? Randy Newman music SANS Randy Newman singing. All with the flavors of New Orleans injected into every song. Unlike other recent Disney "musicals," P&tF is overflowing with musical numbers, one more charming than the next (and not just a bunch of reprises either!!). I already included Almost There ^ for Tiana's character, there's a great sinister Cab Calloway-esque villain number, the outstanding gospel styling of Madam Odie's Dig a Little Deeper.. great stuff. Maybe I'm biased since I'm such a big fan of New Orleans in general, but these songs really stand out as unique in the Disney lexicon.
Tiana has the BEST dress at the Disney store. It's SO cute, looks just like the original, and has the high temperature practical spaghetti straps. Tiana is also a wardrobe changer, wearing another exsquisite sparkly blue number for a masquerade near the beginning of the film (this is the dress that appears on most movie posters). The dress they marketed for little princess wannabes, though, is the final swamp wedding dress and it's... just... WOW.
**DISCLAIMER** I do not own any of the likenesses of these heroines. All characters/likenesses are the property of Disney, and are not being used here for financial gain ****