Movies: The Princess and the Frog * * *
The traditional virtues of Disney animation have been eclipsed in recent years by the arrival in the studio stable of the all-conquering Pixar.
In 2004, Disney seemed to have called time on hand-drawn animation when they announced that Home on the Range would be the last such old-fashioned 2D feature cartoon they'd make.
Ironically, it was Pixar's John Lasseter who cried foul, and persuaded studio bosses to greenlight this animated fairytale from Ron Clements and John Muskers, the brains behind such films as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.
And thank God he did, because The Princess and the Frog is a delight from start to finish.
A traditional, even conservative animation when compared to the clever-clever Pixar products, The Princess and the Frog is set in New Orleans in the jazz era and adds elements of race and class to the classic Grimm brothers' fairytale.
Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) provides the voice of Tiana, our Cinderella-like black waitress who's working night and day to save enough money to open a restaurant in honour of her late father. When a dashing European prince comes to New Orleans, her rich and pampered childhood playmate Lottie LaBouff asks her to do some catering for a party in the prince's honour.
A snaky voodoo man called Dr Facilier has designs on Lottie's father's money, and hatches a plan to turn the real prince into a frog and replace him with a dupe whom Lottie will unsuspectingly marry. Things go according to plan, but when the prince becomes a frog he mistakes Tiana for a princess and asks her to kiss him. When she does, she turns into a frog as well.
With Dr Facilier and his ghostly henchmen after them, they escape into a bayou, where they meet all manner of strange creatures, including a Cajun firefly, a trumpet-playing alligator and an ancient voodoo priestess who may just be able to help them out of their predicament.
It's all pretty standard stuff, then, but in the best possible sense, because The Princess and the Frog boasts not only a sturdy storyline but bags of wit and invention, sumptuous set-piece animations and numerous musical numbers into the bargain.
There are shades of everything from The Aristocrats to The Jungle Book, a wide range of engaging characters, and an underlying sweetness that is sure to delight kids and their minders alike.