The Princess and the Frog is also notable for featuring Disney's first black princess. Anyone who thinks that this is insignificant, or questions how irrelevant this decision was, is out of their mind. I was working for a major retailer when the film was released, and the Tiana dolls flew off the shelves. All children, particularly non-white children, long to see themselves represented on screen, and the pinnacle of this representation for little girls in this country is seeing themselves in a Disney Princess, so make no mistake, this was a watershed moment.
En route to the party however, Naveen and his servant Lawrence (Peter Bartlett) come across The Shadow Man, Dr. Facilier (Keith David) who offers Naveen the chance to be free of his princely duties which have become burdensome for the carefree Naveen. Naveen gets more than he bargained for however, when The Shadow Man turns him into a frog, and uses a magical totem filled with Naveen's blood to turn Lawrence into a double for Naveen.
When Naveen arrives at the party, Charlotte is immediately smitten with him, not aware of the fact that he's actually Lawrence in disguise. The real Naveen finds Tiana, who is dressed as a princess (costume party, remember), and convinces her that she should kiss him and break the spell. However, because Tiana is not a real princess, she finds herself transformed into a frog as well. The two frogs now find themselves on the run, in an attempt to find someone who can break the spell and change them back before Charlotte marries Lawrence, who will turn control of the city over to Facilier once he's married to Charlotte, whose father (John Goodman) more or less runs the city.
It sounds hokey, I know, but it works. It all works so unbelievably well, I was shocked at how good the film was. I would wager to say that it's the best Disney animated film since The Lion King owing a lot of that to the biggest and best asset the film has: a score and songs by Randy Newman. I've always run hot and cold with Newman as a songwriter. He has undeniable talent, but his songs can run the gamut from brilliant to unlistenable. Thankfully, he pulls out a ton of the former and none of the latter here, and all six songs he wrote for the film are fantastic. Getting Dr. John to sing "Down in New Orleans," the song over the opening titles was a stroke of genius. He's so much a part of the city of New Orleans, and his voice welcomes you right into the world of the film, and it really does set the tone for everything that follows.