OK, so here it is. I am trying to spoiler out the specifics, but, really, if you don't want to know, why are you here? ;-)
Style: This was a rough cut with a lot of mid-production scenes as in a Disney DVD deleted scenes feature. The completed scenes are lush, atmospheric hand-drawn Disney animation and gorrrr-geous! As I said earlier, the New Orleans scenes are evocative of Thomas Kincaid, but I think better, as the Monets that influence him, and the bayou is luminescent. One musical number is mainly art deco stills which is striking but not quite dynamic enough yet - probably due to the stage of development. I can't wait to see the finished product.
Story: I was glad to see they dropped the creepy stalker frog scene from the teaser trailer. Tiana is trying to earn money to buy a restaurant when she meets a prince who has been magically transformed by a voodoo spell into a frog.
She kisses him, and instead of returning him to human, she is transformed into a frog (if you don't want your kids to know that then hide the ads for the toys). The two amphibians go in search of a voodoo priestess who lives in the bayou who has the power to change them back. They need the kiss of a princess to change them back, and the only one available is the daughter of that night's Mardi Gras King, Charlotte, a rich southern belle and childhood friend of Tiana. In the meantime they must avoid the mechanations of Dr. Facilier who is using the Prince's manservant Vincent disguised as the prince to fool Charlotte in order to steal her fortune.
So far I found the love story a little bit strained as the prince didn't have a whole lot to recommend him, he doesn't really seem all that bright, and as a frog he's not that handsome. The adventure element was good once they work on the pacing a bit. There were some seriously creepy baddies - possibly even too creepy for a two year old princess fan.
They were like the shadows from Ghost.
They didn't bother my six year old too much but a younger child might be really freaked by that.
Characters: Tiana: self-assured, independent, and intelligent. Many of our Disney Princesses are industrious, and on a scale of Ariel lackidaisicality to Cinderella servitude, Tiana is certainly on Cindy's side of the scale, working several waitress jobs to buy her own restaurant.
She spends much of the movie as a frog - maybe it was the stage of the animation but I was ready for her to change back into a human -
I was a little bit sad when Beast transformed. She is admirably voiced by Anika Noni Rose of Dreamgirls and who we LOVE in the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I am sure that Tiana will be a favorite of millions of little princesses.
Prince Naveen: sounds like a cross between the Nasonex bee and Steve Martin's Clouseau. He's a prince from the fictional country of Maldonia
and spends most of the movie in frog form. Basiclly he is a shiftless layabout who has to marry for money, which is what brings him to New Orleans to meet Miss Charlotte LaBouff.
He's sweet and fairly charming but I thought he was more comic than romantic. He does display some heroism so if that all comes together it could go a long way toward redeeming him.
Dr. Facilier (Shadow Man): A credibly bad villain with a seriously freaky shadow. Voodoo witch doctor in hock to evil spirits.
Vincent: I think I remember this guy from Enchanted when his name was "Nathaniel". Honestly, he's like exactly the same, even my 6-year-old said so when I asked her who he reminded her of.
Louis: trumpet-playing alligator. Sweet-natured, probably needs a few more jokes.
Ray: Sparsely toothed Creole firefly. Someone on one of the boards described him as "this movie's Sebastian" and that's accurate.
Charlotte LaBouff: A fairy tale obsessed daughter of Big Daddy LeBouff. Childlike and good-hearted, she is indulged, but not spoiled, and I like that. She could easily have been Scarlett O'Hara or an evil stepsister.
Mama Odie: the Yoda/Mr. Magoo-ish "fairy godmother" who helps the two
as they try to become human again.
The supporting cast of characters is colorful and admirably voiced by talents such as Oprah and John Goodman.
Music: The Randy Newman music was pleasant enough, but I didn't find anything particularly memorable about any of the songs. It just seemed like they ran through the checklist of Nawlins musical styles (zydeco? check! dixieland? check! gospel? check!..). It lacked the hook that other Disney scorers have been able to deliver (*cough* Mencken! *cough*). It's passable - and at the risk of sounding like Woody Allen ("and the portions were so small"), I felt like it could've used more music, as there were a few lulls in the tempo.
Overall, we definitely plan to see this again, and even as presented it's a very enjoyable movie experience. It's going to be absolutely stunning visually. The princess is spunky and independent, and in posession of talents and ambitions outside of her personal charms. They even back pedal a bit on the magical abilities of wishing stars, which I think for Disney is a big step. We were really excited to have this opportunity and I think with a few minor adjustments this will be another princess film that is in heavy rotation in the DVD changer. Thanks, Mr. Lassiter, and I'm sorry I missed you, and I take back everything bad I ever said about Nielsen, even though they have cost me my beloved Pushing Daisies, because they got me into this screening.