Why’d it Bomb? The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Back in October, I wrote a couple of articles about how the Frozen phenomenon kind of left the other modern animated Disney movies in the dust. For the first article, I focused on the merchandising aspect of Disney and didn’t really talk about what I thought was really interesting, which was not only that the other movies lacked merchandise but it felt like Frozen was the only one that really had any staying power while the other movies were pretty much forgotten after a while. In the second article, I talked more about my feelings towards this (as well as the lack of merch for the other films) but I feel like I might have underestimated the popularity of some of the movies I mentioned in that article as I later realized that some of the movies that “used to be popular but have been forgotten” I mentioned in the article (like Up or Inside Out) aren’t really forgotten and are still pretty popular. However, today were going to talk about a Disney movie whose merchandise sold pretty well yet Disney still found to be a disappointment because hardly anyone went to see the movie itself.
I am of course talking about The Princess and the Frog. Even to this day, Tiana can still be found on the Disney Princess line (I even saw her on a Disney Store bag a lady was holding the other day) so it seems like the merchandise sold well enough. In fact, according to this article, this movie did actually sell a lot of merchandise . Plus you can still meet Tiana and Naveen at Disney World.
But at the box office? It was not only a disappointment but it gave Disney cold feet about future Disney Princess movies. Both Tangled and Frozen‘s Disney Princess elements were downplayed in the trailers and they were portrayed as Dreamworks-style comedies, when they were anything but.
They even gave the movies vague titles that more or less hid they were Disney Princess movies while this movie pretty much made it clear it was a Disney Princess flick.
But why did this movie underperform at the box office?
Some people think it might’ve been because of two factors: they think the princess title might’ve turned off boys from the movie, as it made them think it was a little girls movie, and the second reason is some people think the movie might’ve turned people off because Tiana is black. They might have a point with the former thing but I’m not sure that Tiana being black had anything to do with it. Yes that probably did turn off a lot of very racist people (out of all the Disney movies, Trump is probably not going to show Barron this one) but, seeing as Tiana dolls sold well despite her race, I don’t think that had a huge influence on the movie’s box office.
Instead, I think it might’ve been these things:
4. People thought the movie was racist
While I doubt racists themselves affected the movie’s box office gross, there were rumors about the movie that turned some people off and made them think it was racist. Some of these things were changed (like Tiana was changed from a chamber maid to a waitress) but, even when the movie’s trailers started airing, there were still things that people found to be problematic of the movie, like the fact that the first Black Disney Princess spends most of the movie being a frog. It didn’t help that many Disney movies in the past have had racial stereotypes in them. In their defense, most of those movies happened back when racial stereotyping was the norm but, at least back then, people still gave Disney a hard time for it.
3. Maybe Disney didn’t do enough to promote the movie
If you read the article above, you’d think this movie had a lot of promotion. Yet, I have to be honest, I don’t remember that many commercials for it airing on TV. Oprah, who was in the movie, didn’t even promote it on her show. And many audience members probably find out what movies are coming out through either trailers or commercials. As a result, some people might’ve not even known there was a new Disney Princess movie out. It probably didn’t help that it was released during the Christmas season, when a lot of successful movies were coming out, which meant that it couldn’t help but get lost in the shuffle.
2. Children have become too used to animated movies being comedies
In my article about Epic, I said that animated comedies seem to sell better nowadays than other types of animated movies. And that is pretty much true. I think it has to do with the fact that it’s been a decade since Shrek and, in that time, many studios have tried to ape Shrek’s success by making all of their animated movies comedies. As a result, I think that many children have grown up with more goofy animated movies and expect every animated movie to be a joke fest like Shrek was. Yet The Princess and the Frog was not only trying to be like an old fashioned animated movie but it was promoted as such.
However, seeing as kids have grown up with comedic animated films, they probably weren’t interested in seeing something that was more akin to The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast and, therefore, they stayed away.
1. It came out around the same time as Avatar, a movie praised for it’s technological advancements
The Princess and the Frog was an attempt by Disney to bring back 2D animation. Unfortunately, at the same time, Avatar came out, which was being praised by people for making special effects look even more realistic than before. Having The Princess and the Frog come out around the same time as Avatar might’ve made it look more old fashioned and out of date by comparison, which might’ve turned many people off and caused them to flock to Avatar instead, where they could oogle at how cool the Na’vi looked and how far we’ve come in terms of special effects.
These are all possible reasons the movie’s box office intake was…mediocre to say the least. Could it also be that people just didn’t want to see a 2D animated movie in 2009? Maybe. Although, who knows, in a less busy time, the movie might’ve done better, even in 2009. But we’ll never know and, unfortunately, it did not revive 2D animation for Disney like everyone thought it would.