Anika Noni Rose had what I would call a bittersweet time last year. She graduates from miniscule film roles and stage work to grab a good supporting role in the feature film adaptation of Dreamgirls. But despite her turning in pretty damn good singing and acting, she’s completely ignored onscreen and offscreen for Jennifer Hudson’s star turn and Eddie Murphy’s vastly overrated supporting work. I believe in the Oprah episode discussing the movie, the closing credits got more screentime than she did. Still, she played the silent backup with grace, and she’s even garnered a small measure of revenge against her zaftig co-star.
Rose just landed the lead role in Disney’s The Frog Princess, which is a N’awlins-set animated film that’s most notable for being the first “princess” movie about a black princess. Every black female entertainer in music and film tried to land the role, including Jennifer Hudson, and Rose beat them all. Good for her. Every wall and ceiling that we can break in this industry is a good one. I just hope that this film doesn’t become overshadowed by the racial significance and merely functions as a good entry into the Disney princess canon. What’s also notable about it is that it marks Disney’s tentative return to 2-D animation, which they promptly turned their back on a few years ago after Home on the Range.
If this particular medium is going to have any life left on the bigscreen, it’s going to take a Disney-sized effort to make it happen as cheap, easy CGI features are the standard these days and, in a world of shrinking profit margins, that’s unlikely to change any time soon. It’ll be an interesting release for 2009, which is now known as the year that 3-D digital films are breaking out in a big way, with Cameron’s Avatar and Monsters vs. Aliens dropping right next to each other. Hopefully, The Frog Princess won’t come off as a dated relic amidst the high-tech mammoths of that year. With the well-worn storyline and Randy Newman-provided song selection, there is no frickin’ way that could happen, right?