With “The Princess and the Frog” we get an entirely new story from Disney. For the first time we have a Prince in need of rescuing by a brave woman. The villain of the piece is focused entirely on Prince Naveen. Dr. Facilier is more than willing to create collateral damage, but his goal is the death of Naveen so that his plans for New Orleans can come to fruition. Tiana is an unexpected savior who ruins the entire plot.
Naveen is a departure for Disney in many ways. He is flippant, irresponsible, and disgraced. He does not embark on his adventure to find love or fulfillment, but to find a rich wife who will allow him to keep his frivolous lifestyle. He is good looking, but entirely shallow. There is no hint of hidden depths or a desire for more. In fact, if Facilier hadn’t interfered, Naveen would have happily flitted through his life with no purpose. Instead, he is rescued. First from himself and then from the villain.
Naveen, like Shang before him, is a new kind of Disney Prince. Disney has finally shifted to male characters who are both more complex and more believable. Naveen is not easily placed into the stereotypical Prince box. He doesn’t fall in love at first sight. He is not very heroic. He decides, in the end, that maybe being a frog isn’t so bad after all. He is flawed but his ultimate strength comes from realizing those flaws and working to overcome them. He learns not only what is important in life, but what makes him a better man (or frog in this case). Love is not the ultimate goal, but the transformative power that makes the goal possible. It is a fundamental shift in what it is to be a man.
With this change, women shift from the object to be achieved to a partner in the action. Both Prince and Princess have a role to play in the story and those roles can shift and change based on skill not on gender. It is a good change. It allows both Prince and Princess to be and do more. It acknowledges that men and women are complex and diverse individuals that are more than any role they are assigned.
Good job, Prince Naveen!