Griffin Stenzel’s review published on Letterboxd:
ahh watching this felt like a warm mug of cocoa after a long, rainy day. instead of forced pop culture references there’s a detailed setting and time of place, instead of random needle drops and montages there’s a killer soundtrack, and instead of gross cg animation there’s utter hand drawn beauty!! seriously, this is one of Disney’s most gorgeous films. the deep rich colors and bright explosions of light instill and instant feeling of nostalgia and homey familiarity.
and the rest of this movie is just as charming! the creative experimental flourishes like the ‘Almost There’ postcard sequence and glowing fireflies of the bog remind me of Fantasia, the nonstop trumpet playing in the background is lovely to listen to, and the retro 1920s aesthetic glows. truly magical stuff. my main complaint is that the romance is superrrrr rushed, I feel like a song that drives the main couple together is missing, like “A Whole New World” or something.
as for the elephant in the room: yeah it’s pretty problematic that the first black Disney princess spends most of the time... as a frog. however, it’s nice that this movie addresses how systemic poverty and racism have affected Tiana’s life, whether it’s when she and her mom leave a grand mansion to their small house or how Tiana didn’t grow up with the privilege of being able to believe that she could wish upon a star and her dreams would come through. she knew that she would have to work -- and work hard, to get where she wanted to go. she had a dream, yes, but she doesn’t just wish for it: she works for it.
so with this dream, Tiana doesn’t think she has time for fun, dancing, love, or anything else in order to achieve it. she spends the whole movie resisting falling in love with Naveen, but eventually realizes that she wouldn't be truly happy unless she had the kind of family and love her mother and father had. in this way, Disney tempered their original messages, while still leaving them intact: it's important to dream; just remember you have to work for your dreams. it's important to fall in love; just remember that it's important because we need family, and that it's not the only thing. it truly ends the 2D Disney era with a bang.