20 greatest works of fiction about New Orleans

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3. The Princess and the Frog

For all that The Princess and the Frog is about a woman who is magically transformed into an amphibian, it also has a distinct and often beautiful sense of place. That’s all thanks to New Orleans.

Tiana, the film’s protagonist, starts out not as a princess, but as an aspiring business owner. She wants to open a cafe in the heart of New Orleans. That’s no mean feat, considering she’s a woman of color trying to start her own business in the early 20th century American South. This being Disney, The Princess and the Frog goes light on the institutional racism and leans into the goofy animal aesthetic.

Still, Tiana faces significant struggles even within the script. She has to work as a low-paid waitress in the 1920s, for one, and has the requisite deceased parent so familiar to Disney viewers. At least she still has her mother, voiced by Oprah.

Talking frogs

When she goes to her rich friend Charlotte’s party, Tiana encounters a talking frog. The frog claims to be a prince, turned into a slimy swamp dweller by Dr. Facilier, a voodoo practitioner voiced by the wonderful Keith David. Naturally, Tiana is reluctant to believe him. It’s not like the frog has a wallet with a photo ID, after all.

In fact, the frog really is a prince, one Naveen of Maldonia. He’s something of a playboy, though he’s experiencing a rough patch after his parents have cut him off. Naveen plans to marry Charlotte for her money. However, after crossing paths with Dr. Facilier, he gets turned into the aforementioned frog.

Frog Naveen mistakenly thinks the gussied-up Tiana is a princess and asks her to kiss him. She reluctantly does so but, not being an actual princess, gets turned into a frog herself. Together, the amphibian duo seeks out the friendly hoodoo priestess Mama Odie, who does her best to help them. Of course, it’s also Mardi Gras, which means we get a finale set at a boisterous, colorful parade.