The film was originally titled "The Frog Princess". Disney changed several key elements to the film after receiving numerous complaints of racial insensitivity. Besides retitling the picture to avoid the implication that the first African-American Disney princess was somehow ugly or animal, the lead character's name changed from Maddy to Tiana since "Maddy" sounded too much like "Mammy". A subplot about her working as a maid was also dropped to avoid negative stereotypes.
While the film takes place in the mid-1920s, the time when Prohibition was still enforced until 1933, alcohol is seen being served in Tiana's restaurant, on the riverboat, and at the La Bouffs' masquerade ball. Prohibition was widely ignored in the US generally, and particularly in New Orleans, so this isn't very surprising.
When the Shadow Man is reading Prince Naveen's tarot cards, the last card he pulls is of the prince's future. It features the prince sitting on a lilypad in a pond (with the money in hand), foreshadowing his later transformation.
The Mama Odie character was inspired and patterned after the late famed New Orleans storyteller Coleen Salley, even down to the character's voice. Coleen consulted with the director several times, but never lived to see the completed movie. Her name is mentioned in the films credits. Coleen was known especially for the telling of the old Southern children's story "Epaminondas and His Auntie" and her own updated version entitled "Epossumondas". Mama Odie can even be heard saying a famous line from those stories: "You ain't got the sense you was born with!" Coleen passed away September 16, 2008 at the age of 79.
One of the more subtle Louisiana references is the name of Ray's love, Evangeline. The name refers to the poem 'Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, about an Acadian girl's search for her lost love. The poem is held dear by the Louisiana descendants of the Acadians ("Cajuns"), people of French descent who were forcibly relocated during a Canadian war in the mid-1700s from Nova Scotia (aka Acadia) to Louisiana, often being permanently separated from their families in the process.
When Louis is describing Mama Odie in the swamp he pulls some Spanish moss down around his head and leaves his snout sticking out. This mirrors an almost identical scene in Disney's The Sword in the Stone (1963) when the Mad Madam Mim pulls her hair down over her face just before she transforms her face into that of a pig.
The print in the newspaper that Big Daddy reads in the opening song reads, "Rich playboy arrives in New Orleans this morning from the luxury liner S.S. Beesknees. This is the final stop in a whirlwind tour for the United States. Rumor has it that the eligible and handsome Prince is looking for a bride. True or gossip, the ringing of wedding bells has every lovely lady in town lining up to see Prince Naveen in all his royal glory. Dust off the gowns and tiaras. The royal ball of all balls is scheduled for the next week."
The streetcar Tiana takes to work during an early scene is labeled with the number "A113". A113 was the room for the animation department at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts; the room now houses graphic design classes). During the 1970s, directors John Musker and Ron Clements, in addition to Disney/Pixar animation executive John Lasseter and Pixar director Brad Bird, studied animation in room A113. "A113" labels are hidden in Disney and Pixar films.
New Orleans celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse - who is famous for his Cajun and Creole cuisine - plays the voice of Marlon, one of the alligators who tries to eat Naveen and Tiana in the swamp. He uses his signature "Bam!" line in some of his character's sentences. (Marlon is, of course, named after Marlon Brando, star of the New Orleans drama A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).)
The animation style was influenced primarily by Lady and the Tramp (1955) (for the city scenes) and Bambi (1942) (for the bayou scenes). Those films were, in the directors' opinion, "the peak of animation in the classic Disney animation style."
Dr. Facilier looks very similar to the Voodoo god of magic, ancestor-worship, and death, Baron Samedi. Baron Samedi is often described as being very thin, wearing a top hat and tuxedo, and having a skull face. When Dr. Facilier casts his spell on the Prince you can see a skull appear on his face, solidifying the connection.
Despite the fact that the characters they voice appear to be in their late 30s to early 40s, Terrance Howard (the voice of Tiana's father, James) and Oprah Winfrey (the voice of Tiana's mother, Eudora) significantly differ in age; Howard is 44 and Winfrey 60. Also, despite the fact that she voices a young woman, Anika Noni Rose (the voice of Tiana) is 41.
The Prince of Maldonia is called Naveen. Naveen is an Indian name (meaning "new"), which suggests that Maldonia is a Eurasian country (the name of Maldonia is a mix between Malta and Macedonia). During the "Down in New Orleans" montage, the newspaper mentions in print that Maldonia cannot be found on the map; i.e. it is made up for the movie.
The first hand-drawn Disney animated film since Home on the Range (2004). Disney's UNIX-based CAPS (Computer Animation Production System) digital scanning, ink-and-paint, and compositing system was dismantled following the cancellation of 2D animated Disney features following Home on the Range (2004). This, as well as the twenty-year old system being outdated, led Disney to create a new animation pipeline based around customized installations of Toon Boom Harmony, a retail software solution already in use for the DisneyToons productions and many other 2D productions from other studios. Character animation was done traditionally on paper and scanned into the computer system, while effects animation was input directly into Harmony using Wacom Cintiq pressure-sensitive tablet displays.
One notable similarity between Dr. Facilier and Keith David, who provided his voice, is that both have a prominent gap in their front teeth. The animators also incorporated David's expressions and gestures into the character.
Contains several references to the plays of Tennessee Williams (who, despite having been born in Mississippi, grown up in Missouri, and died in New York, was nicknamed "Tennessee"), was strongly associated with New Orleans, the setting for this movie (Williams lived for many years in New Orleans, wrote and set several of his plays there, and met his longtime boyfriend Frank Merlo, there; New Orleans hosts an annual literary festival named for Williams). References include: Charlotte calls her father "Big Daddy" (the name of the wealthy patriarch character in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof") and during the party, La Bouff calls for his dog, Stella, using the distinctive cry from "A Streetcar Named Desire." John Goodman, the voice of La Bouff, lives in New Orleans and has starred in several productions of Williams plays, including A Streetcar Named Desire (1995) and a 2005 Geffen Playhouse production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (as the original "Big Daddy").
The colored symbols that float around during the song "Friends on the Other Side" and that appear on the floor during Dr. Facilier's bargaining with his "friends on the other side" are based on actual vodou symbols called vévé. One main one is the voodu goddess of love, Eruzile's, heart vévé.
Animator Eric Goldberg supervised the animation of Tiana's "Almost There" fantasy sequence, which was based on the art of African-American painter Aaron Douglas, one of the major figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Goldberg had previously directed the stylized "Rhapsody In Blue" segment in Fantasia/2000 (1999), which was based upon the work of Al Hirschfeld. The fantasy sequence eschewed the Toon Boom Harmony pipeline of the rest of the film; the animators's line drawings were scanned into Photoshop and composited using Adobe After Effects.
During the tarot card reading, four cards are based on actual tarot: Prince Naveen's first card - the three of pentacles, which is the card symbolizing constructive energy particularly with money, and Lawrence's first card - the ten of wands, the card of oppression. When the Prince's second card is spun, it shows the prince in front of a tower with no money; the Roman numeral XVI is shown at the top denoting it to be 'The Tower', a card that represents uncontrolled change and loss. Likewise the final card the Prince is shown resembles the Card 0, 'The Fool'.
Ron Clements was at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival when he got caught in a downpour and took cover under a table. Clements later added the scene in the bayou in which Tiana and Prince Naveen get caught in the rain.
There was an early draft entitled "Stop and Smell the Roses" where Naveen tells Tiana she needs to have more fun. In this scene, Naveen claims in his home country (then called Maldaquesh), there are two numbers in-between 28 and 29 (twenty-badini and twenty-caladonza).
Upon receiving three Academy Award nominations on February 2, 2010, The Princess and the Frog (2009) became the first Disney animated feature film to receive more Academy Award nominations than just one since Pocahontas (1995).
The band that Louis plays for is named the Firefly Five Plus Lou, a reference to the Dixieland jazz band Firehouse Five Plus Two, which consisted of Walt Disney animators. The piano player is a caricature of animator Frank Thomas, who played piano on Firehouse Five.
The animation backgrounds in the film are entirely digital, painted in Adobe Photoshop using Cintiq tablet displays. Some subtle use of textured 3D animation from Autodesk Maya (for doors, blankets, automobiles, etc.) is also employed. 3D models from Maya were also used to establish the perspective for complicated pieces of architecture such as the La Bouffs' mansion and the St. Louis Cathedral.
In voodou (voodoo, voodun, voodu...etc) the spirits, or gods, are called Loa (or Lwa); they are all connected to "nations" or families. Doctor Facilier is odd in that he wears the colors (black and purple) and styles (suits and skulls) of the Ghede, has the symbol for a Rada god on his wall, but the main mask and shadow creatures are normally attributed to the Petro.
The dance Naveen and Tiana do in the last few seconds resembles a simple version of the "cakewalk". It was also known as "The Cake-Walk", "chalkline-walk", and the "walk-around". According to Patricia C. McKissack, author of "Mirandy and Brother Wind", a book about cakewalks: "First introduced in America by slaves, the cakewalk is a dance rooted in Afro-American culture." There are many variations on the cakewalk, but the one shown is simple, and may be a sign that Naveen made good on his implied promise of teaching Tiana to dance.