Next to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, no film on this list had more upward mobility than The Princess and the Frog. I saw this movie in 2009 and thought — “Yeah, that was good, but it was pretty racist.” But, after a few years of maturation, and a greater respect for Disney, I grew to like this film — a lot.
Racism and stereotypes aside — this is a terrific film. Now — story alone — this would probably be hovering around — say — 30. And that’s where I originally ranked this on my first draft of the list. It was around #33, #34. But, after a rewatch — well, you see where it ended up.
The reason for that climb is twofold — well, three. First, the animation is absolutely gorgeous. Absolutely spectacular. Second — and this is a two-parter. The film is very enjoyable, doing some great things visually and in terms of the writing (again, racism aside), and (this is the second part of number two) it shows respect to Disney films of old. There are a lot of visual references to other Disney films (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Fantasia, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, The Rescuers and Tarzan, to name a few), and that goes a long way with me. And third — and this should always be the most important — I cannot stress how important it was that Disney have a black princess. Sure, they did it kicking and screaming, using as many stereotypes as they could to cushion the fall, but the fact that they did it is a huge step for them, and that automatically makes this one of the better Disney films they’ve made. (Plus the animation is really nice.)