I’ve always said that animators are among the happiest people on the planet, and Mark Henn and Mike Surrey were no exception. Tasked with bringing Tianna and Ray, respectively, to life in Disney’s instant classic, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, they were delighted to talk about the pleasures and perils of returning to a completely hand drawn format, reuniting with old friends who were masters of the art form, and the subtleties of animating characters in tandem with others.
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG is the first animated from from Disney to be completely hand-drawn since 2004. It’s also the first to feature an African-American princess and the first to feature a princess who is left-handed. The story, set in 1920s New Orleans, is about Tiana, a waitress who dreams of owning her own restaurant and the foreign prince who complicates things for her when he’s turned into a frog and Tiana’s attempt to turn him back into a human with a kiss backfires. Henn animated Tiana in her human form, and Surrey is responsible for bringing Ray, a romantic firefly to life. Tiana is voiced by Anika Noni Rose, and Ray by Jim Cummings, who is not a native Louisianan, but lived there long enough to become a Mardi Gras float designer and pick up a pitch perfect accent. Their previous work includes for Surrey animating Aladdin in the film of the same name, and Timon in THE LION KING. Henn’s work includes Jasmine in Aladdin and Ariel in THE LITTLE MERMAID. He also worked on a short “How to hook up your home theater” featuring Goofy.