PROVO -- Disney's newest classic, "The Princess and the Frog," isn't just the first 2-D animated film the studio's made in five years, it's also got roots in Utah.
An animation supervisor who brings the frog, Prince Naveen, to life on the big screen, is Colorado native and BYU grad Randy Haycock. He dreamed as a student of seeing this kind of animation make a comeback.
"I've wanted to be an animator since I was 15 and saw the film ‘Fantastia,'" he says. "When the big devil came out of the mountain at the end, I was just like, ‘Oh! I've got to do that.'"
BYU was a natural fit.
"I ended up at BYU because they had a good film program, and they let me in too!" he jokes.
Haycock never quite gave up on animation, even when Disney was going through a rough time after "The Black Cauldron." The company had to lay off several animators.
"I ended up switching over, because I missed drawing, to illustration so I could draw -- all the time thinking, ‘Well, this will be good education for me in case animation comes back,'" Haycock recalls.He knew it had done so when Disney released "The Little Mermaid," telling his wife it was time to move to California. There, he worked on films like "Aladdin" and "The Lion King."
Haycock credits Pixar's John Lasseter for making Disney's comeback happen this time around, five years after its last 2-D animation film, "Home on the Range."
When Disney and Pixar merged, Haycock says Lasseter was instrumental in making the return to the animation classics for which Disney is known a top priority.
The movie "The Princess and the Frog" puts the classic story of the Frog Prince in New Orleans in the 1920s. Tiana, Disney's first African-American princess, is a hard-working girl who wants to open her own restaurant. The twist on the tale comes when Tiana kisses Prince Naveen, hoping to transform him back into his human form, only to find herself green and hopping instead.
There's voodoo magic and jazz music, plus a soundtrack from Randy Newman to round out the action.
"[We're] trying to reintroduce ourselves to our audience and to trya new generation of kids who really aren't familiar with animation in this form, when it's clicking on all cylinders," explains Bruce Smith, who is also a supervising animator with Walt Disney Animation Studios.