The hillbilly frog hunters are presented as villainous versions of The Three Stooges. Laugh at their stupidity.
The Cajun fireflies are stereotyped with missing teeth and being "simple". Ray's subplot makes him look like a Cloudcuckoolander, though the whole thing is about him being a firefly and has nothing to do with his ethnic group. And of course, that worked out for him in the end.
Averted with most of the white characters. They're noticeably wealthier and more privileged than Tiana and her family, but they're not depicted as arrogant. Hell, Charlotte is a better friend to Tiana than her nameless black friends in the beginning.
Accidental Aesop: The movie simultaneously tries to shoot for "don't neglect your personal life for a goal" and "what you want isn't always what you need." However, Tiana doesn't simply doesn't want Naveen badly enough to feel her heart torn over him until quite late in the movie, and when she does, she's only briefly conflicted. Dr. Facilier offering her her dream on a platter is far more tempting. Thus, a fair moral would be "wants are powerful, important things, and there will be times when you're painfully torn over what you want in life. You may or may not be able to have both, but the main thing is that you don't step on anyone else to get there."
This could actually fit really well...some of the Loa are known for helping the hard-working underdogs of society against the "rich fat cats." When Facilier takes advantage of Naveen, Charlotte and Big Daddy, it's probably okay with them, but when he starts picking on Tiana, it becomes a whole different story. (And once Naveen makes the choice to get a job to help her, he becomes an underdog as well...) No wonder the Friends don't listen to Facilier's attempts to placate them after Tiana breaks the necklace!
Anvilicious: Tiana herself is a walking anvil with the message "remember to work hard". She drops the anvil practically every ten minutes into the movie.
Whether or not the "work hard to achieve your dreams" is an anvil that needed to be dropped or a dead unicorn Aesop. The former argues that the entire Disney Princess franchise required it since the earlier princesses were passive Distressed Damsels who got saved by handsome princes and whisked off to better lives. The latter argues that the earlier princesses had gone through their own struggles (as the classic three had grown up in poverty prior to becoming royalty) and still had to earn their happy endings too.
The poachers. Their existence is foreshadowed, but they still feel disconnected from the rest of the story and contribute little to nothing to the overall plot. It boils down to either a few minutes of gratuitous slapstick, or the scene that made Naveen realise that Tiana wasn't a complete stick in the mud, and made them like each other more.
Some viewers feel that the film should have been a more realistic (or at least less optimistic) depiction of the Jim Crow-era American south, saying that, while not quitePolitically Correct History, it's too much of a fairy tale depiction to take seriously. Of corse, other viewers are quick to point out that it's supposed to be a fairy tale.
Cliché Storm: Yes and no. It harkens back to the traditions of the Disney Renaissance (spunky princess, stylized fairytales, comic relief characters), but is conservative in it's use of cliches that could be associated with all of the things this movie is (first traditionally animated Disney movie in five years, first American princess, first Black princess, first explicitly 20th century period piece).
Crossover Ship: Odette/Dr. Facilier seems to be pretty popular. Understandable, seeing how her backstory is similar to what Facilier does to the main characters.
When Facilier shows Naveen his future and changes around the images on his cards, three roman numerals appear at the top: "IV" shows Naveen as a royal, "XVI" shows Naveen in front of a tower with his pockets turned out, and "IX" shows Naveen with a bride and her father with treasure around them. In the Tarot, the fourth Major Arcana card is "The Emperor", representing power and control, the sixteenth is "The Tower", representing a sudden crisis or disaster, and realizations of falsehoods, and the Minor Arcana card "Nine of Coins" refers to someone who has achieved fortune through hard work. Lawrence's card, meanwhile, shows an "X", representing the tenth Major Arcana card "The Wheel of Fortune", foretelling a sudden change of luck and fate.
Ray's lover, "Evangeline", is a reference to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem of the same name, which chronicled the expulsion of the French-speaking Acadian (Cajun) people from Eastern Canada before their migration to Louisiana. The poem is widely considered the unofficial national epic of the Cajun people, so it's quite fitting that the very Cajun firefly Ray would fall for a woman of that name.
It's funny when you realize that arguably, The Princess and the Frog is among the least-girly Princess movies, alongside Mulan and Pocahontas - it features a very menacing villain, a roadtrip, slapstick, strong leads that aren't romantically interested in eachother at all at first... In comparison, Tangled is a girlier movie, with less peril, less Nightmare Fuel and more "princess"-stuff.
Animation Age Ghetto: Doug Walker thinks another reason for the film not doing well, is due to many people's opinions that hand-drawn animation = kid's movie, while CGI animated films have been more accepted by adults.
Minority Show Ghetto: Not to paint too broad a brush... but there are plenty of viewers who felt that, while having a Black woman as the least may not have been the reason it suffered financially, it was definetly a reason. Let's just leave it at that.
Harsher in Hindsight: In a previous Disney animated feature, The Lion King, Timon once said that the stars in the sky were 'fireflies that were trapped in that big blue-ish, black thing.' Ray, a firefly in this movie, was killed by Dr. Facilier and turned into a star in the sky.
A while ago, some guy named Terry Pratchett wrote a novel called Witches Abroad, whose third act was set in a fusion of the Disney's Magic Kingdom and New Orleans, the plot of which involves voodoo and a prince who's really a frog...
In The Thing (1982), Keith David's character calls out the others for believing in "voodoo bullshit". In this film, he plays a voodoo doctor.
Tiana and Lottie are a black woman and a white woman (respectively) living in the racially discriminated time period but are very close friends. Awfully similar to Minny and Miss Celia from The Help, huh? Bonus points for Lottie having short, curly blonde hair, a liking for the color pink, and a thick Southern accent.
Charlotte "Lottie" LaBoeuf is obsessed with princesses and dreams of one day becoming a real princess. The British Royal family's newest addition is a princess named Charlotte!
Just Here for Godzilla: A lot of people's appeal for the film comes less from the plot and characterization (which, while not outright terrible, are considered somewhat lackluster by some compared to other Disney films) and more from it being traditionally animated in an era in which those kinds of films are so rare.
Misaimed Fandom: While Lawrence and Dr. Facilier have understandable reasons to feel bitter about their lot, living in the service or shadows of "fat cats in their fancy cars"... some viewers miss the mark about this NOT being an excuse to use magic to try to lie, cheat, steal, trick, and murder their way into money. There are not a few that go so far as to say they should have completely gotten away with their scheme from beginning to end, even though it would have ultimately resulted in destroying the lives of countless people, none of whom would deserve it.
The fact that Facilier decided to target the nicest rich man in New Orleans, who gives huge tips to the people who work for him and treats the black persons working for him with respect in the 1920s, doesn't help his cause. He was also ready to sell the souls of all the people of the town to his Friends of the Other Side in order to enlist their help.
Moe: The film's prologue can be seen as pure unfiltered Disney moe.
Moral Event Horizon: When Facilier crossed the line is uncertain, but it's likely when he offers the souls of all New Orleans to his "Friends" in exchange for their cooperation. He takes it a step further when he steps on Ray the firefly.
Narm: Ray's death is either one of Disney's biggest and most shocking Tear Jerkers or it's so hammered in and over the top that it becomes hilarious.
Narm Charm: It's almost too easy, to the point of cliché, that Ray ends up as a star alongside Evangeline. And yet... it's sweet, and it's fitting, and it works.
During the "Ma Belle Evangeline" dance, when Ray sings "Look how she lights up the sky", and Naveen looks to Tiana and sees a very cartoony sparkle in her eyes. And yet, it's just too adorable a moment to feel awkward.
Mama Odie has about 15 minutes of screen time, but steals the show when she first appears.
To a lesser extent, the hillbilly frog hunters.
Painful Rhyme: "Down in New Orleans" is packed with them. "We got magic, good and bad/Make you happy or make you real sad" is particularly cringeworthy.
Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Working hard is important, but so is love. Neglecting your personal life just to work hard is going to leave you unhappy.
Strawman Has a Point: Tianaís friends at the beginning, who complain about her working all the time instead of having fun on occasion, are portrayed as insensitive, but letís be honest—consistently excluding oneself from social activities with oneís friends does tend to put a dent in oneís relationship with them. The film seems to take their side on this when Tiana learns her Aesop, though the friends aren't seen again.
Lawrence could have been a much more interesting character if he had received more development. When Facilier shows him his tarot readings, we learn that he has a pretty decent Freudian Excuse for his back-stabbing, as he was pushed around by everyone in his life, including his family and the prince. And in one scene after that, he actually offers to give his amulet back to Facilier and not go through with his plan. But none of that comes up again after those scenes, after which he passively goes along with Facilier.
Dr. Facilier's issues with his Friends on the Other Side would have made a perfectly good story on their own. Dr. Facilier is basically Disney's version of Dr. Faustus. He had unimaginable demonic power at his fingertips, and all he could think to do was scam a butler and get some money. When his debt is finally called in, he begs for "just a little more time." Indeed, one of the movie's most prominent criticisms is that the villain was underplayed.
In the same sense, Facilier's personal Living Shadow minion turned out to be a conceptually impressive hit, which makes it a big shame that in the movie proper, the Shadow ends up doing little more than acting as an extra pair of hands.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: It was implied that Tiana and Mama Odie has known Facilier before but this wasn't shown or elaborated upon. This made the scene of Facilier offers Tiana a deal to make her dream comes true rather falls flat as we don't know how he knows about it and being the first time the two interact.
Vanilla Protagonist: Tiana for some. With the asshole Naveen as the love interest needing to learn An Aesop, a charismatic villain and entertaining side characters, Tiana mainly falls into a sort of Team Mom role. Her only flaw is that she's a workaholic, so she spends most of the movie teaching the Aesops rather than learning them. Notably the villain's plot has very little to do with her, making her a bit of a Pin Ball Protagonist too. The confrontation between her and Facilier is the first time that they meet in the film (though she clearly knows who he is already).
Win Back the Crowd: Zig-zagged, in that it won a crowd, but not necessarily the intended crowd.
On the one hand, Disney banked on this film to decide if they could continue producing hand-drawn animated features in an era dominated by CGI. While it received glowing reviews, it wound up getting released during a crowded movie season against Avatar, Sherlock Holmes and (of all things) Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, humbling it's financial success (it's intake, along with licensed merchandise, was closer to that of The Emperor's New Groove or Meet the Robinsons than any of their "renaissance" films, meaning it did okay). As a result, John Lasseter's "every other movie is 2D" plan got off on a bad start and, after similar results with Winnie-the-Pooh, flopped outright.
On the other hand, it succeeded at pretty much everything else. It's positive reception did re-established Disney's prominence in the animation industry, and began what many call their "second renaissance" (or the "Lasseter Era") which continued with the roaring successed of Wreck-It Ralph and especially Frozen. Tiana, being the first Disney Princess since Mulan twelve years prior, helped kick off a successful revival of princess movies which returned with a vengeance (in more ways than one) proper with Tangled a year later.
The Woobie: Tiana, especially when she was misled into thinking Prince Naveen was going to marry Charlotte instead of her. Poor Tiana.