A fairytale that's a bit too scary for little kids.
This G-rated film was called in for classification by the Chief Censor after a number of complaints from parents that their children found the movie frightening and upsetting.
The Princess and the Frog is an animated fairytale set in New Orleans.
Walt Disney's The Princess and the Frog is an animated film shot using traditional 2D animation. The film is set in New Orleans in the 1920s and tells the story of a hard-working waitress called Tiana who wants nothing more than to fulfil the dream of her late father and own her own restaurant. A visiting prince called Naveen falls under the spell of a local con man called Dr Facilier, who uses voodoo to transform Naveen into a frog. Naveen, who is in frog form, believes Tiana is a princess and he begs her to kiss him so that he can return to his human form. But instead, she is transformed into a frog. With the help of an assortment of new found friends, Tiana must break the voodoo curse.
The film's G rating was assigned by the Film and Video Labelling Body using the cross-rating system, where unrestricted films are given the same rating as they were given in Australia.
We received complaints from parents who took their kids to see the film during the school holidays.
The Princess and the Frog was released in New Zealand for the Christmas 2009 school holiday market. However, after its cinema release, the Classification Office received a number of complaints from parents that their children had been frightened by the film. They felt that the G rating was inadequate and that there was no warning in either the rating or advertising that there were scary scenes in the film. For one parent, the supernatural voodoo scenes were noted as being disturbing for young children:
My problem lies in the lack of warning of the level, frequency and graphic nature of the supernatural themes of this film. Had I known that this content was there, I would not have subjected myself, let alone my daughter, to it; [my daughter] also suffered nightmares afterwards and she has never suffered nightmares before.Letter from complainant, 2009
On the 18 January 2010, the Chief Censor directed the Department of Internal Affairs to obtain and submit the publication for classification under s13(3) of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. In this direction the Chief Censor stated that:
This film was cross-rated G by the Film and Video Labelling Body from its Australian rating of G. We have received four complaints that this rating is inappropriate. Although it is rated G in Canada, USA, Japan and Ireland, it is rated U (not Uc) in the UK, PG in Singapore and K-7 in Finland. I am consequently concerned that the rating assigned to this film may not accurately reflect its content under New Zealand law.Chief Censor letter to the Department of Internal Affairs, 2010
The Classification Office applied the legal classification criteria to the film.
For a film to be classified, it must in some way deal with matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty or violence. Although The Princess and the Frog is a children's film, it was able to be classified by the Classification Office because it 'dealt with matters such as ...horror':
While the film does not deal with matters of horror in the usual sense, there is supernatural imagery that is visually and aurally frightening and disturbing.Office of Film and Literature Classification, 2010
In the notice of decision on the film, the Classification Office particularly highlighted two 'voodoo' scenes as being likely to disturb or upset young children:
The tone of the film darkens during these sequences and imagery on screen becomes ominous and the soundtrack becomes louder. In the first scene during a musical sequence, florescent masks and voodoo dolls float and dance in the air behind Dr Facilier... In a second frightening scene, black shadow creatures that have sharp teeth, hollow eyes, and horns on the their heads, drag Dr Facilier towards the large voodoo mask with sharp teeth and into its open mouth. Bright green smoke emits from its mouth covering Dr Facilier's body as he is dragged into it. These frightening images together with the loud menacing soundtrack are likely to disturb and upset young children.Office of Film and Literature Classification, 2010
The conclusion to the decision noted that the frightening scenes in the film were in contrast to the overall 'princess-themed' story:
While the feature has the usual elements that most animated children's stories contain including positive messages about love, friendship and goodwill, there are also darker tones within the feature. Imagery such as skeletons, voodoo dolls, and creatures with sharp teeth, all of which are combined with a loud ominous soundtrack, will upset and disturb young children. These elements are also likely to shock some younger audiences who were expecting to see a "sweet" princess-themed film. The animated presentation and fantasy elements may however, limit the impact of these aspects. However, these elements are such that younger viewers would benefit from parental guidance.Office of Film and Literature Classification, 2010
After applying the classification criteria, the Classification Office classified the film PG with a note warning that some scenes might scare very young children.
The Princess and the Frog was classified as unrestricted with parental guidance recommended for younger viewers (PG: Some scenes may scare very young children). As a result of the classification decision, the Film and Video Labelling Body was directed to issue a new PG label for the film for its DVD release.
PG still means that anyone can watch the film, but it's an indiction for parents, older siblings, or other people looking after little kids that they might want to watch the film with the child.
RP16: graphic content may disturb.
20th Century Fox Film Distribution disagreed with the 'R16 content that may disturb' classification given to the film by the Classification Office and applied to have the decision reviewed. Find out more about 127 Hours
R13: contains violence, offensive language, drug use, and sex scenes.
Initially classified as R16 due to the violent and sexual material, and the depictions of drug use. On appeal by United Pictures this was reviewed and re-classified by the Board of Review. Find out more about 8 Mile
M: contains content that may disturb.
Originally cross-rated PG, we received complaints from parents that their children were frightened by the film. They asked the Chief Censor for permission to have the film assessed using our criteria. Find out more about Disney's A Christmas Carol
PG: some scenes may scare very young children.
Originally cross-rated G, we received complaints from parents that their young children were frightened by the film. As a result, the Chief Censor called the film in to be examined by the Classification Office. Find out more about Happy Feet
M: contains offensive language and sexual references.
This film had received its PG rating through the cross-rating process. After complaints from the public, the Chief Censor called the film in to be classified. Find out more about Land of the Lost
RP13: contains violence, drug use and offensive language.
The unusual RP classification is used where a film presents ideas or issues that could challenge younger viewers but might still be valuable to them if they have support while watching. Find out more about Matariki
R13: contains violence and offensive language (film).
RP16: contains graphic violence (video).
Different versions of the film have different classifications as the law changed between the release of the film and the subsequent video. Find out more about Once Were Warriors
R15: contains violence and content that may disturb.
The film is about the massacre of 13 people at Aramoana - a tragic event in New Zealand's history - and this depiction of real life events required special consideration by the Classification Office. Find out more about Out of the Blue
R16: contains horror scenes and offensive language.
Members of the public complained to the Classification Office about the film's unrestricted M rating. They felt that the film was very frightening and contained extremely disturbing themes. Find out more about Paranormal Activity
R13: contains violence, offensive language and sexual references.
The "highly offensive language, much of it sexual in nature" in the film contributed to the R13 classification, as did the film's "crassly homophobic sentiments". Find out more about Paul
R15: depicts graphic and realistic war scenes.
This film generated much debate and became a benchmark for NZ film classification. It contains depictions of serious physical harm which are lengthy, frequent, and of a very graphic nature. Find out more about Saving Private Ryan
R13: contains violence and offensive language (film).
R16: contains violence, offensive language and content that may disturb (Blu-ray).
The Blu-ray edition has a higher rating as it also includes a short film, Manjha, that has the theme of sexual abuse.
Find out more about Slumdog Millionaire
R16: contains horror scenes.
Members of the public raised concerns about the M rating on the film as anyone, including young children, could potentially watch it. They felt an age restriction would be more appropriate. The Chief Censor called it in for examination. Find out more about The Grudge
R15: prolonged sequences of brutal violence, torture and cruelty.
The Office was inundated with letters of complaint and support over its R16 classification, which had included public consultation. On appeal, it was re-classified by the Board of Review. Find out more about The Passion of the Christ
...a return to the form of Disney's early 1990s classics. The animation is gorgeous, the heroine feisty and the animals amusing - but this may be too scary for the very small.Helen O'Hara, Empire Magazine