Disney finds its Frog Princess

Despite being mostly sidelined in the Dreamgirls hype tornado that swirled around Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy, Anika Noni Rose will be getting her chance in the spotlight from a very different musical.

Because she’s just been picked by John Musker and Ron Clements to lend her voice to Tiana, the main character in Disney’s new The Princess And The Frog. Billed as a fairy-tale romance with Tiana finding true love among the swamps and jazz quarter of New Orleans, The Frog Princess is currently chugging through the Mouse’s animation factory.

The plot’s still a little under wraps, though we do know that the Mouse House has been fighting a PR battle to avoid negative reporting, going so far as to shift the character’s name and origin to avoid criticism that sprung up after the film was announced.

Still, it’s Disney’s big showcase for the company’s return to hand-drawn animation, as trumpeted by Disney creative chief John Lasseter when he introduced the film to the shareholders. And with his enthusiasm, it should come as no surprise to learn that regular Disney/Pixar collaborator Randy Newman (who also happens to hail from N’Orleans) has penned the songs for the movie.

But don’t hold your breath, Mouse fans: The Princess And The Frog won’t hop into cinemas until late 2009.