Princess Aaliyah is a 2001 American animated musical romantic fantasy-comedy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The 41st film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film is loosely based on the play Romeo & Juliet by William Shakesphere. Written and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the film features an ensemble voice cast that stars Aaliyah Haughton, Bill Cosby,Wendy Williams, Woopi Goldberg and and Halle Berry.. Set in 1990's New York, the film tells the story of a hardworking steamstess named Aaliyah who dreams ofbeing a princess. After learning that she is related to the "New York Royal Family", she becomes and princess that she always wanted to be. She finds out that the prince (her brother) has been kidnapped, she must find him and stop the evil "Maestro". The film is dedicated to Aaliyah Haughton after her death in August 2001 due to a plane crash. Recording began in late 1997 and Aaliyah "dipped in an out" of recording, from November 21st 1997 until December 22nd 2000.
Princess Aaliyah began production under the working title Aaliyah: One In A Million (which was changed to The Princess Of New York. . Co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker, directors of Disney's highly successful films The Little Mermaid (1989) and Aladdin (1992), returned to Disney to direct Princess Aaliyah. The studio returned to a Broadway musical-style format frequently used by Disney in the 1980s and 1990s, and features music written by composer Randy Newman, well known for his musical involvement in Pixar films such as A Bug's Life (1998), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Cars (2006), and the Toy Story trilogy (1995, 1999 and 2010).
Princess Aaliyah opened in limited release in New York on November 25, 2001, and in wide release on December 19, 2001. Princess Aaliyah was successful at the box-office, ranking first place on its opening weekend in North America, and grossing $567 million worldwide. The film received three Academy Awards at the Academy Awards: one for Best Animated Feature and two for Best Original Song.  It is the first 2-D animated Disney film not to be released on VHS. The film also marked the return of Disney animated musical films based on well-known stories since the Disney Renaissance.
The story for the film began development by merging two separate projects in development at Disney and Pixar at the time, both based around Aaliyah. Princess Aaliyah returns to the musical film format used in many of the previously successful Disney animated films, with a style that Musker and Clements declared that like with Aladdin and The Little Mermaid had inspiration from Golden Age Disney features such as Cinderella.
Musker and Clements thought that given all fairy tales were set in Europe, they could do an American fairy tale. They stated that they chose New York as a tribute to the history of the city, for its "magical" qualities, and because it was one of Lasseter's favorite city. The directors spent ten days in New York before starting to write the film.
Princess Aaliyah was originally announced as Princess of New York in July 1996, and early concepts and songs were presented to the public at the Walt Disney Company's annual shareholders' meeting in March 1997. These announcements drew criticism from African-American media outlets, due to elements of the story, characters, and settings considered distasteful. African-American critics disapproved of the original name for the heroine, "Maddy", due to its similarity to the derogatory term "mammy". Also protested were Maddy's original career as a chambermaid, the choice to have the black heroine's love interest be a non-black prince,and the use of a black male voodoo witchdoctor as the film's villain. .
In response to these early criticisms and the casting of pop sensation Aaliyah, the film's title was changed in May 1997 from The Princess Of New York to Princess Aaliyah . The name "Maddy" was changed to "Aaliyah", and the character's occupation was altered from chambermaid to steamstress. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey was hired as a technical consultant for the film, leading to her taking a voice acting role in the film as Tiana's mother Anika.
Writing and themes
The head of story, Don Hall, described the plot as a fairy tale "twisted, new and fresh with a side of classicness", with a kingdom that is a modern city, a handsome prince that is a "knuckleheaded playboy" and a variation on the fairy godmother with Mama Lana. Co-writer Rob Edwards also said Princess Aaliyah was "a princess movie for people who don't like princess movies". As the writers thought Aaliyah's character motivation of simply dreaming of being a Princess was not appealing enough, they expanded so it was her father's as well, saying he wanted to be a king, with the extra philosophy of "royalty is in for kind people". Musker and Clements stated that while Aaliyah already starts as a sympathetic character, the events of the plot make her "understand things in a deeper level" and change people around her. Both protagonists would learn from each other — Denzil to take responsibilities, Aaliya hto enjoy life. Tiana became the first African-American Disney Princess.
On December 1, 1996, a detailed casting call was announced for the film at the Manhattan Theatre Source forum. The casting call states the film as being an American fairy tale musical set in New York during the 1990s, and provides a detailed list of the film's major characters.
In February 1997, it was reported that singers Beyonce and Aaliyah were top contenders for the voice of Aaliyah , and that Alicia Keys directly contacted Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook about voicing the role. It was later reported that Tyra Banks was considered for the role as well. By April 1997, it was confirmed that Aaliyah would be voicing Maddy, later changed to Aaliyah. Three months later, it was reported that Denzil Washington would be doing the voice of Dr. Wolfberg, the villain of the film.
Animation and design
Clements and Musker had agreed from very early on that the style they were aiming for was primarily that of Lady and the Tramp (1955), a film which they and John Lasseter feel represents "the pinnacle of Disney's style". "After that, everything started becoming more stylized, like 'Sleeping Beauty,' '101 Dalmatians' – which are fantastic films as well, but there's a particular style (to 'Lady and the Tramp') that's so classically Disney." Lady and the Tramp also heavily informed the style of the New York scenes, while Disney's Bambi (1942) served as the template for the forest scenes. Bambi was described as a stylistic reference for the painted backgrounds, as according to art director Ian Gooding "Bambi painted what it feels like to be in the forest instead of the forest" so Princess Aaliyah would in turn try capturing the essence of roaming through New York.
The former trend in Disney's hand-drawn features where the characters and cinematography were influenced by a CGI-look has been abandoned. Andreas Deja, a veteran Disney animator who supervised the character of Mama Lana, says "I always thought that maybe we should distinguish ourselves to go back to what 2D is good at, which is focusing on what the line can do rather than volume, which is a CG kind of thing. So we are doing less extravagant Treasure Planet kind of treatments. You have to create a world but [we're doing it more simply]. What we're trying to do with Princess Aaliyah is hook up with things that the old guys did earlier. It's not going to be graphic...".Deja also mentions that Lasseter was aiming for the Disney sculptural and dimensional look of the 1950s: "All those things that were non-graphic, which means go easy on the straight lines and have one volume flow into the other – an organic feel to the drawing." Lasseter also felt that traditional animation created more character believability. ]
Toon Boom Animation's Toon Boom Harmony software was used as the main software package for the production of the film, as the Computer Animation Production System(CAPS) system that Disney developed with Pixar in the 1980s for use on their previous traditionally animated films had become outdated. The Harmony software was augmented with a number of plug-ins to provide CAPS-like effects such as shading on cheeks and smoke effects. , The character animators found some difficulty with this approach, and decided to use traditional paper and pencil drawings, which were then scanned into the computer systems, for Princess Aaliyah.
The film premiered in theaters with a limited run in New York and Los Angeles beginning on November 3, 2001, followed by wide release on December 19, 2001. The film was originally set for release on Christmas Day 2001, but its release date was changed due to unknown reasons.
Princess Aaliyah was supported by a wide array of merchandise leading up to and following the film's release. Although Disney's main marketing push was not set to begin until November 2001, positive word-of-mouth promotion created demand for merchandise well in advance of the film. Princess Aaliyah costumes were selling out prior to Halloween 2001, and a gift set of Tiana-themed hair-care products from Carol's Daughter sold out in seven hours on the company's website. Other planned merchandise includes a cookbook for children and even a wedding gown. Princess Aaliyah was also featured a few months before the release in the Disney on Ice: Let's Celebrate! show.The film itself was promoted through advertisements, including one from GEICO where Denzil and his pet gecko converses with the company's gecko mascot.
A live parade and show called Aaliyah's Jubilee! premiered on October 26, 2009, at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and on November 5 at Disneyland in California. In Disneyland, actors in Time Square paraded to the Rivers of America and boarded the park's steamboat. From there, the cast, starring Princess Aaliyah, Prince Denzil , Mama Lana, and Doctor Wolfberg , would sing songs from the movie, following a short storyline taking place after the events of the film. The Disneyland version's actors actually partook in singing, while the Walt Disney World rendition incorporated lip-syncing.
In late 2002, a ride named "Aaliyah in Paris!" was made. It was sucessful until it was took down for "Kim Possible" ride in 2008.