- “My name Raymond, but everybody call me Ray.”
Ray is a major character in Disney's 2009 animated feature film, The Princess and the Frog. He is an eccentric Cajun firefly with a romantic infatuation with the evening star, whom he refers to as Evangeline.
Ray is an old firefly residing in the Louisiana Bayou of New Orleans alongside his massive family. His worn-down and damaged appearance has significance, indicating a rough and interesting history throughout his life.
At some point in time, Ray met and fell in love with the Evening Star, whom he calls Evangeline; he sees her as a goddess and proves to be quite attached to her. Though it appeared that Evangeline was nothing more than a star, fireflies were revealed to become stars once they die, heavily implying that Evangeline was once an actual firefly who eventually passed away. Though, despite her death, Ray's love for her continued to shine brightly. His one dream mentioned in the film was to someday unite with his love.
According to The Princess and the Frog's DVD commentary, during the earliest stages of Disney's The Frog Prince-inspired film, the idea of a firefly in love with a star was always prominent; when John Musker and Ron Clements came on to direct the film, they kept the idea. Ron and John's iteration of the character was inspired by Cajun culture, an ethnic group in Louisiana. Ray's character was imbued with Cajun mannerisms and idioms, including the ability to speak French and a love for zydeco among others.
The commentary also reveals that Ray was originally going to recover after being stepped on by Facilier. However, the filmmakers believed the story was too light; that's wish it was suggested that Ray should die, and that his demise would result in him becoming a star beside Evangeline. The idea was praised, thus Ray's final fate was altered. The director also noted that the circumstances of Ray's death made Dr. Facilier more imposing as a villain.
Friendly and helpful, despite being the smallest creature in the movie, he has the biggest heart. Some of his loves include music, singing, and entertaining guests of all kind. The firefly was also shown to have no real fear; he helped fight off the frog hunters attacking Tiana and Naveen, as well as taking on Facilier's shadow demons all by himself. He is also extremely generous and agrees to help Tiana and Naveen without any reward expected (though he receives one unexpectedly nevertheless). Though undeniably sweet, he is rather eccentric, often shown to be very excitable, in spite of serious situations. Also, when angered, his golden light becomes a bright red color.
In spite of being rather eccentric, he proves to be quite intelligent and wise, also appearing to be considerably older than the rest of the main cast (with the obvious exception of Mama Odie). With his wisdom, he acts as, not only a good friend but a father figure to Tiana several times throughout the film, specifically through Tiana's more emotional moments as a frog.
Powers and abilities
Ray is a peculiar character, in that he appears to harbor some form of magical abilities within his photic organ, though it is never explained or fully delved into. With said organ, he was shown to create images of light, such as inscriptions, in the open air (like the spelling of his name, or a heart made of tiny particles of light). He was also shown to produce immense heat from his organ, as he was able to carve a burning inscription in tree bark, and light lotus flowers to have them illuminate, during "Ma Belle Evangeline".
Most notably, however, he was shown to have the power to destroy shadow spirits. These spirits are supposedly only destroyed by light magic, such as the kind of power generated from Mama Odie's wand, yet Ray has the power to eliminate them with ease, furthering the implication that Ray harbors mystical attributes.
One day in New Orleans, a handsome prince named Naveen was turned into a frog by a witch doctor named Facilier. Thinking she was a princess, Naveen kissed a girl named Tiana in an attempt to break the spell. However, all this does is turn Tiana into a frog as well. The two eventually end up in the bayou, meeting Louis the alligator who decides to assist the two frogs by taking them to Mama Odie to break the curse. When Tiana and Naveen's frog instincts kick in, they attempt to eat Ray. However, they embarrassingly fail, having their tongues end up tied together. Spotting this, he flies over to help. After they are free, he introduces himself. With everyone greeted, Tiana and Naveen explain to him that they are actually human and that they need to find Mama Odie to break the curse put upon them by the evil Facilier. Ray realizes they are going in the wrong direction (as a result of Louis) and offers to lead the way, with the brief help of his firefly family. Soon enough, they are off. Eventually, he offers to take them the rest of the way, allowing his family to return home. As they continue on, he tells Tiana, Naveen, and Louis about his girlfriend, Evangeline. After the romantic description, they're attacked by frog hunters. He tries to fend them off, but one of the hunters defeats him, rendering him unconscious for the rest of the battle, which is fortunately won by Tiana and Naveen. He is soon revived by Louis.
Tiana and Naveen fix up dinner for the group, and afterward, Evangeline appears, having Ray starstruck as he sings a ballad about his beloved. During it, Naveen and Tiana begin falling for one another, much to his happiness. He, as well as Louis, begins setting a mood for them, helping them realize their feelings. Unfortunately, the romantic moment is cut short when a hoard of demons sent by Facilier attack and capture Naveen. They are soon rescued by Mama Odie, however, who takes them to her home; a boat in a tree. Mama Odie informs Naveen and Tiana that the only way for them to become human again is for Naveen to be kissed by Charlotte La Bouff (Tiana's best friend), who has been made the Princess of Mardi Gras. Ray accompanies them back to New Orleans, and in during which, Naveen finally reveals his feelings for Tiana to him, much to the latter's joy. Afterward, he accidentally tells Tiana, though she only brightens up upon hearing the news, prompting her to go out and look for the prince to proclaim their love once they docked in New Orleans.
However, unbeknownst to Ray, Louis, and Tiana, Naveen was kidnapped by Facilier's demons and imprisoned. It turns out, he wants to steal the fortune of Charlotte, making him the wealthiest man in New Orleans. To do so, he has his minion, Lawrence, disguise himself as Naveen via magic to marry Charlotte, thus inheriting her father's fortune. Unfortunately, the master plan was near completion as Tiana and Ray come across Charlotte and what appeared to be Naveen on a parade float about to marry. Feeling he betrayed their love, a heartbroken Tiana leaves the scene. Ray tries to talk her through the moment, but she snaps, calling Evangeline nothing more than a star, telling him to open his eyes before he gets hurt. This drives him to tears and looks at Evangeline, but he refuses to believe her and claims for it to be nothing more than her 'speaking out a broken heart', and instead goes to reveal the truth. He discovers the Naveen about to marry Charlotte is actually a phony, and heroically finds the real one, frees him, and puts a stop to Facilier's plot. However, it turns out Lawrence's disguise is activated by a voodoo talisman. Ray steals the trinket and rushes it to Tiana as Facilier summons his demons to stop him. After handing the talisman over, Ray fights off Facilier's demons, but the latter soon arrives and crushes Ray, fatally injuring him. His wounded body is recovered by Louis, who takes him to safety.
After Facilier's demise through the heroism of Tiana, the latter reunites with Naveen, but the midnight deadline has already expired, leaving the two to remain frogs forever. Nevertheless, they decide it does not matter, so long as they could be together. Just then, Louis arrives with Ray in his hands. He gives his final farewell before peacefully passing away. A funeral is held for Ray in the bayou with Tiana, Naveen, Louis, and Ray's family. As they all mourn the death of their friend, a bright light shines down on everyone from above, drawing their attention up at the sky. In the night, a bright new star appears right next to Evangeline, identified as Ray. Tiana, Naveen, and Louis are rejoiced, as Ray's firefly family cheers ecstatically for their relative, as he finally receives his longing wish to be with his true love once again. Ray is seen again as a star one last time with Evangeline, both shining over New Orleans, as Tiana sings and dances with Naveen during the opening of her new restaurant, Tiana's Palace, at the end of the film.
Ray makes a cameo in the animated short, Electric Holiday, during the end credits with Tiana.
Along with the rest of the film's characters, Ray appears in the video game adaption of the movie, being featured in several mini-games with his firefly family, Louis, Tiana, Naveen, and Mama Odie. During the game's main storyline, however, he is absent, being as the story takes place after the events of the film. However, during the final chapter, Tiana and Naveen has his firefly cousins put on a spectacle for him and Evangeline on the opening night of Tiana's Palace as they watched down on them.
Ray makes a minor non-speaking cameo during the Mickey's Soundsational Parade mini-game as part of Tiana's float.
Ray's likeness can be found in the Disney theme parks. He actually makes his only live appearance in Disney On Ice: Dare to Dream.
Ray can also be seen in Mickey's Soundsational Parade apart of Tiana's float alongside Louis and Naveen. While the float passes by, he sings "Gonna Take You There".
Ray is also seen as an animatronic in the Main Street, U.S.A. Enchanted Window display themed after The Princess and the Frog.
In Florida, Ray's likeness is featured throughout Disney's Port Orleans Resort.
He also appears on Tiana and Naveen's float in the Magic Kingdom parade, Festival of Fantasy.
- Ray's death seems to be an apparent reference to Peter Pan; after he dies he joins his love Evangeline in the sky and becomes the second star to the right.
- In storybooks and in Disney on Ice: Dare to Dream, Ray does not die and stays alive.
- There are many references to Ray in the construction of Tiana's Palace. The walls of the dinner booths and the headlamps are shaped like lily pads which are symbolic of when Ray and his family helped Tiana and Naveen down the Bayou to Mama Odie, the table centerpieces are lit bayou flowers which are symbolic of the time he serenaded to Naveen and Tiana's first dance, and the restaurant is mostly decorated with green and lit gold like him. This implies that Tiana and Naveen still greatly miss him.
- Jim Cummings has said in an interview that Ray is one of his favorite roles and would enjoy doing shorts starring the character.
- During "Gonna Take You There", Ray shouts, "Alright, Lulu, let's get to it, darling!". This is actually a reference to Jim Cummings' daughter, also named Lulu.