Tangled has the weight of Cinderella’s castle on it’s shoulders, as the film has the honor, and pressure, of being the 50th animated feature in Disney’s classic line. From Snow White to Bambi, Lion King to Princess and the Frog, the entire long line leads squarely to this modern day look at the Rapunzel fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm. After 5 years of development, a Pixar-less shot at CG animation for Disney, a bulk of over 70 feet of magical hair, and billed as Disney’s “final” fairytale, the film had a major amount of responsibility to uphold the classic name, both in theaters, and the four-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo pack on March 29, 2011. So? How’d it do?
Rapunzel has been a story brewing in the world of Disney for decades. In fact, even during the time Walt Disney, himself, ran the studio, there were projects and attempts to animated the story of Rapunzel. Remaking the story, adding fun and humor, bringing it to life with animation and music, and telling the general tale about a princess, locked high in a far away tower, who boasts the added feature of extraordinarily long hair. Let’s see you get the movie made!
Even in this most recent venture, the product took nearly 5 years from concept to big screen – through all of the proposals and reworks, the easily becoming Disney’s most expensive animated film of all time. Flopping back and forth between hand-drawn traditional animation, CG animation, a princess-focused story, a true musical concept – even swapping the name from Rapunzel to Tangled – so much changed over the years.
Finally, when all was said and done, and particularly under the guidance of the newly appointed head of animation, John Lasseter (of Pixar fame), Tangled was born.
There’s action, there’s music, there’s a princess, there’s a hero, there’s Disney’s classic animated sidekicks, and a villainous villain. Tangled seemingly did what it could to capture the spirit of every iconic Disney animated classic. Rapunzel is a princess. Or, at least, was supposed to be. She was abducted as a baby and raised as by her thief, Mother Gothel. During her time between infancy and her older teenage self, Rapunzel’s hair continued to grow, uncut, until piling in (combing in?) at nearly 70 feet in length. Oh, and lets not forget the hair’s magical quality of restoring health and youth.
Though Mother Gothel would come to sport all of the classic villain-like attributes (plotting, theft, kidnapping, selfishness, etc.) there’s clearly a benevolent bond and/or element of love between her and Rapunzel. As far as Rapunzel knows, Mother Gothel is her mother. She’s over protective, and a little cranky, sure, but she does love her daughter, repeatedly telling her so – even making her special birthday meals! This is an element we don’t recall seeing before in Disney’s other tales; Ursula was pure evil, Scar was pure evil, Jafar, Maleficent, Captain Hook, etc, etc. But Gothel, she had some legitimate, loving, motherly aspects to her. …you know, except for the whole baby-napping and magical youth thing.
Fast forward through all that, and we meet Flynn Rider, the not-really-heroic hero that introduced the film with an announcement of his own death. Again, Disney sorta reinvents the role of the typical lead hero by making Flynn a genuine bad guy. Not an evil one – more in the selfish line of Aladdin, with a dash of Robin Hood thrown in for good measure. When he shows up to Rapunzel’s tower, he’s not there to rescue her, he’s there to hide out. And when Rapunzel sees an opportunity to have Flynn bring her to leave the tower and explore the nearby town’s festival, she doesn’t flee to him, or “let down her hair”… she beats him over the head with a frying pan.
Twisted? No. It’s Tangled! Despite the drastic and crazy way it may sound, Disney pulls this off in a wonderfully fun way. It seamlessly leads the audience on the story, offering all of the classic staples you’re looking for (hero, princess, adventure, witch) but presents everything in unique style.
Skip forward a bit more, and Rapunzel and Flynn are joined by Pascal (Rapunzel’s pet chameleon) and Max (a detective-like horse), who fit in perfectly with Disney’s long line of animal sidekicks; from Abu to Pumba to Louis to Flounder. The group’s ultimate goal is for Rapunzel to see the launch of the nearby town’s mysterious, and beautiful, floating lights. What she doesn’t know, is that the lights are actually part of a gigantic, annual ceremony in her honor! Every year, the King and Queen, Rapunzel’s actual parents, join the town in releasing thousands of flying lanterns on the missing Princess’s birthday.
Knowing the ceremony’s true meaning, Gothel has always prevented Rapunzel from seeing the festival – not wanting Rapunzel to discover her true identity. And when Gothel catches up with the crew and sees an opportunity to steal Rapunzel back, she does whatever she can to break the group up; even turning them against each other.
All told, Tangled is an amazing collection of what we’ve come to know and love from Disney, and an amazing step into the new era and the next 50 animated films. Everything you’re looking for in a standard Disney film, and a Disney Princess, is right there. But everything is presented in such a fashion that it all feels different – everything is new and varied and altered just enough, without feeling “different for the sake of different”. It’s fresh and varied and caught up with today’s modern way of storytelling. Truly refreshing, vibrant, and beautiful.
Visually, it’s absolutely stunning. Though it’s technically not a Pixar film (despite Lasseter’s heavy influence) the film is a feast for the eyes. The colors, the backdrops, the characters, the animation, the inventiveness of the facial expressions, the angles, etc. So much thought and effort was put into every detail, from the gorgeous light festival to the individual costumes worn by every character. Perhaps most impressive, consider it’s major focal point, was the long, flowing, golden, and magical hair! Rapunzel’s locks weren’t just a mile long, they had the ability to shimmer and shine during the daylight, flow and carry in the wind, then glow and entrance with their magic.
The film resembles a number of Disney’s latest animated efforts, most notably characters from the Little Mermaid and Aladdin, but every look is completely unique and stylized for this film. It’s a seamless blend of story and technology, where we’re happy to offer one of the highest compliments a CG film could receive: it doesn’t look computer made. It so very easily meshes with Disney’s traditional hand-drawn style, which is a feat we’ve not seen equaled from any other film; Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Universal, or otherwise. And all of this is captured gloriously on the Blu-ray home edition, perfectly suited for high definition viewing if available. But if you’re “stuck” with just the DVD, you wont at all be disappointed, as it maximizes the tech available for a beautiful effort.
One avenue we felt was a bit lacking was the music. The sound effects were perfect, and the voices (most notably Mandy Moore’s Rapunzel, Zachary Levi’s Flynn Rider, and Donna Murphy’s Mother Gothel) were tremendously spot on and memorable. but the songs, typically a strong high point for Disney, were much less impressive at best, literally forgettable at worst. We didn’t find a single tune we “couldn’t stop humming” after the film, which is a far cry from the days of “Hakuna Matata.”
Awesome film aside, the special features packed into the Blu-ray are vast and impressive. Three deleted scenes, commentary from Byron Howard and Nathan Greno, extended versions, two versions of the original opening, the awesome “Untangled: The making of a Fairy Tale,” Disney trivia, a montage of classic animated films, teasers, trailers, and more.
Bottom line, Disney has themselves yet another “MUST HAVE” in the Tangled home edition. If you haven’t yet seen the film in theaters, it’s a perfect addition to your collection. If you’ve already seen (and likely loved) the story in theaters, the home edition is amazingly true to the quality of the big screen, and packs a powerful punch in all of the extras and bonuses. You will NOT be disappointed.