Whenever Disney releases an animated movie, I wonder whether they’ve finally abandoned their classic formula. Last year’s The Princess and the Frog was probably their last foray into hand-drawn animation, but Tangled clearly suggests that they’re staying true to the kinds of movies that brought them success in the past. It’s definitely the successor of Disney greats such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, except now the animation is produced entirely by computers (which has its pros and cons). Thankfully, Tangled is still a heart-warming fairy-tale adaptation full of humour, songs, and animal sidekicks (and isn’t that what Disney lovers really want?).
I wasn’t too familiar with the story of Rapunzel except that she had really long hair which she let down in order for her rescuer to climb up the tower in which she was trapped. Knowing Disney, I’m sure they’ve got the essence of the original but have taken great liberties to mold the story into a “Disney” tale. In this version, Rapunzel is held in a tower by an old woman pretending to be her mother (but she was actually abducted from her true parents, the king and queen). The woman told the girl that the outside world was too dangerous and that she was keeping Rapunzel in the tower for her protection. What she really guarded was the princess’s magical hair whose power kept the old woman young. One day, roguish thief Flynn Rider happens upon the tower while escaping from the palace guards. Even though she didn’t realize that she was a prisoner, Rapunzel took the opportunity to escape with Flynn in order to see the world (and in particular, a wonderful display of lights that mysteriously appears in the sky every year on her birthday …hmmmm..curious…). Considering how little the original story seemed to contain, the Disney writers did a great job crafting a script that fits together well, with charm, villainy, action, danger, magic and even true love.
It also wouldn’t be a Disney fairy tale without some wonderful music and it was great to have composer Alan Menken back writing the tunes. I can’t say that they were as memorable (maybe it’s the extra dash of pop music flavour that’s been added) as his previous work, but the first song, “When Will My Life Begin” just screams loud echoes of “Part Of Your World” (Little Mermaid) and “Belle” (Beauty and the Beast) with themes of how our heroine yearns for more than the limited life that she knows. Mandy Moore (already being a pop songstress in her own right) does a great job as the voice of Rapunzel. Even Zachary Levi, as Flynn, does pretty well with the musical moments that he gets.
This time around the animals/sidekicks don’t sing, but they are adorable. Pascal is a chameleon friend to Rapunzel, and Maximus is the royal guard horse who is more successful at pursuing Flynn than his master was. The true art of Disney animation is how they can convey so much with their cartoon expressions and movements, which are an essential part of every Disney classic. The animators clearly tried to maintain the traditional Disney style, even when animating with computers. Characters look similar to those from other movies, however, each hair is now individually “drawn” (which I’m assuming they’ve got lots of good programs for, especially since hair is such a big part of this story). Unfortunately, there are some things that still seem off-putting about the CGI. The larger eyes and heads of traditional Disney characters (especially the girls) look odd when animated so realistically. The evil woman, Mother Gothel, looks especially super-creepy with her eyes taking up a large portion of her head. However, I guess the way that computer animation compensates is in the amazing overhead scenes where the virtual camera flies over cities and palaces, and for action and chase scenes on rooftops we get the kind of dynamic camera that is much more difficult in hand-drawn animation. I’m glad that Disney has successfully made the jump to CGI. I’m sure it will only improve, but it’s pretty darn good already.
If, like me, you were hesitant to see Tangled because of how it seems to have been targeted to young girls, or because you think that it’s not going to be like other Disney animated movies because it’s all computer-generated, take heart. I think all the elements that go into making a Disney classic animated film are there and they come together in a pretty good story. (4.5 out of 5)