I can identify the exact moment in the movie when I saw Tangled go from a very good movie to a great one. It was right around the time my wife took my daughter to the potty. No, seriously, there was one moment where I said, “Wow.”
If you’ve seen the movie already, you can probably identify it. When Rapunzel and Flynn Rider are sitting in the lake surrounding the kingdom waiting for the moment she’s been looking forward to her whole life, it happens—not what you expect, which is the moment to occur and transform her life. No, Rapunzel admits that she is both excited and terrified to finally achieve her lifelong dream.
To paraphrase, she tells Flynn she’s scared of what happens after the big event. What if it happens and it’s not everything she’s hoped it would be? Or, what if it is? What does she do next? It’s a feeling I struggle with every time I look forward to something, but especially when looking forward to a trip to Disney World.
That simple turn signals a change in the movie from a formulaic romance or fairy tale to something special. Throughout the first half of the movie there are hints of what’s to come that seem so obvious in retrospect. When Rapunzel enters a tavern and gets the “thugs and ruffians” inside to begin singing about their dreams, there’s a taste of it. When the villain of the piece, Mother Gothel, begins singing about how she knows best, you see more of it.
Tangled is a movie about dreams and about how people chase them. Moreover, Tangled explores how people chase the wrong dream or how they may not realize they are chasing a dream at all. This idea crystallizes during the last part of the film when Rapunzel and Flynn realize what they truly want but get deterred from achieving it. They’re both ignorant of what they want until after the pivotal point in the boat, and, from there, it’s a full on sprint towards an astounding climax.
The story would be undermined, however, without the amazing animation. We’ve not yet seen Disney attempt to catch up with Pixar in the computer animation department with much success. Dinosaur was one attempt, but it lacked charm and story. Tangled has charm and story in spades, and the characters and details are fantastic. Rapunzel’s hair flows and moves like real hair, one of the hardest things to do in computer animation.
Also, great attention was paid to the details. When Rapunzel’s foot first touches the ground, it hits not just grass, but a vibrant field with grass and wildflowers. Even the painted stone in Rapunzel’s tower comes across as realistic as can be. On top of such detail, the “Disney” look of the characters comes through. The wide-eyed, angular faces you’ve seen before in hand drawn animation are present here as well. It’s a testament to Glen Keane’s years of work on this project that he managed to continue that 2D animation look to the computer form.
The heart of this film, though, is the story and especially the two main characters, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. More than any other Disney film of recent memory, here are two fully formed characters. Layers get peeled back throughout the movie, adding depth to each character as we go along. Rider is a Han Solo analogue, the dashing thief who gets enlisted into a noble cause, and you never know for sure if he’s going to do the right thing to the very end. Rapunzel, rather than being a wide-eyed, simple princess, turns out to be quite capable and adventurous. It’s the journey and personal growth of these characters that make the film so fun.
There are other rich elements to the film: Alan Menken’s score and songs, the comedy of Maximus the horse and Paschal the chameleon, and the villainy of Rapunzel’s “mother.” The key to the entire movie, though, is Flynn and Rapunzel. Quite simply, this is the kind of movie Disney used to make. It’s not an Oscar winner or nominee like Beauty and the Beast, but Tangled is on par with Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and some of the other films of Disney’s second Golden Age of Animation.
So, go see it. I mean it. Encourage this sort of filmmaking by supporting it with your money and your time. You will be rewarded with a fantastic film, and the money you spend will send a message that more films like this should be made.
Contributed by: Ryan K. (NDD #137). Ryan is our resident film expert and creator of The Disney Film Project.