“Discovering new dreams…”
“..that’s an adventure, for sure.”
Rapunzel and Flynn Rider make these affirmations at the conclusion of Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, the stage show performed daily in front of Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World. They succinctly summarize what influence Rapunzel and Flynn bring to the production’s proceedings, and in doing so verbalize the primary values behind the appeal of Tangled, the film in which they star and of which is receiving an historic resurgence with a follow-up movie and television series.
When Tangled first debuted in November 2010, it was thematically and technologically a bridge between classic and contemporary Disney animation. Here we had a storybook musical with Alan Menken songs, but told with computer animation and characters who said, “I know, right!” as part of everyday language. While some of these elements might be jarring to a traditionalist, Tangled has stood as a legitimate Disney classic – but it is only just now being recognized as so.
While a sequel is almost a given for successful films today, seven years ago they weren’t the automatic go-to, especially for Walt Disney Animation Studios. When Tangled became a hit, it received the default Disney project at the time: a short film sequel, released in 2012. Tangled Ever After is a feat of physical comedy largely profiling Maximus the horse and Pascal the chameleon as the duo scrambles to save Rapunzel and Flynn’s wedding rings when the ceremony goes awry.
In terms of other types of media, of which Disney has plenty at its disposal, Tangled wasn’t given the focus we might expect from a film of its caliber, meaning, and legacy. It’s not that Disney ever neglected it. The company just didn’t give it the massive attention that it’s given to other titles. Things were always taken somewhere, but stopped halfway. A beautiful area devoted to the film, complete with Rapunzel’s tower and glowing lanterns, was built at Magic Kingdom in 2013… but contained restrooms, not an attraction. A Snuggly Duckling float was unveiled with Festival of Fantasy Parade in 2014… but not a full Tangled parade like many of its ’90s Disney siblings touted. Tangled: The Musical, including new songs by Alan Menken, was created and premiered in 2015… but debuted with a limited audience on one of Disney’s four cruise ships.
You could point to any number of reasons for this. You could theorize the corporation as a whole didn’t understand how to navigate infusing a new property into its many synergy outlets when that property became a hit. (Remember, in 2010 hits had been few and far between.) You could hypothesize Disney was simply too committed to other projects to do anything else with Tangled at the time, and by the time it might have gotten around to it, Frozen arrived on the scene.
Whatever the reason, Tangled never really got its time to shine, which is especially disappointing considering the scope of Tangled and the way its message embodies the very thing Disney stands for: dreams coming true. If we were to pinpoint a story that blatantly screams “Disney” simply because of its emphasis on the power of dreams (and its script’s language explicitly repeating such phrasing), Tangled would be it, if only bested by The Princess and the Frog, curiously released just a year before in 2009. It’s fascinating that two films released consecutively would have virtually the same purpose, yet be told so differently. It’s as if Disney Animation was desperately exclaiming that it was still as rooted in its heritage as ever and braced to bring that history to the next generation.
Now, at last, the tide has turned – 2017 is a completely different landscape for Disney than 2010 was. Walt Disney Animation Studios is a creative juggernaut. Disney’s television arms are more interested in legacy characters driving its series and programming. The company is ready to re-introduce us to Tangled in a big way, as the first animated film to be granted a television series since 2006 (which was The Emperor’s New School, spin-off of The Emperor’s New Groove). This isn’t to say that every Disney film without a TV spinoff can’t be qualified as a classic; this is hardly the case. It is, however, noteworthy that the company’s creative output is at a level again that it would want to develop the story further on television.
Tangled: The Series will debut March 24 on Disney Channel, preceded by Tangled: Before Ever After, a new movie that will set the framework for the show. Both are produced by Disney Television Animation. The program takes place between the events of Tangled and Tangled Ever After, and tells of Rapunzel as she steps into becoming the leader of the kingdom she’s just found out she’s the princess of. Yes, her long hair is back, but don’t worry; it’s been promised to be explained. In an exciting jolt for the animation community, the series is created in 2D animation and will have new songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater (just like the original Tangled), the first of which can be heard below:
Despite being a critical and commercial success immediately, Tangled was an acquired taste for me, perhaps subconsciously if only because Disney itself didn’t push it forward. It wasn’t until I had the privilege of working for Disney last semester under its College Program that the core of its message really clicked. The juxtaposition of “I’ve Got a Dream”, an anthem for the film’s purpose, being performed in front of Cinderella Castle, a global icon of dreams materialized, is difficult subtext to ignore. Aided by my frequent visits to the castle stage to re-watch my favorite show time and time again, Tangled became an important part of my brief tenure with Disney and helped me understand how the company continues to make a difference for families from all over the world …until Olaf skips onto the stage and everyone’s brains oozes from their skulls.
Tangled: Before Ever After premieres March 10 on Disney Channel, followed by the March 24 debut of Tangled: The Series.
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Photographs by Blake Taylor.
What is most important to you about the legacy of Tangled? Do you look forward to the new series?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes