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Disney Canon Countdown 50: ‘Tangled’

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Arguably the movie that started the one word title, Tangled is the 50th animated Disney movie and is based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale about Rapunzel. We’ve heard the story since childhood about the young girl with long flowing hair who was locked in a tower by an evil witch, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Disney took the character and turned her into another iconic Disney Princess.

Originally planned as a parody of Disney Princess movies (in the same vein as Shrek), Disney scrapped the idea when animator Glenn Keane knew there was a more genuine story to be told. Keane, unfortunately, had to step down from directing the project, leaving it to Bolt directors Byron Howard and Nathan Greno. The movie also moved away from 2D animation to become the first Disney Princess to be computer animated. Being a fan of traditional animation, I was disappointed by this development, but I was happily proven wrong. The movie looks beautiful, warm, and detailed. Rapunzel’s hair, for instance, might not look as good had it been 2D animated. In 3D her hair looks as silky and shiny as a shampoo commercial.

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How can you not love the character Rapunzel? She’s always so positive and so goofy. Her buck teeth and bare feet make her even more endearing. She’s brave, but not in an unrealistic Mary Sue way. When male lead Flynn Ryder climbs into her tower, she confronts him, but she’s noticeably nervous. It’s very relatable. Her bravery follows through to the end when she sacrifices so much for Flynn. I need to move on before I get choked up thinking about the ending again.

Flynn Ryder started development by a ‘hot man meeting’ where Disney female employees were asked what they found attractive, resulting in a man with a David Beckham hairstyle (or Simba hairstyle, if you prefer) and an Aladdin-type personality. But, more importantly, he has as much character development as his leading lady. You’ve got to admire that Rapunzel and Flynn are strong characters on their own even before they meet. That’s not to say that when they do meet they don’t elevate each other. Rapunzel doesn’t hide her goofball personality around seemingly carefree Flynn, who later shows his softer side. When together, they realise there’s something greater than wealth and floating lanterns.

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The film’s strength can also be due to Alan Menken’s music with lyrics by Glenn Slater. It goes back to basics with the ‘I want’ song for Rapunzel with “When Will My Life Begin” (singer Mandy Moore admitted that she’s never worked so hard on her vocals before) and the traditional love song “I See the Light” in the second act (who knew actor Zachary Levi could sing so well?). Let’s not forget the ruffians and thugs and their song “I’ve Got a Dream” which is milked for laughs. I love that this sequence was based on hardcore bikers who go to bars to read their poetry. Let’s give a nod to the “Mother Knows Best” number too. That always gives me chills. It’s a big Broadway song that you can’t resist singing to yourself complete with all the hand gestures.

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Mother Gothel is by far one of the best Disney villains. She’s very similar to Cinderella’s Lady Tremaine since they both have control over one girl. While Tremaine uses threat and force, Gothel has a sickly sweet manipulative technique. There’s something very scary about a villain who plays it cool but could turn on you any second.

I remember seeing this film in the cinema with an audience of adults. Most of them were older couples without children, possibly millennials that remember the Disney glory days with the likes of The Little Mermaid. The little kids in the screening were having a great time too, wearing their 3D glasses and reaching out for the lanterns. This is how Disney movies should be, and how animated movies in general should be viewed. It’s for everyone. The movie is a fairytale to entertain your kids, yes, but it’s also full of interesting characters, romance, adventure, and laugh out loud humor for all ages. Don’t even get me started on the humor or the rest of this article will be packed with quotes. Even the visual gags hit their mark, particularly when it includes the law enforcing horse Maximus – where else are you going to see a horse sword fight a guy with a frying a pan? – and Rapunzel’s sidekick chameleon Pascal. If you’re a fan of slapstick be sure to check out the short Tangled Ever After. This is where Maximus and Pascal really shine.

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Still from short ‘Tangled Ever After.’

I was grateful that the movie sequel to Tangled was scrapped. Not because I don’t want to see more Rapunzel and Flynn (and Maximus and Pascal, of course), but because I love Tangled too much for it to be touched. It has a perfect three act structure and a great happy ending. I’m a little apprehensive about the television series Tangled: Before Ever After, which takes place after the original movie but before Tangled Ever After. Could the series every live up to this Disney classic? Yes, classic. Even though it hasn’t had significant amount of time to become as beloved as some of our older Disney favorites, it has all the traits and authenticity of a great Disney movie. It’s definitely not too soon to call Tangled a classic.

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About MJ Edwards

MJ is a writing and film graduate who loves to relax with scented candles and herbal teas. She is a dog-walker by day and a pie-maker by night. She loves movies starring Christopher Reeve and her favorite animated film is Meet the Robinsons. MJ also loves anything that LAIKA and Tim Burton come out with.