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From Under A Rock: Tangled

May 13, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Tangled  


Aaron here. I think the fandom I’ve spent the longest time being a part of is the Disney fandom. I adored The Lion King, Aladdin and The Jungle Book among others as a kid and I love seeing them in their new Renaissance now. I always wanted a chance to cover a Disney animated classic on here, and now we have the chance.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael chose L.A. Confidential. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock to show him Tangled.

Released: November 14, 2010
Directed by: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard
Written by: Dan Fogelman
Mandy Moore as Rapunzel
Zachary Levi as Flynn Rider
Donna Murphy as Mother Gothel
Ron Perlman as The Stabbington Brothers

Aaron Hubbard: This is sort of a mutually decided pick. I really wanted to do a Disney animated classic, Michael hadn’t seen Tangled and wanted to. So here we are, reviewing the 50th film the Disney Animated Classics canon.

Michael Ornelas: I had pretty high expectations for this one as my friends speak pretty highly of it. I was not disappointed and even watched it in 3D, which was a visual delight!
Rewriting A Myth
Aaron: Rapunzel is about as famous as any fairy tale gets, so seeing Disney adapt it is something that felt like a long time coming. The company has made their name off of doing, from the very first (Snow White) to very recently with their Beauty and the Beast remake. I enjoy how Rapunzel has the basic concept of the Brothers Grimm story but has decidedly new elements. The magical flower that requires a song to work helps justify the oddities of the film; the ridiculously long hair, the music, the child-stealing. It’s all really clever set-up stuff, and while I’m not over the moon about Tangled, I really think its strongest point is its story.

Michael: I’m not too familiar with the original fairy tale beyond the fact that she lived in a castle and had super-long hair, so that’s all I knew/expected going in. Due to that, I can’t really speak to how they rewrote the myth. I can say that the plot itself had me captivated the whole time. I thought the kidnapping element added an interesting dynamic (which I’ll talk about a little bit later), but more interesting to me was Flynn’s role in Rapunzel’s maturing. She’s a bright-eyed and innocent girl who has never seen a man before, and now she has to learn several things at once. Maturity, attraction, sexuality, the world around her…all these things that have been foreign to her throughout her entire life except for her infancy, and we get to experience them for the first time with her. That may be the one aspect of this movie where I feel Disney could have done a bit more with it; they failed to really play with the idea that pretty much everything is new to her. She knew how to interact with people remarkably well.

Aaron: I agree; I feel the story works really well with its set up and the main story threads, but some of the small stuff doesn’t quite seem fully-realized. I always feel like there are scenes that were missing, or that the story changed at a key point. A lot of the marketing revolved around Flynn Rider, but the movie focuses on Rapunzel and I think it’s for the best. One aspect I really enjoy is the animal sidekicks; Pascal is adorable and Maximus is pretty much the greatest thing ever. Lastly, I thought the silent parents was an interesting creative choice and a powerful one. Sometimes silence speaks volumes.
The Intricacies of Stockholm Syndrome
Michael: My favorite component of this film was seeing the dynamic between Rapunzel and Gothel. As a viewer, I despised Gothel for her selfishness and willingness to make someone else devote their entire life to her desires. But since Rapunzel was an infant when she was stolen, obviously she grew to see Gothel as her mother. This infuriated me as a third-person viewer, but there’s nothing I could do about it. Maybe that’s why the movie Room resonated with me so much — it forced the audience into a first-person perspective and it was terrifying. As far as this movie went, I could only look forward to the moment when Rapunzel found out the truth and rejected her (as I assumed would happen, because it’s a Disney movie, and I had a hunch truth and justice would prevail), but since I knew what was going on already, it wasn’t as tense (not that it needed to be because, again, it’s Disney).

Aaron: Mother Gothel is probably my favorite character in the movie because she genuinely stands out in Disney’s long pantheon of viewers. While there’s been a few villains that have close familial ties (Scar, Frollo), Gothel is the one who feels genuinely closest to the protagonist. It’s evident right away that the relationship is toxic, but it also doesn’t feel one-sided. There’s more than one scene where Gothel does something for Rapunzel when it has no benefit to her, and there’s a level of sincerity to the “I love you most,” bit they trade with each other. Between her advanced age and her magic, I get the idea that Rapunzel is the only significant relationship that Gothel has had in maybe centuries. I feel she loved Rapunzel, in her own (admittedly unhealthy) way. It’s an alarmingly true to life depiction of what parent-child relationships are for a lot of people. And I’d be lying if I said the first time I saw it, I wasn’t pulling for a change of heart and reconciliation.

Michael: I don’t think I was rooting for Gothel to die or anything like that, but I definitely wanted her to get her comeuppance. What she did was heinous and I wouldn’t want an ending that was just a change of heart and then it gets swept under the rug. That’s too easy and sends the message that good intentions justify reprehensible actions, and that’s not something kids should be receiving from their media.
Starting A New Era
Aaron: Tangled is a real turning point for Disney Animation. After a very rough patch between 2001-2009, they finally seemed to have figured out how to mix their classic formula with digital animation. Since then, we’ve seen Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia and Moana. It’s one of the all-time great runs from Disney, and so far there’s no signs of it stopping.

Michael: Not a weak link in that bunch. And while I’m happy they seem to have gotten a handle on their 3D animation so that their movies can compete with Pixar, Dreamworks, and Illumination, it really is a shame to see Disney’s 2D essentially get abandoned. I was a big fan of The Princess and the Frog and want more of that “classic” Disney style, but it’s unlikely seeing how that underperformed at the box office. I think that to kids, graphics matter (hell, they’re all I cared about as a kid when it came to video games), and 2D feels underwhelming, perhaps? I hope that’s not the case and we’ll see Disney toy with that idea again some day. But for now, their recent string of 3D-animated hits is just fine with me. Moana was one of the best movies last year, and Wreck-It Ralph 2 is in development so there’s still much to look forward to.

Aaron: The string of sequels they have planned has me more than a bit nervous. Historically, Disney’s sequels have all been pretty terrible, with the exception of The Rescuers Down Under (the only sequel that’s actually part of the official Animated Classics line). I hope that the increased budget that CG animated requires will make them less likely to be lazy. I’m all for sequels that work, but they are few and far between from the House of Mouse.

Michael: I really dug this movie, but did ultimately feel like Disney could have reached farther with the premise (specifically how they portrayed Rapunzel learning about the world around her). The animation was stunning, the songs were alright, the themes were complex, and the characters were unique. This mixture of elements leads to a movie I’d say falls just short of being a classic. Bonus points for Pascal being adorable though.


Aaron: I feel like Tangled is always burdened by expectations for me. It was Disney’s 50th Animated Classic, The Princess and the Frog was a great return to what I loved as a kid, and my hype was perhaps too high. I think it’s a good, but not great movie. It definitely held up better than I expected it to though.


Michael: All in all, I’m really glad we watched this. I’ve been meaning to see it for years now, and just haven’t gotten the chance. I know you’re not big on 3D but for this, it truly was stunning.

Aaron: Yeah, I’m firmly in the “This gives me headaches, no thank you” camp on 3D. I made an exception for Doctor Strange and my brain still hasn’t recovered.

Are there any other fairy tales you’d like to see Disney adapt?

Next week:

Michael: We’re getting a new Alien movie next week, and I’m super excited for it. Problem is, you’ve already seen Alien and Aliens, so instead I’m going to pick the other quintessential James Cameron movie.
Aaron: Ah man, super excited to see this properly. I’ve seen bits and pieces on TV but never in the right order.

Michael: Bits and pieces? Heh. Spoiler.

What’s the best entry in the Terminator franchise?

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Aaron Has Another Column!
As Michael mentioned, I have seen Alien; and I did a column on it, which you can read it here!

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
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The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Tangled is a good Disney movie with likable characters, gorgeous animation, solid songs, and some really interesting story ideas. I don't know if I'd call it essential viewing for the casual fan, but it was definitely a step in the right direction as Disney rose back to prominence.