Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thoughts on Tangled

So, I finally saw Tangled last night. I was entertained. So were my husband and my sister who went with me. It’s Hollywood. It’s Disney. But it wasn’t repulsively either one. Ever since working in Burbank years ago near the Disney lot and dealing with its culture, I admit I have more problems with the Disney culture than even its products. Familiarity bred contempt in me but I usually refuse to share the stories for I really don’t want to burst everyone’s bubbles. I am also too jaded with Hollywood’s production methods in general to let myself step outside my prejudices to enjoy many movies to their fullest.

Yet I am human. I wanted to escape for a few hours. I wanted to relax and be entertained. (And, yes, I felt I needed to see it for the fairy tale element, but it would have been my movie of choice for the weekend either way.) This movie hit all the buttons for me. I didn’t look at my watch once which is high praise from me, for I get antsy in most movies anymore, wishing for a pause button and a fast forward button. I was fascinated with what few elements of the original tales were incorporated into the story whether on purpose or inadvertently. And, really, there are a few elements from the Italian and French Rapunzels, more so than the Grimms if I were to count them, I think. Don’t know if that was at all on purpose or just coincidence, although I tend to be a pessimist and lean to the latter until I hear or read otherwise.

And the animation is really pretty. Yes, it is an idealized world, no dirt, no blood, no bruises. Well, there is a bit of blood near the end actually. I remember watching The Little Mermaid and feasting on the bright colors—and I’ll admit I have never really been a fan of that film, throw rotten tomatoes now, even before I became as well-versed in fairy tales as I am now. The messages of the film irked me no end as a young woman trying to find her place in the world. But for imagery, Tangled/Rapunzel blows it out of the water, whether you want to hate 3D animation or not. I don’t, for I think there is a place for all kinds of animation techniques. The flying lanterns are gorgeous and I wanted to be there living in that scene, forget the story.

I don’t synopsize the story. That’s being done elsewhere and that’s not my job. I only will list some favorite parts and elements, at least what I can remember at the moment.


1. The lanterns I mentioned earlier. I loved the lanterns. So much that I am tempted to see it again in 3D--we saw the 2D--just to see that scene in 3D.

2. Although I love musicals, I appreciated the quieter music values of this film, a little less Broadway, a little more intimate. The wildest one is at the Snuggly Duckling and was so much of an homage to Monty Python that I was smiling on several levels.

3. I liked that the villain—Mother Gothel--isn’t over the top. I weary very quickly of scene chewing witches (and other villains) in the Disney films. Gothel doesn’t morph into horrible monsters and frighten the children into nightmares. Her ending is poetic and I don’t know how many viewers understood that she had aged into the dust she would have been by that time if she had aged and died long ago as she was supposed to without the rapunzel magic. Of course, those familiar with their vampire lore or fantasy in general got it.

4. This can be argued in many ways, but Rapunzel and Flynn Rider save each other. It’s an equal opportunity rescue. They are partners in that ending and I thought, FINALLY! And the magical tears are from original tales so nice touch in the story.

5. I was worried that Rapunzel wouldn’t star in her own story, but she did. It was nice to have both characters, the closest to a classic romantic comedy that Disney has accomplished with any of their fairy tales.

6. I LOVED that the animals didn’t talk. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And yet they were some of my favorite characters.

7. I don’t care how true to the original tales the film is. I don’t require that of the other interpretations I read and see if they tell a good story. That’s the fun of fairy tales. I am not going to accuse Disney of doing exactly what I enjoy from other creators.

8. I loved that the children around me weren’t seemingly at all phased by Gothel’s death. But when Flynn died, there was absolute silence. One child sitting nearby kept whispering, “Why is he dead, Mommy?” Another one who had been coughing CONSTANTLY right behind me through most of the film—really too sick to be out although obviously in the final persistent cough stages of a cold—well, he was silent, his throat forgotten. It was better than a lozenge.

I attended the movie in a packed theatre and the irony was that we were surrounded by families with young boys. As I sat there I wondered if the marketing really influenced that or if this was simply the best choice for a young family film this weekend (it was) and families attended not caring much either way.

Which brings me to the next topic on this overlong blog entry—the news that Disney is foregoing anymore fairy tale stories for a while which has caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth this week. Heather Tomlinson sent me the first LA Times article (thanks Heather) and it is been picked up left and right in the media. A great publicity stunt IMHO even if it is true. For now. We all seem to forget how many years pass between many fairy tale films. The break between The Princess and the Frog and Tangled is the shortest ever. The first was a failure by Disney standards. Tangled will not. It is a much, much better film. The same sister (I only have one) sat through that one with me earlier this year and we both were bored almost to tears, constantly pausing it and finding many things to talk about and do. So I say, wait and see. And wait a few years. It might be ten or so, but there will eventually be another animated Disney fairy tale. They tend to save the studio when it needs the boost. And Tangled’s success will have some studio heads thinking. Go see it. Make it successful and see what happens in a few years. Money talks. Especially in Hollywood where projects live and die each day of the year.

What disturbs me about that news is not the loss of animated fairy tales but that the upcoming films at Disney and elsewhere seem to be very male centric, token one female character and all. Hollywood is still convinced that girls will watch “boy” movies but boys won’t watch “girl” movies. That makes me sad. That theatre was packed last night and the boys enjoyed the film, changed title, “girl” film or not. It’s about socialization not what they will truly enjoy. But girls are being pushed to the side. They are excelling in so many other places but in the business that is Hollywood, they are regressing once again to sidekicks and rewards for the male leads. That was true in every single preview before the film, too. I am depressed by that. Yes, I enjoy the Toy Story trilogy and such, but I want variety. And I didn’t hear a single little girl voice excited at the Cars 2 preview, only many little boys’ voices whispering, “Buzz McQueen!”

So what did you think of Tangled? I think Sleeping Beauty has finally been usurped or at least tied for first as my favorite Disney fairy tale. Yes, I like Belle, too, but her story as portrayed in that movie also disturbs me so I am always verklempt over it, marring my enjoyment.


  1. There was an interesting review of the movie in the New York Times. They enjoyed it as well, but they noted that the shift to the male voice over at the beginning. The reviewer connected it to the Pixar team and Pixar's inability to put females front and center. He had a point about Pixar. I've noticed it. Pixar finally had a woman director doing a movie about a film hero, and they fire her and replace with a man.

  2. I completely agree with your assessment of Tangled (if not of Disney as a whole). I was not looking forward to it and expected to be severely disappointed when I walked out of the film (blame the terrible advertising campaign), and I was completely blown away.

  3. Huh. If they want boy movies, why on earth do they not do boy fairy tales? Jack and the Beanstalk, Bearskin, the Firebird, the Tinderbox -- just to select some that are on the front page of SurLaLune?

  4. I loved Tangled. I find it ironic that I was SO excited for The Princess and the Frog and felt only so-so about seeing Tangled, but Tangled turned out to be the far better movie. I went to see it grudgingly partly because it was CG (I'm a sucker for hand-drawn, though I think there's room for everything) and partly because it looked nothing like Rapunzel. But I am a huge Disney fan so I went. I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed it. The characters, music, animation and story were so strong. Also I like seeing male and female characters on an equal plane. Despite the title change and the Flynn-focused ads, it was Rapunzel's story. Both she and Flynn had an arc and they both grew and developed as characters. I believed their relationship. I also squealed with delight at the "magic tears" scene. Great touch.

    Disney gets a lot of grief for changing their source material, and I did my fair share of complaining that this looked nothing like the fairy tale. But the fairy tale was there told in a new way, and Disney is hardly the only one to do that. Books do it to fairy tales all the time. If Tangled had been a book, I would have adored the fresh twist brought to the story.

    However, I don't agree with the reason for the title change or the coming emphasis on "boy movies." Why are movies based on fairy tales automatically "girl movies"? As Mary said, there are loads of great fairy tales with boys at the center. It's stupid to think a boy can't enjoy a "girl's movie" (and therefore shouldn't be "forced" to watch one) when girls are expected to watch and enjoy anything. The theater I saw Tangled in was packed with boys and girls, and everybody seemed to love it.
    Hopefully, Tangled will be successful and make wiser heads prevail.

  5. lovely review, I feel the same way about disney as you do, but i'm excited to see tangled and what they do with the story.