Tangled is the first ever computer animated Disney fairy tale. It only made sense for Tangled to be the studio’s fiftieth animated production. A major milestone that only took Disney 73 years to reach. Unlike most classic stories, Rapunzel was a well known fairy tale fixture long before Disney. There’s not a single child that doesn’t know the phrase “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” So I’m actually shocked to learn Walt Disney never once considered adapting the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. More shocking is how little Rapunzel movies there actually are. She always appeared in more fairy tale ensembles. The idea for a Disney version came around the Disney Renaissance, but it was always intended to be computer animated.
Eventually becoming the most expensive animated movie ever made. Hair is just that difficult to realistically render with CGI. Tangled continues the Revival era with a more subverted take on the classic tale. It was Disneyfied, but I doubt many people know the full story of Rapunzel. How her father gave her to a sorceress in exchange for a salad that his selfish wife wanted. How the Prince climbed her hair because of her beautiful voice and was blinded when he was discovered. Tangled keeps the spirit, but changed it into a more adventurous movie called Rapunzel Unbraided. A lame title that was thankfully changed to Rapunzel, then more controversially changed to Tangled. The misguided reason being that they blamed The Princess and the Frog not being a huge success on its title being too girly…
Tangled is something I fell in love with the moment I saw it in theaters with my brother. Shame on Disney for thinking I care how “girly” a movie appears to be. Some of the greatest Disney movies are female focused and that didn’t stop them from being successful. The Princess and the Frog only failed because of its traditional animation. Sadly audiences outgrew seeing the medium on the big screen. In a way, Tangled being released at the very beginning of 2010 was fitting. I always hoped Disney would make a Rapunzel movie, but computer animation made it better than I could’ve ever dreamed. Once upon a time a drop of golden sun fell from the sky. It’s magic sprouted a flower with the ability to heal the sick and injured. All a person has to do is sing the song “Flower gleam and glow…” Unlike the fairy tale, Rapunzel’s parents are loving rulers of Corona who use the flower to heal the queen.
Rapunzel is born with beautiful golden hair, but is sadly kidnapped by the evil Mother Gothel. Who locks her in her infamous tower hidden in the woods. Rapunzel is the first computer animated Disney Princess. She’s literally and figuratively three dimensional. Rapunzel is spunky, creative, resourceful, and caring in the best Princess way. Singer Mandy Moore is no stranger to Disney and Rapunzel was her chance to let her hair down. Rapunzel became an instant favorite of mine who I personally think is the prettiest. Computer animation is just closer to real life without being totally real. Her notable traits are her big green eyes, bare feet, lovely lavender dress, and 70 ft long blonde hair. Her hair is given extra importance because it contains healing properties. So it can’t be cut, or else risk losing its magic.
Rapunzel’s only real friend is her animal companion Pascal. An encouraging chameleon with a lot of personality in a small silent package. Mother Gothel is a unique Disney villain. Since she’s not overtly evil. Gothel is like real life baby nappers who genuinely care about the child and manipulate them into loving them as well. Making Gothel’s actions feel more cruel in a less common way. Gothel is a great modern Disney villain with a big personality, fueled by vanity, and a need to keep herself young forever. Donna Murphy was practically made for the role. Gothel keeps her locked in her tower at all times, but if she was so smart, she wouldn’t have told Rapunzel her birthday aligned with the palace launching lanterns in honor of the lost Princess.
Meanwhile, dashing rogue Flynn Ryder replaces the traditional wandering Prince. As a Disney Prince, Flynn was an obvious marketing tool. Trailers were made from his perspective. Emphasizing the action in a way Disney hoped would appeal to boys. It wasn’t exactly false marketing, because Flynn Ryder is just as important as Rapunzel. He’s a charming thief and the funniest character in the movie. He was purposefully made to look as handsome as possible and the unlikely voice/singing talent of Zachary Levi rounded him out. Along with being the narrator, Flynn is motivated by wealth and steals the royal tiara with the Stabbington Brothers. Guards begin to chase him, but it’s palace horse Maximus who really stands out. Maximus has more personality than any other Disney horse in his desperate pursuit of Flynn. Flynn only goes to the tower to hideout. He’s instead met with multiple frying pans to the head. Rapunzel’s weapon of choice.
Character interactions are great, but the physical comedy is really what’s best. While not exactly prehensile, Rapunzel still uses her hair in a variety of creative ways. Whether it’s grasping, climbing, or swinging. Rapunzel & Flynn make a deal that’ll allow her to see the lanterns in exchange for the crown. Rapunzel’s reaction to finally leaving her tower is infectiously cheerful, but the only thing holding her back is her “mother.” While on their adventure, Flynn tries to turn her back with grizzly ruffians who turn out to be sensitive dreamers like her. They let them go with the guards and Maximus not far behind. Gothel isn’t far behind either, since she discovers the truth and hires the Stabbington Brothers to manipulate. Rapunzel & Flynn grow closer when they think they’re gonna drown and he even reveals his real name to be the dorky Eugene Fitzherbert. While she reveals her hairs true power.
Leading to perhaps the most believable Disney animated couple I’ve ever seen. Rapunzel & Flynn spend most of Tangled tangled up together. Allowing them to convincingly fall in love thanks to them being presented as equals. Maximus eventually catches up to them, but Rapunzel’s Princess appropriate way with animals makes him a traveling companion. When they reach the kingdom, Rapunzel & Eugene bond even more. A flower filled braid at least helps Rapunzel get around better. Their boat ride in the middle of the floating lanterns is one of the most gorgeous sequences in recent Disney animation. Their kiss is interrupted by the Stabbington Brothers. Who make Rapunzel think he’s run off with the crown. Then Gothel back stabs them by continuing to keep Rapunzel for herself. Except Rapunzel subconsciously remembers her past as a Princess. Turning on her so called mother. Flynn is sentenced to death, but the sensitive ruffians return to free him.
Flynn finally says the iconic words, but he’s met with a dagger instead. Honestly the only reason the movie has a PG rating. Rapunzel promises to willingly go with Gothel in exchange for healing Flynn. SPOILER ALERT! Flynn instead cuts Rapunzel’s hair in one swift motion. Turning it brunette with a stylish pixie cut and draining all the youth out of Gothel. Her disturbing villain death ends with her falling out a window (thanks to Pascal) and turning to dust before she hits the ground. All hope seems lost, but the power was inside all along. Rapunzel’s tear brings Eugene back to life and they finally share a kiss. In the end, Rapunzel at last reunites with her parents, Eugene is embraced by the kingdom, and they both lived happily ever after. Tangled could really only be done justice in 3D animation. The look stays true to Disney’s older 2D animation in a way that sets it apart from Pixar. John Lasseter may have had a lot of influence on both studios at the time, but I can easily tell the difference between both styles.
Rapunzel still feels right at home with her fellow 2D Disney Princesses. A process was used that blended 2D with 3D. Backgrounds appear painted with motions that mimic hand drawn artwork. Rapunzel’s famous long hair was still the most impressive feat in the end. As instantly enjoyable as Tangled is, the only thing holding it back is the music. Great Disney musical composer Alan Menken returned to score, but his work ended up sounding a bit derivative. It’s hard to call any of them overly catchy. “When Will My Life Begin?” is a fine longing song for Rapunzel, but it’s just okay. “Mother Knows Best” is a unique villain song with an upbeat tone that sounds oddly mainstream. “I’ve Got a Dream” is fun if kinda rambling. Primary love song “I See the Light” is the only truly Oscar worthy song of the bunch. Tangled is a hair raising spectacle that gave Rapunzel the movie she deserved.