*Dedicated to my amazing sister who reminded me that 2005’s War of the Worlds exists and kick started this whole blog. Love you to the moon and back.*
In December 1937, Walt Disney Animation Studios released the world’s first full length animated feature film- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. At the time every single frame of animation had to be drawn and coloured by hand, which for an 88 minute long film running at 24 frames per second meant that 126,720 individual frames had to be created. This effort paid off, with Snow White receiving a standing ovation at the premiere and Walt himself receiving an Honorary Academy Award for this significant innovation. Over the next 63 years, the company would grow into the multimedia behemoth that we recognise today, and would give us a further 38 hand-drawn feature films. Then in May of 2000, the company made another big leap with Dinosaur – their first ever Computer Generated film. The following decade would see a mixture of both CG and classically-made animated films, culminating in 2010 with a Tangled, which blended both of these techniques together. Not only is it one of the most expensive animated movies ever made, but it is also one of the most expensive movies ever made, period, with a budget of $260 million.
Tangled is loosely based on the story of Rapunzel, which was published as part of Grimm’s Fairy Tales in 1812, but dates as far back as the 11th century to a Persian tale known as Zal and Rudabeth. The story tells of a young prince who after finding a beautiful girl locked in a high tower, plots to aid in her escape. The girl was taken from her family at birth by a sorceress, who enters the tower each day by climbing the girls incredibly long hair. When the sorceress learns of the Prince’s plan, she blinds him and casts the girl into the woods after cutting off her hair. After years of searching, the Prince finally finds the princes, whose tears heal his eyes. It’s a tale fit for the brothers Grimm, but as with Snow White before it, the Walt Disney corporation made it into a ‘family-friendly’ affair. Tangled follows a thief who calls himself Flynn Rider as he steals a tiara from the town of Corona, and from his cohorts the Stabbington Brothers. In an effort to hide away, he climbs a mysterious tall tower where he meets the unknowingly lost princess Rapunzel (and her chameleon Pascal) who demands that he take her to see the floating lanterns in the town. Along the way they must avoid Rapunzel’s “mother” Gothel, the Stabbington brothers, and the Coronian militia (but more specifically a horse named Maximus). Some of these people are after Rapunzel’s magic healing hair, and some just hate Flynn. It’s possibly Disney at their best, taking a tale as old as time and making it new again, as well as turning it into a musical.
What makes Tangled a musical as opposed to a film with songs is that the songs used therein actively drive the plot and give insight into how characters are feeling. This is done to perfection by the amazing Alan Menken, who has already worked on some of the best Disney soundtracks there are. The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and Hercules were all composed by him, and the last of these just so happens to be a personal favourite of mine. I think that what makes Menken’s work so good is that he isn’t writing “just another song”, he is writing a Broadway Musical number. Perhaps two of the best songs in Tangled are Mother Knows Best and I Have A Dream which make use of the surrounding environments within the film. On top of this come the reprisals, which act as another verse to a previous song. For instance, the Reprise of Mother Knows Best takes it from a lighthearted, caring tune to one full of malice. This is unlike the using of a tune over and over again, which Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is a particular fan of.
The characters themselves are all incredibly likeable. Rapunzel is full of optimism, and though she has been raised to fear the outside world, she eventually comes to learn that she can take care of herself. Flynn Rider is almost the complete opposite, having had to raise himself, soon learning that perhaps life is better when it is shared with someone. Mother Gothel is delightfully entertaining, and is particularly interesting because she doesn’t start out as evil. Yes, she kidnaps a baby princess, but that is purely out of self-obsession in an attempt to stay young and it isn’t until around half way through that she becomes actively malicious. Then there are the ruffians and thugs who each have backstories and personalities and dreams, as well as Pascal and Maximus who each convey every thought without any words (which I think of as The Gromit Principle). Much like with an Edgar Wright production, there aren’t really any background characters, there are just characters.
It has now been a whole decade since Tangled was released and I find myself oddly reflective. At the time, my sister was 6 years old and I was 13. She was the primary demographic for this film and I found myself almost looking up to Flynn Rider. It was a film that the both of us and our parents could enjoy, and was the last of these before my brother came along 2 years later. It’s also one of the earliest memories I have relating to film advertisement campaigns. My sister had some of the toys (including the tower) and initially it was simply advertised as Rapunzel before being changed to Tangled several months before release. It did not get anywhere near the level of exposure that is given to a Disney film today and, in particular, Frozen. It is my belief that Tangled walked so that Frozen could run and I believe it to be the better film. Flynn and Maximus seem to be the basis for Kristoff and Sven, Rapunzel’s desire for freedom is mirrored by Anna’s and Let it Go seems to be designed specifically for Broadway right down to hiring a Broadway star as Elsa. I’ll spare you the “Frozen is fine and extremely over-rated” for today but I really think that Tangled could have been just as big.
Conversations of a sequel were brief as the producers felt that the story was over, but it did receive a 9 minute short set during The Big Wedding called Tangled Ever After. The short film debuted ahead of the 3-D re-release of Beauty & the Beast in 2012 and is a fun little adventure which focuses on Pascal and Maximus. In 2017, an animated series that would become known as Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure began airing on the Disney Channel preceded by an hour long film title Tangled: Before Ever After. Its animated in 2-D and brings back the original cast as well as providing some new songs, and I am now determined to sit down and watch the series itself. This would be easier if Disney+ had made the entire thing available, but I guess I’ll just have to continue to re-watch Tangled instead.
Until Next Time…