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Terrific "Tangled" is the hair ... er ... heir apparent to Disney's fairy tale crown

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Terrific "Tangled" is the hair ... er ... heir apparent to Disney's fairy tale crown

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I have been writing professionally about The Walt Disney Company for over 25 years now. Which is why I can tell you what it felt like to be in a theater on November 17, 1989. Which was the night that "The Little Mermaid" was first released to theaters.

As the credits rolled, I remember turning to my date and saying "Holy [email protected] Disney finally figured out how to make truly great animated films again." Back then, it was just so startling to see something that was as tried & true (and - let's be honest here - tired) as a Disney animated fairy tale be reinvented as something energetic & exciting. A film that could entertain mainstream moviegoers. Rather than just the kids-and-families-only crowd.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Well, last night, I got to see a not-quite-finished version of "Tangled." And after that screening on the Disney Lot, as I was being introduced to Byron Howard & Nathan Greno, I couldn't help myself. I actually blurted out: "Holy [email protected] You guys figured how to make great animated movies again."

To their credit, Howard & Greno took my somewhat crude compliment in the spirit with which it was intended. They recognized (given my daughter and I were still dabbing our eyes after watching "Tangled" 's happy-tears-filled finale) that we had been thoroughly entertained by this new Walt Disney Animation Studios production.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I know, I know. We've all seen the trailers that are out there for "Tangled." But they don't do justice to this new animated feature. By playing up this motion picture's more contemporary sense of humor, rather than highlighting "Tangled" 's sincerity, this film's huge heart, stunning visuals and solid storytelling, Disney's doing a genuine disservice to this WDAS production. Making many would-be moviegoers think that "Tangled" is some sort of a Shrek-ified take on Rapunzel.

Which isn't what "Tangled" is at all. Truth be told, his new Walt Disney Animation Studios production doesn't have a cynical bone in its body. It entertains you from beginning to end strictly on the merits of its clever plot & engaging characters. Not to mention Alan Menken & Glenn Slater's terrific score.

At the post-screening cocktail reception. Disney tried to replicate "Tangled" 's floating
lantern sequence by filling the Legend Plaza in front of the Team Disney building with
the same sort of lanterns. Photo by Jim Hill

Okay. Given that this was a screening of an unfinished film, I'm not really allowed to review "Tangled." To get into any real specifics about this animated feature. So all I can tell you now is ... You're going to love the gang of ruffians that hang out at the Snuggly Duckling. And Mother Gothel puts a modern / passive-aggressive / toxic parenting spin on the classic Disney villain. And that scene when Rapunzel & Flynn are out in the bay, and the lanterns that fill the sky are then reflected in the water below is almost achingly beautiful.

Voiced by Broadway veteran Donna Murphy, Mother Gothel mixes Ursula's charm & wit
with Judge Claude Frollo's parenting skills. In short, this is one mother than you don't
want to mess with. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I mean, there's so much that Howard, Greno and their creative team get right in "Tangled." Where they actually improve on scenes that we've previously seen in other Disney animated fairy tales.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Take - for example - "Sleeping Beauty." Specifically the aspect of that story where King Stefan & Queen Leah have been separated from Princess Aurora for 16 years. As you watch this animated feature, you never get a sense of how this separation from their daughter must have affected the King & Queen. Stefan & Leah are basically ciphers in that story. These characters don't engage you at all emotionally.

Now contrast that with this brief scene you get in "Tangled." Where - on the night of Rapunzel's 18th birthday - the King & Queen are getting ready to appear before the kingdom. And  for one heartfelt instance, you actually get to see the huge toll that their nearly two-decades-long search has had on these royals. That they still grieve for their missing daughter.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

That's what "Tangled" really does best. It takes something that you think you've seen before (i.e. the Disney animated fairy tale) and then turns it into something genuinely effective & entertaining for today's audiences. Which is why this movie is sure to connect with adults, kids & couples come November 24th. Which is when this new Walt Disney Animation Studios release finally bows in theaters.

So you might want to make some room on that shelf where you've been keeping your DVD versions of Disney's "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast " and "Aladdin." Because next spring (when the Blu-ray of "Tangled" is finally available for purchase), you're definitely going to want to slot this hair ... er ... heir apparent to Disney's fairy tale crown right alongside those great animated features from the late 1980s / early 1990s.

Your thoughts?

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  • I cannot wait for this film and I'm happy to hear that it's looking so good! What I really want to see are clips revealing at least a snippet of the music/songs... know where anything is available?

  • Everything I've heard so far has been positive, so I'm so glad that you liked it, Jim!  I hope we get a trailer soon that shows the heart...so many people are thinking that this will be like a DreamWorks film, which is such a shame.  :(

  • Great "review", Jim - did you have a chance to talk to someone involved in the marketing campaign and ask him/her why the trailers make the movie look like sth it obviously isn´t? Lasseter was right when he complained about the "Bolt" campaign - but it seems that the marketing guys haven´t learned their lesson, yet.

  • Wow, Jim, this is great to hear. The question is, then, what in the world is Disney's marketing team doing with those trailers? Every promo I've seen, both online and in theaters, has led me to believe this would be a pandering, second-tier Shrek knock-off. Can somebody drag these guys out of the 1990s before they start adding Smash Mouth songs to the "Beauty & the Beast" DVD-reissue commercials?

  • Embargo? What embargo? Sure sounded like a review to me.

  • Jim www.boxoffice.com  is tracking Tangled only at 35 million dollars for thanksgiving week and 135 million domestically long term. clearly this isnt what disney wants from its flagship. Is it to late to salvage the marketing effort

  • Count me in as someone who's surprised by your review... I was feeling vibes of Shrek from it, too. Now, to be fair, I did enjoy the first Shrek movie, but due to all of the copycats since then, I was getting tired of it. Glad to know that this is worth watching (and if it's as good as you say, the box office will probably get the same kind of bump up that How To Train Your Dragon did when everyone realized it was actually great).

  • I trust your opinions, Jim.  And if it's true--that this film is good--then the marketing department at Disney has failed miserable.  The trailer with the music by Pink was horrid.  And the new trailer makes the movie look like a watered-down version of the Road to El Dorado.  The new trailer is an improvement, but still, the new trailer says, wait-for-video.  Your review is one of the first things that has made me want to see this movie.  But if the movie is really this good someone needs to clean shop in marketing.  A good marketing department can make a bad movie look good.  A mediocre marketing department can make a so-so flick look interesting.  But what kind of marketing department makes a good film look dreadful?

  • I sure hope the movie will be GREAT, but I guess I will take my chances by waiting for the DVD. The preview clips were terrible. It did look like a Dreamworks movie with its humor. The graphics is very much like Bluth. I still hate the renaming of the movie from Rapunzel, which is a message in itself.  How would they like to rename "Cinderella" into "Ever After"?  Ooops, that was done. It changes the intent of the movie. Rapunzel should be allowed to keep its name.

  • Gawd, I hope you're right about this movie.  I HATED the trailer. after the first few scenes, I was actually rooting for the boys from Rent-A-Thug to bag the jerk and collect the reward.

  • I don't agree here. Sorry.

    I grew up adoring these films and work directly in this field now and while I'm excited to see Tangled, saying its up there with Lion King, Sleeping Beauty or Little Mermaid is just wrong. The voice actors are ridiculous. Many Moore and the guy from Chuck? The men in these princess movies were strong but supporting characters to the women. This, it seems more of the story is about the guy making goofy faces and overly animated!

    I love Disney and was bummed to see Princess and the Frog flop (and more bummed when many of the reasons people were chauking it up to I heard were because viewers just couldn't wrap their head around an African American disney princess)

    I will always see and love Disney animated films but they're just trying too hard. In my personal and professional opinion, Disney Animation died and what it was evolved into Pixar and the good and bad that come with it. I just don't see this working.

  • Anonymous you can't make a judgement about something which you haven't seen. Particularly in this instance when the only footage seen thus far is supposedly not at all indicative of what the finished product is really like.

  • OMG!!

    can't wait for it, I'm really excited for this, and with all the good comments and reviews my expectations are growing and growing uncontrollably

  • Honor Hunter on BlueSky Disney made a good point about the masterful marketing that the Marketing Dept has done on Tron Legacy. Maybe they don't know how to market a Disney animated movie? I wouldn't fault them for Bolt though. Bolt was not a very good movie. If you want to talk about a Dreamworks clone, see Bolt.

    I have hopes for Tangled. Postive word of mouth (especially in the internet age) is GOLDEN. It might hurt opening weekend box office, but over time it will grow (or not drop off the cliff like most turkeys).

  • Wait, didn't you say a similar thing about Enchanted?

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