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

Jim Hill

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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'm hearing a lot good things about "Tangled".  I can't wait to see it when it comes out.

    I have to disagree with you on one point, Jim.  "The Princess and the Frog" was truly Disney's return to form (I also liked "Meet the Robinsons", but I haven't seen "Bolt" yet).  I happen to think it's one of the best films in the entire Disney animated feature canon.  But, nevertheless, WDAS is definitely on the right track.

  • I really hate the marketing campaign for this movie, but I (sadly) think they are doing the right thing... Altough I loved the campaign for "The Princess & The Frog", I think it was more directed towards Disney aficionados... and let's face it guys, we are much, much less than the mainstream audience. I think they are doing the right thing because most Disney aficionados will see the movie no matter what, and this generation who loves "Shrek" type movies will also go see it... and hopefully both groups will like it.

    I am really, really looking forward to watching "Tangled" this fall.

  • "The Princess and the Frog" had an ill-thought-out story and less than stellar characters - THAT'S what killed it. As for this movie "Tangled"...the problem is in part the title, which makes it SOUND like a Shrek-like Fractured Fairy Tale. Now it so happens that the title is growing on me, but I do think it might be an unfortunate choice, for the reason I've already mentioned. However, I've seen some art and animation from the movie, and it's all gorgeous; it looks like WDA really did manage to blend the beauty of traditional Disney big screen animation with CGI, and that's quite an accomplishment. So I"m hoping this film is indeed excellent and does well - but one can't happen without the other. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed on both accounts.

  • THe Princess an the Frog made abou 270 million USD at the box office alone (worldwide). Add the DVD sales, merchandising, TV, parks... Not a huge success, granted - but definitely not a flop! And what hurt (as opposed to "killed") it, was the music by Randy Newman, nothing else, IMHO

  • I have to agree with G Flores on the marketting. My 12 year old son had no desire to see this movie until the latest trailers appeared, focusing more on the antics, action and comedy. I think you'll see the ad compaign target different groups based on where the clips/trailers/ads are being shown. It's hard to market a movie across multiple demographics. Once you get the butts in the seats, then word of mouth takes over.

  • Posted by: anonymous

    "I don't agree here. Sorry."


    Oh, so you saw the movie?  Where's the link to your review?

    Because it'd be silly to make such a statement had you not SEEN the film, but you wouldnt BE that silly, would you?

  • YAY! I'm so glad that you liked this Jim! There are so many people out there (even people who commented on this article) who are such haters of this movie. I want to see it slap them in the face, prove them wrong Disney!

  • "writing professionally"

    Don't you mean "typing?"

  • "Don't you mean 'typing'?"

    That's funny. Mind you, it was funnier when Truman Capote first made a comment to this effect about Jack Kerouac's stuff (i.e. "That's not writing. That's typing"). But that said, it's still a funny line.

  • Thank you, Jim... I hope that you have persuaded your readers not to give up on "Tangled"! I too am a Disney animation fan who felt troubled by the trailers. The turning point for me, when I actually got interested in this movie,  was seeing the art and info on display at Hollywood Studios. I think the Dreamworks comparisons might be coming from the design of Flynn, who just happens to look like one of the El Dorado guys or a Dreamworks character in general. I wish there were more focus on Rapunzel, who resembles Ariel so much but with a cute twist.

    I was disappointed with the name change to Tangled, but lately I have been thinking maybe it was a good idea. Perhaps the word "princess" did cause little boys to stay away from the Princess and the Frog, when in fact i think it's one of the least "girly" of the princess movies. Perhaps the name change along with the trailers are a strategy that will help that situation for Tangled?

    And lastly, I'm as big a Disney buff as they come, and I had no idea that Queen Leah had a name, so thanks for teaching me something new today!

  • Had the chance to see the movie last week and completely agree with Jim's review! This is the best movie Disney has done in years (and I have been a fan of several post Lion King). However, this movie will sit very nicely with the crowd who holds TLM, B&TB, and Aladdin towards the top. It's also worth noting that Zachary Levi and the animators have created the greatest male lead Disney has ever produced. SEE THIS MOVIE!! And to echo Jim's comments, don't go by the previews; Doesn't do the movie justice.

  • Hi, I'm a 12 year old girl who secretly still likes the Disney princess movies. I just love Disney, and always know that whatever they do, they usually turn out making great movies. I just went to go see Tangled opening night and absolutely loved it! The songs were great too. It was finally a Disney computer animation film that reminded me of the classics. Hopefully Disney keeps up the good work. Bey!

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