Hello, everyone! Welcome to my first real post in over twenty days. I’ve been adjusting to college lately, so I haven’t had time to watch anything new. If anything, I’ve regressed into re-watching nostalgic favorites (my friends and I had a binge watching session of Glee this weekend), including Tangled. I’ve always been a fan of this movie, but it’s not until I watched it last night that I realized that it’s a tour de force. From its dazzling animation style, to its gorgeous original soundtrack, to its detailed look at an abusive maternal relationship, Tangled earns its place as Disney’s best princess movie, and even, if I dare say myself, one of Disney’s best movies overall.
Here are five reasons why Tangled soars above the rest of Disney’s princess movies:
- The Animation Style: Disney dipped its toes in the water of 3D animation with Bolt, Chicken Little, and Meet the Robinsons, but Tangled was the first movie where they hit their stride stylistically. The world created in Tangled is a beautiful imagination of an old-fashioned pseudo-European kingdom. I particularly like the architecture of the palace and Rapunzel’s tower. The animators use the classic 2D storybook look while also injecting a sense of freshness with smooth 3D animation. The characters are more photorealistic than any other Disney characters, but animated just enough to keep reality at bay. Every gesture and expression is full of humanity, and their skin and hair are so lifelike that you want to reach out and touch them. But besides the realism of the animation, the character designs are what really stand out to me. Rapunzel and Finn are photogenic in the standard Disney way, but characters like Mother Gothel, the Stabbington Brothers, and the Snuggly Duckling Thugs display the quirky, flawed character design that Pixar is famous for, but Disney had not yet mastered until this movie.
2. The Original Soundtrack: I’m of the opinion that Tangled’s soundtrack is one of the greatest ever composed by Disney, comparable to that of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. The music is beautiful, the lyrics clever, endearing, or heartbreaking, and as a whole the soundtrack comes across as very Broadway. I love all of the songs, but my personal favorite is “Mother Knows Best.” Disney’s villain songs are so alike that they could be interchangeable, but I like this track because it’s tailored so perfectly to Gothel’s character. Instead of wishing for vague evil, like Ursula or Scar, the whole song is built upon Mother Gothel intimidating, belittling, and abusing Rapunzel into complacency. It showcases actress Donna Murphy’s fantastic vocal range and her wicked comedic nuance. And of course, the staging of that song is perfect. However, it’s hard to choose a favorite on the soundtrack because each song is so delightful to listen to. “When Will My Life Begin” bolsters an already incredible lineup of Disney coming-of-age songs, and ” I See the Light” is a superb addition to Disney’s collection of romantic duets, matched only by Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World.” And when you compare Tangled to the much lauded Frozen, which had one of the worst Disney soundtracks I’ve ever heard, it sounds even better.
3. The Humor: Most Disney movies are funny, but Tangled has some of the best comedic characters in any Disney movie. At the top is Flynn, a Disney “prince” with an actual personality. Actor Zachary Levi turns what could have been a douchey asshole into an endearing trickster who is full of flaws and insecurities. He’s followed by Gothel, who despite being a villain has some of the best snarky one-liners in the whole movie. I like that the film allowed her to be more than just a villain; she’s also a maternal figure, even if her views on motherhood are completely warped. There are also the comedic antics of Pascal and Maximus. Disney is big on anthropomorphic animal humor, which can get tiring, but those two are amusing enough to be worth it. The best humor, however, is the dialogue shared between Flynn and Rapunzel. Their dynamic is one part flirtatious, one part antagonistic, and one part partner in crime. The amazing chemistry between voice leads Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore certainly helps.
4. The Mother-Daughter Relationship : Disney has an issue with portraying normal parental relationships in their films. The parents tend to be dead, absent-minded, full of idiosyncrasies, or abusive. What I find so interesting in Tangled is that for once, that trope is subverted. Rapunzel has not one, not two, but three parents, and though she doesn’t meet her real parents until the end of the movie, at least they’re not dead. Mother Gothel is entirely novel, too. She is a complex character, not a total villain, but not a well-intentioned character either. Whenever she tells Rapunzel that she loves her, she is either stroking her hair or kissing it. Their relationship is too nuanced to claim that she only loves Rapunzel for her hair; after all, she does provide Rapunzel with comfort, safety, and affection. On the other hand, however, she fits the portrait of a psychological abuser. She constantly belittles Rapunzel, most noticeably for her mumbling, to keep her insecure and dependent on affection. She emotionally manipulates Rapunzel and isolates her from others who might make her feel confident. The climax of the movie shows the two sides of Mother Gothel at their most binary. On the one hand, she imprisons Rapunzel and stabs Flynn, but on the other, she allows Rapunzel to heal Flynn with her hair, even though that is in vain. Their relationship is the most complex parental relationship in the Disney canon.
5. The Flynn-Rapunzel Relationship: At its core, the movie is about a search for freedom, but it also has a wonderful love story. Flynn and Rapunzel were Anna and Kristoff before there even was an Anna and Kristoff. What I like most about their pairing is that they both help each other grow. The Disney relationships of yore were static, but the relationship between Flynn and Rapunzel is always evolving. Both characters are longing for a sense of self and by the end, both of them have found it with the help of the other. In some ways, Flynn plays the archaic role of mature older man opening the eyes of the naive ingenue, but that’s tempered by the fact that Rapunzel opens his eyes too. He shows her the outside world and she shows him how to want more in life than the criminal lifestyle. There is no damsel-in-distress story, for Rapunzel does more saving than Flynn. My only qualm is that Rapunzel is 18 to Flynn’s cool 26, but that’s pretty standard for princess movies. Their slightly inapropro age difference is more than made up for with the quality of their romance.
Final Consensus: Tangled is an animated masterpiece, showcasing fantastic animation, a gorgeous soundtrack, and a mature, nuanced look at a parental relationship. Though it isn’t as hyped as movies like Frozen, it deserves to be known as Disney’s best princess movie, and perhaps, one of the best Disney movies in the bunch.