Tangled – Classical Essence?

Quick Thoughts: Tangled (2010)

A stolen princess with magical hair dreams of leaving her tower.


Tangled is Disney’s fast and loose retelling of the classical tale of Rapunzel. For the fact that this is so far removed from the original tale, much of the archetypal subtext has been lost and replaced by a rather basic adventure full of tropes and predictability, and not much depth. If we were to delve into the subtext of this film we would only be re-tracing ground, though with a fair degree of futility, we’ve covered in much detail recently when exploring parent-children relationships and dreams.┬áIn fact, when we compare Tangled to films such as Coraline, or even Disney’s 1991 Beauty And The Beast, both of which this is quite similar to, Tangled is, story-wise, quite mundane. This is something that I didn’t really foresee when initially planning this series well over a year ago.

I have always enjoyed Tangled, and still do, even after seeing this film dozens and dozens of times – I have young sisters, so this is nothing close to an exaggeration, believe me. I’ve always liked Tangled for its intricate animation and projection of characters, in particularly, Mother Gothel during the first act and in the ‘Mother Knows Best” sequence (which is undoubtedly the best part of the entire film in my opinion). But, because, much like the majority of the best Disney films, Tangled holds up under a ridiculous amount of re-watches, I assumed that, when the time came, I’d have quite a bit to say about it. This is not really a position I find myself in. Whilst this is a truly gorgeous movie with great characters bursting with personality, the intention with Tangled, as said by the filmmakers, was to transpose the feel and aesthetics of the old Disney films – such as Cinderella and Pinocchio – into a CG world. Put straight, despite clear inspiration and a return to the princess figure, the essence of these films, both stylistically and atmospherically, is lost on Tangled. Whilst I speak from a bias towards the classics, Tangled doesn’t feel like a true Disney film like even the recent Treasure Planet and Lilo & Stitch did. At best, this feels like a rather fantastical CG blend of a 50s Hollywood musical and a romance such as Roman Holiday. This has a lot to do with the direction; the ‘camera’ here functions nothing like it does in classical animated films, instead resembles that of a live action movie. Again, I really appreciate this and think it works for this narrative – though this doesn’t have it contend with the best that Disney has offered.

What Tangled represents, to me, is something that, in 2010, was a long-time-coming. Whilst Disney made major strides away from their classical style in the 1960s with 101 Dalmatians and continued this through the 80s and 90s with the gradual implementation of CGI, it was after a run of CGI films that eventually lead up to Tangled that Disney, maybe inadvertently, made a resounding statement, saying that the classical style is finally, truly and completely a lost art form. With films such as Mulan and Lilo & Stitch, this idea could be looked past as the old, yet morphed, Disney magic still resides within these narratives. This magic is not present in Tangled; because of the irreconcilable distance aesthetically and tonally put to screen with this film, Disney adopted much of what Pixar does best in terms of style, and so have very clearly stepped into a new era.

This shift, if we consider the films we skipped past for the series, films such as Chicken Little, The Wild, Meet The Robinsons and Bolt, has some rather unattractive and forgettable attributes, but, thinking ahead to Wreck It Ralph, also has much promise. However, this will be something that we will have to explore further in later posts. To bring things towards an end, I’ll emphasise that Tangled is a film that I really enjoy, but don’t see much substance in thanks to a very basic narrative that is solely reliant on characters. These are just my thoughts though. What do you think of Tangled, especially considering its place in the wider catalogue of Disney films?



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