One of a few reviews left over from 2010…
I am lucky to have been born when I was. I am not entirely certain that everyone of my generation appreciates the specialness of our timing of birth in relation to Disney animation.
I was born in 1970, at a time when Disney was known for its animation and family programming more than its theme parks. Animation is what had fed the Disney coffers for decades and is what sustained it as attempts were made to break into other entertainment areas. I spent many of my formative years watching hand-drawn stories from the “9 Old Men” unfold on movie screens. Home video was not prevalent, so seeing a Disney animated classic on the big screen was a big deal. In the 80s, audiences felt that Disney was not as important to animation as it once was. Even then, Disney was trying to find ways to incorporate new techniques to lure audiences back. The release of Oliver and Company saw the first use of computers in animation. Even in its crudeness, Disney saw the potential power of the computer on the animation industry. Each animated feature that followed used more and more of the computer.
Of course, Pixar took us to the next step: believable computer animation with deep stories. Disney was wise to sign on as Pixar’s distribution arm. However, Michael Eisner let his ego almost destroy Disney animation completely. He could not stand the fact that Pixar was becoming talked about as Disney’s equal in the world of animation – no other studio had come even close to that comparison. Something had to be done since traditional animated features had not been as successful as they had been in the heyday of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Despite the Orlando successes of Lilo & Stitch and Brother Bear, Eisner shuttered the East Coast animation studio and moved everything out west. On top of that, he decreed that everything had to be computer-animated the way Pixar did it. He hoped to use this as leverage against Pixar in a “we don’t really need you” scenario.
The first entry from this new path was Chicken Little. While it had good visuals, the story was too weak to sustain a box office run. It also served as Disney’s first run at 3-D that involved a depth to the screen versus things coming out of the screen. The 3-D was what made me recommend it to others. Meet The Robinsons was better in all categories, but still not the equal of Pixar. With Bolt, things started going right – but there was a reason for that. Eisner was no longer in charge, and Pixar was now part of the company. Those that had guided Pixar’s success were now applying similar principles to Disney.
Which leads us to Tangled…
Tangled was originally titled Rapunzel, but was retitled after the release of The Princess and the Frog. Why? Well, Disney realized that boys were not interested in watching animation that appeared to be centered around princesses. So the story was reworked to emphasize Flynn Rider’s role and the promotional materials changed to reflect a more neutral style of story. I believe that it is this shift in viewpoint that yielded the strong story that movie-going audiences ended up getting.
The story is a basic one: Girl wants to experience the world; guy agrees to help in return for his treasure; hijinks ensue. The animation is beautiful and you almost forget that you are watching a computer-animated feature. The voice-casting features good use of Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi (TV’s Chuck). What I really enjoyed was the sidekick for Rapunzel, a chameleon named Pascal; and the Looney-Tunes-esque feel of a majority of the action sequences.
What was disappointing was how similar it felt to Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Not sure what I mean – take a look:
- Horse – both feature a strong horse (Captain of the Guard mount) that employ similar tricks.
- The use of the tower and isolation – I know that both stories have those as elements, but Disney went the same route in using those plot elements for both movies.
- The “I Want” song – very similar to the “I Want” song in Hunchback, both in lyric and music.
- The “Villain” song – again eerily similar to the “Villain” song in Hunchback.
- The way the sidekick was used – while not verbally helping, Pascal was all three gargoyles rolled into one.
Would most people notice those things? Probably not…
My advice: If it is still available, see it on the big screen; even the 3-D is fairly good…