Saturday, 29 January 2011

Tangled Review - A Hair Raisingly Good Return to Form for Disney

Having just been to see Tangled, the day after it opened here in the U.K., I decided to do my first ever A113Animation review.

Tangled is the 50th animated film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, a studio that, in recent years, has embodied that oh so famous Forest Gump metaphor - Disney is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. However, I can say with some conviction, that Tangled is the best animated film made by Disney (and not Pixar) in over a decade. It was great to see a return to the magical Disney of the nineties to commemorate the 50th Disney Animated Film.

Whilst I really liked Bolt, it was completely unnecessary as a film; put simply, it was trying to be a Pixar film. As YouTuber CelluloidSeamstress so eloquently put it, it is pointless for Disney to use "its own animation department to try and imitate a different branch of its own animation department". Since it has been affiliated with Pixar (and since bought it) WDAS has been living in a huge shadow, every film they release has been judged to Pixar standards, but Tangled is the first film in years that has been able to stand out - and be clearly a Disney film and not a Pixar imitator - and stand toe to toe with some Pixar greats.

On the subject of Bolt, Tangled is directed by Bolt director Byron Howard (after he replaced Chris Sanders who went on to direct How to Train Your Dragon) and Nathan Greno - both of whom had roles in the film as guards and thugs respectively - and as with Bolt, the side characters were some of the most memorable and thoroughly entertaining pats of the film. Where in Bolt we had hyperactive super-fan Rhino the hamster, in Tangled we have "super-cop horse" Maximus and Rapunzel's loyal chameleon Pascal. Perhaps the best aspect to Maximus and Pascal was that they never spoke, meaning all of their humour was conveyed through their physical theatrics and movement, as opposed to just talking in a funny voice.

 Maximus, Disney's clever spin on the noble-steed, is a royal horse hunting down thief, Flynn Ryder, and provides the majority of the laughs in the film. He conveys so much humour just through his elaborate and exaggerated expressions and mannerisms. The humour is so subtle yet so brilliant, on par with the brilliance of Dug in Up, yet the polar opposite in terms of how it is achieved.

Another brilliant character, is Rapunzel's pet, over protective chameleon. Pascal, conveyed so much emotion with simple gestures, reminding me at times of a mute drill sergeant. In a similar vein to Maximus, Pascal is such a human feeling character and conveys so much depth just through his anthropomorphism and actions.

In terms of characters, the main characters aren't to be overlooked. Whilst Disney caught a lot of shtick for changing the film to suit a marketing stand point after The Princess and the Frog flopped and to attract more male viewers, I'm here to say this was in no way a bad thing. The story was brilliant; funny, interesting, emotional - if a tad predictable - however, I was not overly impressed with the first ten minutes of the movie, it seemed to just be going through the motions, but the film got decidedly better when Flynn Ryder made his entrance. Voiced by Chuck's Zachary Levi, Flynn Ryder is an arrogant rouge and thief who inadvertently stumbles upon Rapunzel's tower. However, it turns out that, as well as being hilariously nonchalant and cocky (almost like an animated Jack Sparrow meets Indiana Jones) Flynn has a deep and emotional back story. Due to his charisma and humour, he is an immediate crowd pleaser and he sets the audience on a whole new track.

However, at first I didn't particularly like Rapunzel as a main character, whilst we could see her motivation and back story, she was a bit ditsy and annoying, however as the movie progressed her interactions with Flynn made me look at her in a whole new light. By the end of the film, Rapunzel had certainly grown on me and can take her place among the crème de la crème of the Disney Princesses. So overall, both characters were, both interesting, and likable.

Whilst I don't think there is a single character in this film I don't like, Mother Gothel deserves honourable mention. Mother Gothel, truly is one of the best villains in an animated film to date, whilst at first she can be confused as caring, it is soon apparent that she is indeed merely cunning, selfish and brilliantly evil. One thing that has remained a constant in Disney films is the quality of the villains, whereas Pixar do the broken, betrayed bad guys with back stories, Disney perfectly pull of the evil to the core villains, as evident here.

On to other points beside characters, as previously mentioned the story was really good, funny and interesting, however it was a tad predictable. The audience knew what was going to happen in most of the crucial points of the film - unlike in Toy Story 3 where several endings are set up to keep the audience in doubt -, however going along for the ride to see it play out was still fantastic. Also, as I have mentioned earlier, the first ten minutes aren't great; it was over the top and a tad too fairy tale-ish for my tastes, however this is nowhere near enough to ruin the film.

In terms of songs, this is a musical, but it doesn't need to be. I've never been a huge fan of musicals, and I think this could have easily worked without being one, however I must admit, it certainly adds to the magic and seems a fitting way to round off 50 animated films, the way it started and became famous, with musicals. Whilst there are no particularly memorable songs - except the hilarious Ruffian Bar song - they are all very good, you will tap your toes to them, but you won't remember them.

As you can probably guess, I really liked Tangled. Apart from a few issues with the story and songs, it was near perfect - certainly the nearest Disney's came since the nineties -, and with its emotion, humour and action has something for everyone, it is a perfect family film.

All I can say is that it is fantastic to see Disney, a staple of my childhood return to the magic that made them special. The animation is fantastic and while it is computer animated, it feels hand drawn, this feels like it could have been plucked from the Disney Renaissance. Finally, Disney is no longer the company whose only good animated films come from a subsidiary of it, it is fantastic for Disney to step out of Pixar's 16 year shadow and stand on its own again, to commemorate the 50th Disney Animated Film, and with a classically drawn Winnie the Pooh film to come this year, I'm hoping it's going to continue!

I would give Tangled 9/10, in comparison (and retrospect) I would give Toy Story 3 10/10, Despicable Me 9/10, How to Train Your Dragon 10/10 and Megamind 8/10. Also, make use of our new reaction feature below to tell us whether you agree or disagree with the review.


  1. Excellent review!

    My one quibble is to your comment about the first 10 minutes. I just watched that part again, and just under 5 minutes explain and show the whole background (different from Grimm Brothers) on why Rapunzel has been kidnapped and kept in the tower. Then there are 3 minutes introducing grown-up Rapunzel and her pet chameleon, including a catchy song. At just under 8 minutes, we see Flynn Rider breaking into the King & Queen's castle, and we're off to the races. I think in those first few minutes Disney did a nice job explaining some background plot pretty well, while also introducing Rapunzel, the King, the Queen, the villain, and Flynn.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, 10 minutes was just an approximation, I just felt that it was a TAD too over the top fairy tale-ish, but I get your point, it does a great job of setting up the plot and establishig the main characters!

  3. Honestly, I had no idea that Tangled was not a Pixar movie. Maybe I was naive, or just did not pay attention, but it screamed Pixar to me. Stepping back, I do see the princess theme which I assume is what makes it 'Disney'.

    I could care less who made it- I loved the film and I would agree that the Max and Pascal's personalities helped make the film. It was enjoyable and even the boys in my family liked it.


  4. Yeah, it says a lot about the quality of the film and the direction Disney animation is heading in if it can be compared to Pixar. Strange as it may sound, seeing this made me even more psyched to see Brave, to see how Pixar would handle a fairytale.
    Thanks for the feedback.

  5. Let me be the first on the web to say this: Tangled had references to Disney's Bolt; specifically through Maximus the horse. First, Maximus and Bolt are both the same color: white.

    The first obvious one comes when Rapunzel first meets Maximus. Maximus wags his (rather fluffy) tail while Rapunzel is comforting him, much like Bolt does when Penny talks to him.

    The rest comes during a chase scene nearer to the end of the movie, when Maximus rescues Flynn from the castle. Maximus makes a "super jump" onto another building, similar to the jump made by Bolt over a helicopter in a TV scene in the movie Bolt. Coincidence? Think about this: In Tangled AND Bolt, both jumps are seen by the audience by three angles before the character lands.

    The last comes when Flynn is talking to Maximus during their escape. Flynn tells Maximus, "Let's see how fast you can go.", just as, in Bolt, Penny would say "zoom-zoom" to tell Bolt to use his super speed. The 'blur' effect is seen in both movies after the character speeds-up.

    Why would these references exist in the first place? Most likely as a tribute to Byron Howard and Nathan Greno, director and storyboard editor, respectively, of the movie Bolt.

    Did anyone else notice any of these?