The Walt Disney Animation company is currently enjoying a second renaissance of sorts that is known as the Disney Revival era, and the film that started it all is 2010’s Tangled, the 50th film in Disney’s Animated Canon. Tangled had somewhat of a tumultuous production cycle, and was even officially cancelled until John Lasseter decided to revive the project shortly after its cancellation.
Tangled is estimated to have spent about six years in production, and its roughly $260 million budget makes it the most expensive animated movie of all time. But the time, money and effort that went into Tangled was all worth it. Not only was the film a huge success at the box office, but it was Disney’s most critically acclaimed film in years.
Tangled is the first film that sprang from Disney’s decision to focus strictly on computer animation, and it is their first film that I believe matched their sister studio, Pixar, in terms of sheer visual fidelity. I never felt that Disney’s previous attempts at computer animation stood up very well against the company’s contemporaries, with 2008’s Bolt being a notable exception (and a film I find to be a bit underappreciated).
One need only look at Rapunzel’s hair to realize that Tangled is pushing the boundaries for what can be done with animation. One of my favorite things about Disney and Pixar is the fact that they aren’t just interested in telling cool stories, but also challenging themselves with various feats of animation.
Rapunzel’s hair is 70 feet long, and animating all of that blonde was one of the most arduous parts of the film. To better learn how to manage so much hair, Disney actually brought in a woman named Kelly Ward. Ward has a PhD in hair, and instructed the team on the different ways that hair reacts to things like light. Disney is quite famous for this type of authenticity, as they did similar studies for the animal walk cycles in The Lion King, and the snow effects found in Frozen.
Rapunzel’s hair is gorgeous, but it isn’t just for show. Her hair’s length and color are an important part of the film’s narrative, and actually contain special rejuvenative properties. Rapunzel is also capable of manipulating her hair in a variety of ways, the most notable being her ability to use it as a rope, which makes for a deadly attack when paired with her patented frying pan.
Tangled’s narrative carries a tone that would not feel out of place amongst the films from the Disney Renaissance. It’s a modern, comedy styled rendition of a classic fairy tale, and it still packs the emotional punch that is to be expected from Disney. I really loved how well paced the story was, as the film spends just the right amount of time on pretty much every scene.
Tangled also has a fantastic cast. I’ll go more into detail on Rapunzel in a bit, but her companion, Flynn Rider, is one of the standout characters of the film. He’s a twist on the conventional Disney Prince archetype, as he’s somewhat of a mix between the brash and arrogance of Gaston, and the better qualities of someone like Prince Eric.
Tangled also gave us not only the best villain of the Revival era, but one of the best villains in the company’s history. Mother Gothel is deliciously evil, and she reminds me quite a bit of other Disney greats like Scar and Cruella De Vil. Her evil smirk alone is enough to qualify her for best Disney villain.
Before Moana came along, I always struggled to decide on a favorite Disney Princess. But whenever I would attempt to finally pick one, I always found myself to be more drawn to the ones that were full of life, and embodied personal dreams. I’ve always loved Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I greatly admired her dream of seeing the world beyond her home, and the way that Disney was able to capture this passion through animation.
I find Rapunzel to be the modern version of everything that made Ariel great. She has always longed to see what lies beyond the walls of her tower, and to get an up close view of the lanterns that fly every year on her birthday. Her eyes always have a certain shimmer to them, and this, in conjunction with her youthful appearance, makes her one of the more adorable Disney Princesses.
One of my favorite moments in the film is when Rapunzel takes her first steps outside her tower. She’s initially reluctant to let her feet touch the grass, but her pure delight at the new sensation, as well as the look on her face, made me feel genuinely happy.
Seeing her dash through the fields and splash in the ponds (to the obvious delight of Mr. Rider) was a really special moment, and this excitement, and sometimes fear, is a constant throughout the entire film. All of this culminates in her boat ride with Flynn, in which she finally gets so see her birthday lanterns take flight.
Tangled is one of the most important films in Disney’s catalogue. It took the essence of what made Disney films special in the first place, and brought it back in a new and exciting way. This film paved the way for others such as Frozen, Moana and even Pixar’s Brave, and it absolutely earned all of the recognition that it received. (Side note: I’m really excited to see Tangled featured in Kingdom Hearts III!)