Monday, November 29, 2010

Tangled: A Success in All But Name

This week feels like a perfect storm of Disney entertainment.  DVDs that include three exceptional Disney history documentaries and the Blu-Ray release of the Fantasia films.  Epic Mickey, easily the most eagerly anticipated Disney-related video game in history.  And finally Tangled, a modest little film that appears to be returning both critical and commercial success to the Disney-branded animated feature category.

Forget long gestating (and often-media-generated) negative expectations.  Forget Disney's over saturation  of the Princess brand.  Forget about an extended and sometimes troubled development and production history.  And more than anything, forget about the lousy, marketing-driven title change that ranks right up there with The Great Mouse Detective.  Just walk into the theater, take your seat, and simply enjoy Tangled for what it is: a visually stunning, cleverly written and eminently fun and entertaining animated film.

To be very honest, I nearly fell victim to some of the issues I cited above.  A hopeful curiosity, combined with numerous enthusiastic reviews, ultimately drove me to my local multiplex when I normally would have been patient to wait a few months for the DVD release.  It was well worth the trip.


Tangled breaks no significant new ground beyond being Disney's first CG-animated fairy tale, but frankly it has become quite tiresome that many animation pundits place generally undefined and intangible expectations upon new Disney animated features.  With this interpretation of the classic Rapunzel tale, I was pleasantly surprised by a clever script, snappy dialog and beautiful designs which, despite being computer-generated, remain visually true to many of the studio's earlier fairy tales.  Although the score provides no real showstoppers, the film's songs are integrated seamlessly and effectively into the storytelling process.


What I enjoyed the most about Tangled were its well-realized and engaging characters.  Rapunzel does seem to channel Arial by way of her curiosity and rebelliousness, but still manages to come across as distinct and in many ways quite unique.  Flynn Ryder is definitely a Disney fairy tale original; more adventurous rogue than heroic prince.  It's rare that a male lead in a princess-centric tale is infused with this much personality and it's a refreshing change of pace.  Supporting players Max the horse and Pascal the chameleon are very well conceived.  Together they are responsible for many of the film's best comedic moments, but often by way of more subtle and understated gestures and expressions.  The ongoing interactions between Flynn and Max are especially humorous and entertaining. 

Despite its unfortunate and ill-advised title, Tangled is indeed a welcome addition to the Disney animated feature film library.  Take a look if you haven't already.

5 comments:

Squonk said...

I loved the film and agree with most of what you said. But I'm not so sure I would say it broke no new ground. The design of the lead characters is one of the most notable achievements in my opinion. Human characters have always been difficult to do well in computer animated features. Though Pixar has had success with human characters (like "The Incredibles) they have always been highly stylized. The characters in "Tangled" have a design that is more like the classic Disney style and which is more like what you would find in actual human beings. Yes, there are some stylized characters in "Tangled," especially the thugs in the bar...but for the most part, the characters in "Tangled" have a bit more believability in their design than we've seen in other CG animated films.

Anonymous said...

Let's for once give credit where credit is due. The folks in marketing (and all those senior folks at the studio above them, i.e., Rich, John and Ed) were right to change the name. Unlike The Mouse Detective decision--where they played up mice in a year when another mouse movie, An American Tail, clobbered 'em (and a re-issue of Lady and the Tramp trumped them, too).

Tangled is a really good film, and the marketing folks made sure people showed up to see it. As Disney fans we can second guess marketing decisions (big screw up on Sorcerer's for instance), but as the opening weekend numbers suggest, the marketers seem to be right this time.

Agree with Squonk. The characters look like classic Disney hand drawn characters, which you don't really notice. The fact that you don't notice is the achievement. And I was constantly engaged by the cinematography: great angles, interesting framing, really well done.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

I should have placed my tongue more firmly in cheek when being disparaging of the title. I did not mean for it to be so serious a criticism.

That said, my very subjective opinion is that it is a lousy title. I think they could have done better.

And I'm not sure that you can make a direct correlation between the title and the success of the film. It's just not that simple. That same reasoning could also suggest that Pinocchio, Cinderella, Aladdin, Pocahontas and Mulan should have all been abject failures.

I think that glowing reviews and great word of mouth are proving more instrumental to the film's success than anything the marketing folks are doing.

Hugh Hogwarts said...

I remember when I heard Blue Sky Disney break the news of the name thinking that it was a joke. It was a horrible title. After seeing the film I really don't care about the title. It's a great film and good to see Disney finally show that they can keep up with their sister studio, Pixar.

Floyd Norman said...

Only the brilliant minds in film marketing could see the title change as an asset. The morons would have changed "Cinderella" as well. Who would see a movie with that name?

In spite of their blunders, Disney has finally delivered a film even Walt would be proud of.