Dated Disney animated drama
You may have heard about Disney’s new animated musical. It’s the film that changed its name from Rapunzel to Tangled, switching the name of the three-hundred plus year source material from which it takes its plot, all because someone at the studio decided the new title would be more marketable. Coming to a cinema near you soon: Snow White and the Seven Dudes (maybe).
Regardless of how you feel about such things (and my response is a weary, resigned shrug), there’s something telling about Tangled being the 50th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics Series. It’s often, rightly said, that these are fertile times for animation. Disney subsidiary Pixar raises the CGI bar with each release that passes; the likes of Dreamworks and Universal’s Illumination Entertainment make good strides behind. Within this climate, you could title Tangled, Woah: The Adventures of Princess Long Hair and it’d still feel like a fusty throwback. Compare it to Wall-E for example, and it’s like a tricycle squaring up with a jet.
Charm has long been the secret ingredient of Disney’s Classics series, and there’s something about Tangled that’s worth recommending, solely because it’s a signpost to the series linage. But while many of these films were challenging for their era, their stories had zing too. No disrespect to the Brothers Grimm, but there’s a reason why Disney have taken over seventy years to get round to it. Tangled – its songs, its character design (Mandy Moore’s Rapunzel is an ashen faced take on Beauty & the Beast‘s Belle), the increasingly formulaic facial sketches Disney seem so fond of these days – isn’t anywhere near being one of the studio’s best.
Whatever the film chooses to call itself, the story is Rapunzel, only now with a bizarre amount of emphasis being placed on the Prince (Zachary Levi), reportedly after more raised hands on the marketing desk (the relative flop of Disney’s 49th feature The Princess and the Frog in 2009 was blamed on boys having nobody in it to identify with). It’s a story that’s endured 300 years, it would be contrary to knock it. Yet the quant fairytale makes you long for some of the original themes offered forth by Pixar; children may find the content and themes of the story slow, saying little about their lives. Tangled makes you realize that, via Pixar, Disney pushed forth animation to the next phase – and in doing so, left itself behind.