You know that moment when you are part way through a film you’ve seen before and you have a startling realisation that you are loving it a lot more than you remember? Well, that happened pretty early on to me in Tangled and it just never let up.
This is the first time since the mid-to-late Disney Renaissance where they produced an animated feature that felt like it had little-to-no filler. Also one where all the songs served a purpose other than to kill time – something that really began to bug me in The Princess and the Frog and I try and pick up on when I get around to Frozen.
I think one of the key factors in Tangled‘s success is that there is really only three main characters you need to keep track of: Rapunzel, Flynn and Mother Gothel. This means that not only do they get the time to properly explore the characters and give them some interesting nuances, but it also means that it doesn’t feel like you are having to stay up to date with an ever-increasing roster of eccentrics.
There is plenty that could be said about these characters, but to keep it brief here are the things I find most striking. Firstly, Flynn is gorgeous. Like, if I saw this as someone just entering puberty I can imagine him being one of the defining crushing of my adolescence. I’ll end it there before it sounds like I have a fetish.
Then there is Mother Gothel, who I loved as the villain because she’s just so complex. She plays like any parent that you could read about on the Raised By Narcissists subreddit. Her use of love and psychology as a weapon with no help from money, magic or status is astounding and the fact that she genuinely doesn’t see herself as the bad guy make her a different kind of scary. Her reliance on Rapunzel as a source of youth formed this toxic co-dependant relationship where, whilst malevolent in nature, is weirdly understandable. In the end, if Mother Gothel is unable to secure Rapunzel (or at least stop her hair from being irreparable damaged), then she will die – and she knows it. People have done worse for less.
On a different note, the improvement in the quality of animation between Tangled and Bolt is startling. This is the point in the Disney CGI feature animation where it feels like they have finally hit on the style and the technology that is going to keep working for them for the next decade. We’ll see them go more cartoony again in future films (like for Wreck-It-Ralph), but you cannot deny just how beautiful the worlds Disney’s computer animation can generate and that has blossomed here in Tangled.
Then there is the whole ‘I See The Light’ sequence. The song itself is a lovely duet about two people realizing, at the same time, that they have fallen for one another. That alone is sweet, but this pales in comparison to the stunning visuals of the moonlight lantern festival that accompany it. It really ties together a lot of the films emotional threads (including the king and queens lingering sense of loss) and makes for one of Disneys greatest sequences. Not going to lie, I was in tears.
Truly, when I end up finishing this Disney list off and I do a final ranking (because, of course, I’m going to end up making one) I would not be surprised if this broke the top ten. Only Zootopia still to come might be better, but I still have a month or so until I see which I prefer. Before then, I will be watching the shortest entry in the canon: the 2011 version of Winnie the Pooh.