The trend of fairytale post-modernism that followed the Shrek franchise has given Disney a rough ride this past decade. Having laid it’s foundations on the timeless Grimm tales, they were starting to look like the old cartoon curmudgeons for not splicing in the odd starbucks reference. But with TANGLED, Disney’s 50th animated feature, the storytelling luminaries are truly back on form. The film weaves the classic yarn of Rapunzel (played by Mandy Moore) a stolen princess with lengthly magic locks-imprisoned in a tower for all her 18 years. When a thief, Flynn Rider (played by Zachary Levi) seeks refuge in her cell, Rapunzel sees her chance to escape isloation and explore a world beyond the trappings of her suffocating ‘Mother’ Gothel (Donna Murphy). Of course, Disney depict the tale without the adult elements of the original Grimm Brother’s story (in the true version, Rapunzel is impregnated by a Prince and is forced to give birth to twins whilst alone in the woods).
Though Disney have kept to the farmiliar path of the the fairytale, TANGLED succeeds in being funny, contemporary and honest-without the try-hard quirk. Speaking to Mandy Moore, voice of the latest Disney princess, it was clear that Disney nostalgia was a positive driving force behind the whole project,
“Its incredible how full circle it’s come. Honestly I got into music because of The Little Mermaid, that was a benchmark for me, I used to go around the house singing songs from the movie and asking my parents if I was as good as Ariel. That was my only goal-to be as good as she was. I would love for this film potentially be to kids today what Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid were to me growing up, they were a huge part of my childhood.
Although the spotlight is placed mainly on the voice-acting stars, Mandy explained that it is important to focus on the bigger team behind a production this size,
“There is just years and years of work that goes into a film like this and being an actor in the film, we’re just like that last part that goes into this huge puzzle that comes in at the end of the process. I am really just happy for the whole crew who made the movie look as it does, they are so deserving of this success.”
With chiseled features and hair flopping into their eyes, TANGLED directors Byron Howard and Nathan Greno aren’t unlike Disney princes themselves. As soon as they start to talk (or rather, gush) about the movie, their sincerity and passion for Disney becomes infectious. In an instant, we’re already reminiscing about the classics and how they came to influence the creation of TANGLED. Byron explained,
“The Little Mermaid got to me when I was a kid, for me Ariel was the first character that I ever thought there was a soul behind her eyes. Some can be kind of blank, no life behind them. We hoped to do that with with Rapunzel to find some sort of soul and depth that people could relate to”, and for Nathan,
“I love Dumbo. I saw the movie when I was a kid and it really set me on this path, that’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole life is work for this company. There’s so much heart and humour in that movie, every time you see it you cry. I have a had a hard time watching it now because my girlfriend is like, ‘I don’t wanna cry tonght!’” But despite all their devoution and purism, I have to ask,
‘There’s always so much speculation about inuenedo being snuck into Disney films, is any of it true, did you sneak any in?’
“HA!Well, Pinocchio is in there (as a hidden Easter Egg in The Snuggly Duckling scene), we did put him in! To be honest though, no we have friends that ask the same thing, it’s really not there, people read into these things. People get a thrill out of inserting these things in there but in reality its not the case.”-Nathan Greno
With TANGLED now hitting NO.1 in the box office across the bored, it seems unlikely that Disney will be abandoning the fairytale angle, according to Byron:
“The audience responds to this film so I don’t think she (Rapunzel) will be the last princess or fairytale that Disney do. I mean these tales are so familiar they have such deep themes and issues running through them. They have been told for many years and there’s lots more to come.”
Aside from all the laughs, the most memorable thing about TANGLED is its truly stunning animation. The gentle nuances of facial expressions and the invention of a whole new computer software for Rapunzel’s hair have made the characters more human-like than ever. TANGLED animator Glen Keane explained to THN how modern and classic animation have joined forces to create the perfect-imperfect characters,
“We worked so hard at trying to get fleshy, organic characters, that you feel warm flesh and blood from. A big part of that is bringing the hand drawn into computer. This film was about taking the best of both worlds. The best of computer the best of hand drawn and getting the computer animators to realise that some of the things the computers give you naturally, you have to resist-like symmetry. We are drawn to imperfection in life. Even things like her (Rapunzel’s) teeth are not quite perfect-simple things like that, subtle things that make them more human.”
When asked his feelings about the phenomenal response to TANGLED, Keane says, cool as ever, “It feels appropriate.”
To see what The Hollywood News had to say, check out our review here
TANGLED is in cinemas across the UK NOW.