Sunday, 4 May 2014

Ani-MAY-tion Month: Tangled (2010)

For their 50th animated feature, Disney decided to turn to the classic tale of Rapunzel, shaking it up a bit to create a beautiful, funny adventure that ranks up there with some of their best work.

Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) is resigned to her life in the tower. Whenever she pleads to go out and see the big, wide world her "mother" (Donna Murphy) manages to convince her that it's no good. But opportunity comes her way when a charming rogue named Flynn (Zachary Levi) seeks temporary safety in the tower. Flynn is forced into agreeing to take Rapunzel out into the world, letting her see the lights that fly in the sky, every year on her birthday. Little does she know that the floating lanterns, for that is what they are, get released every year by her real mother and father, who are royalty, as well as the subjects that they rule over.

Perfectly mixing the traditional with the modern, in terms of both animation and also the characters, Tangled is yet another in a recent run of near-perfect Disney hits. All of the expected elements are in place - the anthropomorphic animal (a scene-stealing horse named Maximus, in this instance, but there's also a very cute chameleon raising smiles), the beautiful princess, the wicked crone, the moral lessons - but they somehow manage to avoid feeling stale. I think that's due, in some small part, to the way in which everything is portrayed in a fairytale age gone by, while also being injected with some modern sensibilities. Disney isn't reinventing the wheel here, but in recent years they've managed to embrace a sense of fun again, a real exuberance that has been elevating their work.

Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard have a great script, by Dan Fogelman, to work from, and they keep a nice balance between the sweet, more Disney-esque, moments and the sequences that embrace an enjoyable irreverence. The musical moments, by Alan Menken, also help a lot in this regard, with "Mother Knows Best" and "I've Got A Dream" being the two highlights.

While the vocal cast isn't exactly full of people who are immediately identifiable from their speech, everyone does well in their respective role. Moore, Murphy and Levi are all a pretty perfect match for their characters, while Ron Perlman, M. C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett and Richard "Jaws" Kiel also lend their talents to the mix.

It's maybe not quite as good as absolute classic Disney fare (although keep an eye out for both Pinocchio and Pumbaa in sneaky, fleeting cameos), but it's pretty great nonetheless. Let your hair down and give it a go. Yes, I just ended with that pun.


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