Personal Overview: how Disney never made Rapunzel into a film before 2010 I will never know. The story of the girl with the incredibly long hair was very well known and just begged to be given the Disney treatment.
There was apparently a great hoohah about altering the name of the film from its original title. It was initially known as Rapunzel, but changed to alter appeal. Personally I don’t think calling it Rapunzel would have stopped boys from seeing it, and I don’t think the name Tangled drew any more through the turnstiles, but nor did it turn any away.
It’s a very hip treatment of the Brothers Grimm story and Rapunzel’s hair and name aside it really isn’t recognizable as the original.
The desire to show this as a new version for the 21st century was reflected in the casting. Former pop princess Mandy Moore voiced Rapunzel and also sang her songs, Zachary Levi (formerly the lead in comedy action TV show Chuck) was cast as the roguish thief Flynn Rider. To give the film some musical credit Broadway star Donna Murphy was cast as Mother Gothel. Broadway just radiates from her even when she’s just talking and not singing.
It’s a fast paced story and has a heap of action. The dialog sparkles and it’s well characterized. The Princesses began to get a bit more agency with The Princess and the Frog and that continues in Tangled. I actually feel that Rapunzel may be the most fully developed as far as character goes for any of the ‘Princess films’. She also has something else that none of the others seemed to possess and that’s a super power. That hair is definitely a super power. I found the whole healing tears thing a bit of a weakness in the story. It’s a factor of the original story, but we never knew that this version had that until her hair was cut off and there was no other way to heal Flynn and get a happy ending. It was a bit deus ex machina for me.
Hero/es: just like in The Princess and the Frog there are three. Rapunzel with her super powered hair and her frying pan, she does the wide eyed innocent thing so well, and being raised in a tower and never seeing anyone else other than Mother Gothel that makes sense, and they didn’t over or underplay that. Flynn is the roguish hero and again he doesn’t start off as totally good or totally bad, his partners in crime are another story, like many good heroes he is preferred to sacrifice himself for Rapunzel. The third is the horse Maximus, more about him in Cuteness Factor.
Villain/s: Mother Gothel. It’s established even before Rapunzel is born that she’s bad. She hides the magical flower from everyone else, despite it’s properties and the good it can do, just so she can use it to retain her youth. She then steals a child, locks said child away and uses her magical gifts on herself, and regularly belittles the girl in order to make her afraid to go out. Evil woman. Beautifully played and with relish by Donna Murphy.
Cuteness Factor: everything about this movie is cute, but the standouts for me are Rapunzel’s constant companion Pascal the chameleon, often disparagingly referred to as a frog by Flynn. Pascal never says a word (he’s not a talking animal. In fact there are none of those in Tangled), but conveys everything by expression, action and changing colour to match his moods. Maximus. Having seen Sleeping Beauty not that long ago and then seeing this I am convinced that Prince Philip’s unnamed horse is related to Maximus, must be a grandfather or something, the resemblance is too close to be coincidental, and not all Disney horses look the same. Maximus was originally intended to be a dog, which is why he acts like one most of the time. He’s a 'doghorse'. His search for Flynn and then the animosity between the two makes for plenty of laughs and it’s very cute to see the way Rapunzel tames and then treats him like a dog to get him to cooperate with Flynn.
Animation: there were advances made in animation between The Princess and the Frog and Tangled. They combined CGI with traditional hand drawn animation and this is why I’m glad they waited until they did to make the film. One of the problems with old style animation is that it never really got hair quite right, and as hair is a major part of Tangled it had to be spot on, and it is. It looks real. As does the water in the dam burst scene, which gives that some extra tension. This happens mostly with Rapunzel, but at times her face does look a little plastic and doll like rather than human, which does tend to be a drawback of CGI when doing people. Other than that it is a feast for the eyes.
Final Words: I’ve seen Tangled a bunch of times since it first premiered at the cinema and it never fails to delight. I always find something new in it. It doesn’t quite top Aladdin, but it comes close. If I was ever asked to name my favourite Princess, I’d say Rapunzel, there’s just something about this portrayal of her that I really love.