Week 50: Tangled (With Frozen Comments, Too)

Disney’s Greatest Triumph of This Millennium?

Tangled meaningful music

Originally Released: 2010

I know, I know, my little title above is a bit of an exaggeration. There are still 986 years to go in this millennium, which means there are that many more chances for Disney to one-up Tangled. Some of you might even argue that it has already been eclipsed by a certain top-grossing animated film of all time. But I wanted to try my hand at current trends in news headlines. Feel free to supply more catchy headliners about Tangled in the comments section, by the way.

Actually, there is a reason I bring up Disney’s reigning financial juggernaut. See, I find myself in a bit of a dilemma: when I embarked on my Disney project in January 2013, there were only 52 films, which made my project make sense at the time. Now here we are, less than a month away from the debut of Disney’s 54th animated feature, and I have some decisions to make. Should I ruin my “52 weeks, 52 animated classics” theme even more by making it “100 or so weeks, 54-ish animated classics?” Or should I just stick to my original plan and close it off at 52?

I’ve decided to compromise  (i.e. cheat) a little bit by making my Tangled post double up as my Frozen assessment as well (though that still doesn’t solve how I will tackle Big Hero 6 when it comes out. Bonus Week, perhaps? Oh, and here, have a gander of the Japanese trailer to Big Hero 6 – because why not?). I actually have been wanting to say something on the matter of Frozen vs. Tangled ever since Frozen came out late last year. Unfortunately, many moons have passed, and many an internet article has already been dedicated to direct comparisons of Tangled and Frozen. But I thought of it first. And I’m going to do it anyway.

gloves are off

The gloves are off! Here comes the real fight!

I’ve thought of various categories, and I’m going to pit one film against the other in each one. It is all scientific and (mostly) unbiased, of course (I am an engineer, after all), so there will be no disputing the winner at the end of my little head-to-head matchup.

Category 1: The Title

Tangled vs. Frozen: this one is difficult: each consists of a single word, each is not even a noun, and each would not be pleasant if it happened to me. I have to say this is a tie. Except wait, the word tie, when used as a verb, would infer a future state of being tangled. So I guess Tangled wins this one.

Category 2: The Leading Lady

Leading Lady Tangled

Rapunzel, VS…

 

Anna

Anna!

This is a difficult category. On the one hand, Rapunzel has amazing, flowing magic golden hair. On the other hand, Anna’s hair displays the cruel remnants of magic gone awry. On the one hand, Rapunzel sure knows how to use a frying pan in a jam. On the other hand, Anna needs nothing but her hand to knock someone cold. I could go on, but I’ll just call this one a tie and give each film a half a point.

Category 3: The Leading Man

Flynn Rider VS...

Flynn Rider VS…

Kristoff!

Kristoff!

This one is not quite so difficult. Flynn’s got the smolder. Kristoff spits in into the wind and his girlfriend. ‘Nuff said. Tangled wins this round.

Category 4: Music

Here is another tough one. I’m not a four-year old girl, so I’m not going to default to “Let it Go” and call it a match. When considering the music and songs in these two films, there are a lot of things I’ve given consideration. Which songs are catchier? Which has more memorable songs? Which songs actually serve a good purpose in the film? When are the songs sung in the film’s running time? Are there pacing issues? Are the lyrics clever? What about the score throughout the film? What about the soundtrack when played on its own?

When it comes to catchiness alone, Frozen wins this by a long shot. The songs in Frozen also have more of a tendency to get stuck in your head, for better or worse. And yes, “Let it Go” wins bonus points just for being so darn good in the film. It is just a magnificent scene overall.

When it comes to lyrics, however, the brilliance of Alan Menken begins to shine through and catch up.

Consider, for example, the lyrics of “Mother Knows Best” and compare them to “First time in Forever.”  One sounds like it was written by a brilliant wordsmith with unlimited vocabulary, that say exactly what would help the story move forward and establish characters. “First Time in Forever” does also help the story move forward, but has lyrics like “actual real live people…it’ll be totally strange” while later on in the same song comes this gem: “which is totally bizarre.” Every time I hear that second “totally,” I can’t help but wonder if the songwriters just ran out of gas the night they were writing the song. Surely they could have come up with some other word that means the same thing, right? People may try to argue that they were trying to use words a ditzy teenage girl would use, but I’m not buying that argument.

Next, what about how the music flows in the movie? In this category, I believe Tangled takes it. Not only does it have music throughout that does a great job of pushing the story forward, it also makes excellent use of reprises, both for Rapunzel and the villain. Also, in Tangled, it doesn’t feel like all the songs were crammed into the first third of the movie.

love song

Subcategory: The Love Song. What about the love song? Do you opt for a beautiful, quiet melody, or a bombastic “High School Musical” song? Even though I like Love is an open door,” I prefer “I see the Light.” I saw Tangled in 3D when it was in theaters, and what “Let it Go” did for so many who watched Frozen, “I see the Light” did for me. I was awestruck by the scene: The 3D lanterns flowing into and out of the screen, the melody, and everything else combined to create a sweet scene in the movie.

love song Tangled

A real love song. I love it.

At this point, I’d probably give music a tie between the two films. Each has great music, a nice score, and each has its own strengths. However, I have to pull out my wild card in this scientific matchup: I have a serious music crush on Mandy Moore. Ever since “I Wanna be with You,” Mandy Moore’s voice has just melted me. Everyone has a guilty pleasure, and Mandy Moore’s music is definitely mine. Imagine my reaction when I found out that Mandy Moore would be lending her vocal talents to Disney and become the latest princess! It’s not every day your musical crush joins forces with your animation obsession. So yeah, due to the Mandy Moore factor, Tangled wins the music category.

Category 5: Horse-Like Sidekick

Maximus, the horse, VS...

Maximus, the horse, VS…

Sven, the Reindeer

Sven, the Reindeer!

Do we really need to make this comparison? Maximus wins. Tangled wins.

Category 6: Villain

villain Tangled

Manipulative, sinister, vile Mother Gothel, VS…

Villain?

Villain?

Villain?

Villain?

Give credit to Frozen for keeping us guessing. I was honestly thinking that maybe Disney would go the Studio Ghibli route and do a real villain-less movie, like Kiki’s Delivery Service or something like that. Well, in the end we got a true villain, but I wasn’t satisfied.

Mother Gothel, however, is a villain in the truest sense, hearkening back to the great Disney villains in the past. I think something can be said for having someone in your film who you can immediately root against and who makes it no secret he or she is evil. It makes the inevitable triumph of good a little more satisfying in the end. Mother Gothel has many tricks up her sleeve, and she is a master manipulator. She easily outdoes the Duke…er, Elsa…er, the Prince. Chalk another one up for Tangled.

Category 7: Non-Horse Sidekick

Pascal, VS...

Pascal, VS…

olaf sidekick

Olaf!

As charming as little Pascal is, I have to repeat my answer to my horse comparison. That is, there’s really no comparison. Olaf wins. Frozen wins.

Category 8: Supporting Cast of Merry Folk

Band of thieves with a dream (and the best jumping photo ever), VS...

Band of thieves with a dream (and the best jumping photo ever), VS…

Trolls!

Trolls!

The trolls fight valiantly and play a crucial role in Frozen, in that they are pretty much the catalyst to all the major events in the film. But the Band of thieves are so funny, and their musical number is a lot more fun than the trolls. Tangled wins this one.

Category 9: Villainous Sidekicks

These guys, VS...

These guys, VS…

These guys!

These guys!

Really, now, Disney, I feel like Frozen is just starting to copy and paste elements from Tangled. One villainous sidekick with awesome facial hair, and the other clean shaven. The goons in Tangled are more memorable, are more of a factor in the film, and are going to win this category.

Category 10: Teenage Angst

Gothel teenage angst

Scary mom with horrible advice, locked up in your house for all your life, a musical number about finally getting out, VS…

Parents with horrible advice who later die, locked in your house for all your life, a musical number about finally getting out - but a double dose of each!!

Parents with horrible advice who later die, locked up in your house for all your life, a musical number about finally getting out – but a double dose of it all!!

Frozen wins this one. Two is better than one!

So there you have it, after my scientific, engineer-like comparison of the two films in ten different categories, I conclude that Tangled is basically Frozen, just slightly different and slightly better, with a final tally of 7.5 to 2.5.

mental synchronization

Don’t be sad, Frozen. You are actually quite synchronized with your older sibling film.

maximus horse sidekick

Maximus FTW!

 

Week 31: Aladdin

Still One of Disney’s Funniest Films

Dangerfield

Originally Released: 1992

With Aladdin, the team at Disney took a risk. Rather than stick with the rule that said they should strive for timelessness, as they had done with the majority of their films (Oliver & Company being a notable exception), they decided that for Aladdin, they would disregard that rule and throw in all sorts of contemporary gags and references in telling the story. Most of these gags would revolve around the genie, voiced by Robin Williams, who at the time was becoming a very popular comedian and actor. Williams had a gift for referencing and imitating famous people and characters. He also excelled at improvising. The Disney producers decided to let him play to his strengths and do these things in his voice work for the film.

The strategy worked and Aladdin was a huge success when it was released in late 1992. However, the risk of going contemporary is that it may not age so well after a time. And now that over 20 years have passed since it was originally released, I was interested to see how well Aladdin has held up. Would it still be as funny now as it was back then? Or has time taken its toll on this once-acclaimed classic?

"Wait, you think I may be out of style?. Let's think about that for a minute."

“Wait, you think I may be out of style?. Let’s think about that for a minute.”

As I watched the film again, I was reminded that though Genie is a large factor to making Aladdin a success, the movie boasts much more than just jokes and imitations of old celebrities. I’ll get to that in a moment, but as these jokes do play a significant role in Aladdin, the topic merits some thought here.

It is true that in today’s world younger viewers are less and less likely to understand references to Rodney Dangerfield, Ed Sullivan, Jack Nicholson, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger. They may not understand things like “You’ve just won the heart of the princess (the Superbowl), what are you going to do next?!” Is this a problem, though? It may be that knowing the references will enhance the comedic effect, but even without this understanding, because of the way Genie is animated, the gags still manage to be funny. The many shapes, sizes and caricatures create a zany feel to Genie, regardless of whether or not we know exactly who or what is being imitated in any particular scene. Besides, if you think about it, how many of us knew when we were younger that Genie was imitating William F. Buckley Jr. in his “Uh, master, there are a few provisos” bit? How many of us know who Buckley is even today? But it was still pretty funny even if we had no clue who the heck he was supposed to be imitating. Animator Eric Goldberg did an excellent job of matching Williams’ clever voice work with visuals that were just as funny and which remain humorous today.

Does anybody under the age of 30 or so understand this reference? I know I didn't. But I still find it funny.

Does anybody under the age of 30 or so understand this reference? I know I didn’t. But I still find it funny.

But moving on. As mentioned earlier, Aladdin has more than just the genie that makes it a good movie. One thing that stuck out to me was how much I liked ALL of the characters in this movie. Aladdin benefits from what may be, taken collectively, the strongest cast of characters of any film in the Disney canon. From Aladdin and Abu to Jafar and Iago, each character is strong and contributes to the film in a positive way. In fact, though they are great themselves, Aladdin and Jasmine sometimes get overshadowed by the supporting characters. With this great collection of characters there is plenty of personality and humor to go around. This is probably what impressed me the most as I watched Aladdin again.

Jafar Iago

In addition to the characters, the songs are still as fun and memorable as ever. Disney decided that Aladdin would continue the successful Broadway-meets-Disney style used in The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, and assembled many of the same players that were involved in The Little Mermaid to make this film. It was a smart move. Aladdin showed that this style was a winning formula that was even compatible with Robin Williams. And Alan Menken supplied another Oscar-winning score for the film, to go along with his wins for his two previous efforts at Disney. He managed to do this despite losing lyricist Howard Ashman in the middle of the production of Aladdin, which no doubt would have been difficult to deal with.

Best part of the "Prince Ali" song, right here.

Best part of the “Prince Ali” song, right here.

Finally, in addition to the characters and the music, the main messages of the film still resonate with me and ring true. Be honest and be yourself. Freedom is a blessing. Have integrity, and keep your promises and commitments. These are good messages that anybody would be wise to adopt.

So in conclusion, 20 years after Aladdin’s initial release, I say the risk that Disney took by ditching the “timeless” mantra didn’t kill Aladdin‘s future. All things considered, Aladdin has actually aged quite well in my opinion. It will be interesting to see if, in another 10-20 years, this is still the case. But for now, at least, I believe Aladdin still soars.

happy family

Abu and rug

"Seek thee out the diamond in the riamond in the rough..."

“Seek thee out the diamond in the riamond in the rough…”

Whole new World