Five Things I Liked About “Tangled”

Tangled

I have to preface this by saying that Disney hasn’t made what I’d consider a decent animated feature in years. After subjecting myself to Bolt, Princess and the Frog and any number of other recent Disney features, I dreaded the prospect of handing over my hard-earned money for Tangled. That’s why it surprises even myself to write that Tangled, directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, was an utterly delightful experience. It represents a fresh new direction for Disney’s feature animation department, one that is rooted in the finest tradition of Disney’s gloried past while pushing forward to an even brighter future. Despite a half-baked story that left me frustrated at many turns, the filmmakers made the audience care enough about the characters and delivered enough entertainment that I left the theater satisfied. I wanted to celebrate this achievement by highlighting five things I enjoyed about the film. Spoilers ahead.


Flynn Ryder
1. THE QUALITY OF ANIMATION, RIGGING AND LIGHTING
Tangled‘s world felt organic in a way that no CG film I’ve seen has ever felt before. The modeling of the characters used shapes that were more sophisticated and natural than I’ve ever seen in a CG film. The translucency of the human skin felt more flesh-like than any other CG humans I’ve seen. (Actually, it had a waxy feel, which while not exactly flesh-like, is leaps and bounds beyond the plasticky skin in most CG films.) The rendering had a soft painterly light that pushed it away from the harsh rendering that I find so off-putting in most CG. And finally, there’s the animation.

The animation of the characters is jaw-dropping. All the leads–Rapunzel, Flynn, Mother Gothel, Maximus–were tremendous fun to watch. This is the closest I’ve ever seen a computer animated film come to capturing the looseness, asymmetry, and caricature of hand-drawn animation. Look at the expressions above. It’s as if every extreme was a custom-built expression or pose in the computer. The clarity of acting in the eyes was also a notable achievement. I have no idea what they did that is so different from the way that Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, et al. rig their characters, but Disney’s approach is a gamechanger in my opinion. Disney is again leading the pack in technique and technical prowess, and it’s been a very long time since they’ve done that.

Mother Gothel
2. SONGS
“Mother Knows Best” and “I’ve Got a Dream” were both excellent numbers, which atoned for the cringe-worthy and out of place opening pop song “When Will My Life Begin?” The tunes themselves weren’t catchy in the way that an “Under the Sea” or “Be Our Guest” were, but both sequences were immensely entertaining. “Mother Knows Best” managed to be both funny (Rapunzel being rolled up like a rug made me laugh out loud; Mother Gothel’s super-fabulous theatrical gestures were a hoot) and menacing with its claustrophobia-inducing stark black backgrounds. “I’ve Got a Dream” proved that even a filmmaking cliche–the misunderstood lug–can be effective if presented in the right context.

Mime Thug
3. VISUAL HUMOR
Yes, there was snarky dialogue. Yes, there were eye-rolling jokes. But on the whole, these were outweighed by genuinely funny moments, most of which were purely visual. Maximus’s bloodhound sniffing routine consistently earned laughs. The pantomime antics of the Mime and Pascal both generated laughs too, though I personally found the latter character to be contrived and lame. Most importantly, the comedy was mined between characters. Maximus and Flynn’s physical altercations were well played, and when Flynn tells Rapunzel that his life story is long and depressing, her eager reaction to hear more was a nice moment of personality.

Shorty Thug
4. THE SHORT THUG
I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to insert a drunk, pervy midget into a film like this, but please send my thanks to the artist who dreamt up my favorite new animated character of the year.

End credit drawings by Shiyoon Kim
5. END CREDIT DRAWINGS
Shiyoon Kim’s end credit drawings are sophisticated and funny, and sent the audience home on a high note. But more importantly, for once I didn’t leave the theater saying, “If only they’d been able to capture the charm of those drawings in the computer animation.” They finally did in Tangled.


  • http://kecky.blogspot.com kecky

    Aww, this post makes me so happy! I fully agree that while the story (the ending especially) wasn’t 100% satisfying, Tangled was still a really funny, really gorgeous, really GOOD movie.

    Can I just say again how much I loved Rapunzel’s buckteeth???

  • Shawn’s Bro

    . . . rooted in the finest tradition of Disney’s gloried past

    Couldn’t agree more. In fact, Tangled = Aladdin without Robin Williams.

    One complaint is the CGI actually makes the staging of the musical numbers less wild and free than the 2d versions, because 2d lets you read extreme caricatures better than the more “solid” or real 3D,.

  • John

    “This is the closest I’ve ever seen a computer animated film come to capturing the looseness, asymmetry, and caricature of hand-drawn animation.”

    Exactly!

    • maxeythecat

      I second that! Finally FINALLY someone’s managed to capture that wonderful “cartoony” feel that makes hand-drawn animation such a joy to watch….indeed, check this one out, guys!

  • John

    http://www.cartoonbrew.com/wp-content/uploads/prince_rapunzel.jpg
    Theese screen grabs here were from a scene that wasn’t even in the movie!

    • amid

      It illustrates the point. You could choose plenty of other shots in the movie that are just like it. But since the movie isn’t out on dvd, my options for frame grabs are limited.

    • http://rodtejada.wordpress.com/ Rod Tejada

      That shot WAS on the movie, but happens really fast. I saw it Yesterday evening.

      Thats when the advice that Tex Avery left about every single frame being important really shines. And there were even more extreme poses!

      Does anyone remembers when the tree falls down with both Flynn and Maximus? They almost pulled a Looney Tunes falling!

      • Steve

        The scene wasnt in the movie…I know because I worked on the film…that was for the teaser trailer only.

      • http://rodtejada.wordpress.com/ Rod Tejada

        I guess I was fooled, then! I thought I saw that.

  • http://www.bobharper.net Bob Harper

    Hell has frozen over – Amid likes a Disney flick. ;)

    I went because my daughters dragged me to. I’m glad they did. I think it is the finest CG character animation I’ve seen. The whole movie was full of heart and fun and pleased my kids tremendously. I felt it wasn’t fully committed to being a musical, unfortunately. As you pointed out that the numbers that the characters actually sang were very well done.

    I applaud everyone who worked on it and if this movie doesn’t restore the Disney banner, I couldn’t imagine what would.

  • Captain Hollywood

    Go to disney.com/tangled and check out the “Something that I want” video in the video section. It features a very clever video featuring the entire Tangled crew at Disney Animation Studios. It’s very cool. Congratulations to them all.

  • http://www.taberanimation.com Taber Dunipace

    You said it Amid, this really is a game changer. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at with some of that animation!

  • Marc Baker

    While I would prefer to see Disney try 2D animation again, I’ll at least give them some props for this movie. It may be CGI, and it may be a fairy tale, but at least it’s doing well.

  • http://www.wardjenkins.com Ward

    Having gone through the gorgeous art featured in the “Art of Tangled” book long before I saw the film, my overall thought was that this film could quite possibly be animation artists’ triumph over the computer. Of course, I had my reservations because I hadn’t seen the film yet. But after walking out of the theater on opening day, I felt relieved. I honestly thought that the film exceeded my expectations. It’s taken awhile, but yes, Disney has triumphed over the limitations of the computer. Well done!

  • http://animationanomaly.com Charles K. (The Animation Anomaly)

    Damn, Amid. You beat me to it! ;)

  • http://www.kristioportfolio.com Kristi O.

    I really loved Tangled, I have to admit, I think I like it more than I do the Princess and the Frog. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but it just felt like this was the better film, I think it was more entertaining and will in the long run be far more memorable. I think Disney took a few more risks in Tangled that really worked out for them. The Princess and the Frog played it too safe, so while it’s still a good movie, Tangled definitely wins out in my opinion.

    I’d still like to see Disney produce more traditionally animated features, but there’s going to have to pull a few punches if they’re going to bring in a new age of 2D films.

  • tiago

    I live in Brazil and until now the film was not shown here, so I want to know whose short film was shown before the movie, what do you think?

    • Julian Carter

      Hi tiago!

      The film hasn’t been released in my country either, but from what I can gather there will be no short film in front of Tangled. Months ago it was assumed Dean Wellins’ “Tick Tock Tale” would be attached. The Walt Disney Animation Studios shorts program is producing material but we’re not getting to see any of it! I don’t know if Chris Williams’ “Glago’s Guest” will ever be released!

    • http://www.wardjenkins.com Ward

      There was no short film shown before the US release of Tangled.

  • http://www.brandoncordy.com Brandon Cordy

    Oh wow…now I have to see it.

  • Disney Animator_034

    … It is great to hear positive comments about the work everyone did. The one thing that I think you may be seeing in the animation that makes it stand out is the attention to the posing. I think a lot of times in CG animation you can do some great character work without having strong poses (balance, rhythm, clear silhouettes, and weight). It is a pretty basic lesson in terms of animation but it is very easy to not remind yourself of those things in computer animation. One of the biggest things that we focused on was keeping the poses appealing while maintaining the emotions of the characters. Disney animation has a long tradition of making beautiful drawings come to life and we all know that one bad drawing can take you from the illusion. That same reasoning can apply to CG depending on the look you want for your film. Glen helped reinforce the tradition of making the characters appealing as we crafted our shots (thanks to the modeling team who made the characters look the way they do)…

    Cheers Everyone

  • http://chippyandloopus.com/ John Sanford

    Hang on…there is a drunk, pervy midget in this film? Fuck, I GOTS to see it now. No kidding.
    I am a huge fan of Shiyoon Kim’s work. Why aren’t the drawings from the end credits in the “Art of” book? Mr, Kurtii, I’m looking at YOU.
    Can’t wait to see this. REally.

    • PeteR

      The publishing date cutoff was most likely well before the end credits were finished.

      • optimist

        I’m sure that was the case.

      • Steve

        The publishing date cutoff was also before a single shot was completely finished, which is why you wont see final renders in the art-of book…

        They should make a second book. Im not kidding!

      • Mark Walton

        Actually, I find it a huge relief to have an “Art Of” book that isn’t mostly composed of final rendered shots, or only the most final designs for everything, as if nothing else was ever considered. In the age of video, I can purchase the actual movie if I want to see the final images – when I buy the book, I want to see as much of the artwork that DIDN’T make it into the final film (even if it strongly influenced said film) as possible!

      • Mark Walton

        I should say though, that they should (but won’t) publish 10 more volumes of “Rapunzel” pre-production artwork, because that wouldn’t even scratch the surface of all the jaw-droppingly gorgeous storyboards, animation drawings, backgrounds, etc. generated for this movie over almost a decade. (I know, I was there!)

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron H. Bynum

    It’s a great film, and “Mother Knows Best” is certainly the most theatrical moment. The segment unveils to the audience all of Gothel’s ambitions without entirely spoiling her obvious betrayal.

  • Yvette Kaplan

    YES! YES! YES!!!!
    I don’t think I have ever been as surprised by my reaction to an animated movie as I was to ‘Tangled’– and now here comes Amid, of all people! — to surprise me again! You nailed it on the head dear Amid, thank you. Tangled filled me with complete and utter delight! I’ve tried to express the reasons for the onslaught of feelings that kept my heart in my throat and my eyes wide as a child’s as I sat in that theatre– and you’ve expressed them beautifully, all in your reason #1!! What filled me with such joy? Me? Whose mantra is usually “Story, story, story”? The ANIMATION!!! The ACTING! The stunning beauty of the CG, 3D world! And oh those characters!!! The wonderful Tangled animators have not only achieved the level of classic Disney animation, they have gone BEYOND it! Disney has put their focus back where it belongs. Maximus is the best and most original silent physical comedian I’ve seen in ages, and I love Pascal too! I was delighted by his minimalism, delighted he didn’t speak. No wisecracks, no foreign accents-so rare for a sidekick! And while I could have lived without the ‘Short Thug’ -sorry Amid!- when it comes down to it, we all know who the shining star of this movie is. And oh, does she shine!! Tangled returned me to being the aspiring young animator whose greatest dream was to create an animated character so joyful, so alive, the whole world would fall in love with her. Well, here she is, her name is Rapunzel. Yes, this is what animation is all about. Pure and simple: it’s JOY.

  • http://www.inkandpixelclub.com Sara

    Definitely agree with you on the animation, visual humor, and the end credit drawings. I don’t think I was quite as taken with the short thug as you were. Your comments about the songs capture both what I liked and didn’t like about them. We both seem to remember and like what the characters were doing in the musical numbers, but I could not recall a single snippet of either tune of lyrics seconds after leaving the theater (except the flower song, which gets repeated often enough that I did pick up a bit of it.) If Disney is going to continue to produce musicals, they need to find a songwriting team who can craft the kind of songs that almost feel like they’ve always existed and really grab your attention with memorable tunes and lyrics, the way Menken and Ashman did. Menken and any other lyricist doesn’t seem to have the same ability.

  • Lala_Marin

    I’m almost as surprised by this post as I was by the film. After all the horror Disney fans have been put through the past seven years or so, we’ve finally got a solid animated feature from the mouse. I’m a fan of PATF, but Rapunzel really is something special, and I’ll be happy if this is an indication of the kind of quality can expect from now on.

    There were a couple of hiccups. I completely agree with Amid about “When Will My Life Begin” and Pascal, and honestly, the film seemed a little light on the music (underutilization of Alan Menken’s talents). However, the dance montage and anything to do with the lanterns was absolutely beautiful.

    I plan to see it again as soon as exams are over, and this one will definitely be added to my Disney collection the moment it is released on DVD.

  • Frank Ziegler

    Loved the movie. Great animation, funny lines and good music. A new Disney classic. Kudos to Glen Keane and crew. It’s a real feel good movie. Maybe Ed Catmull needs to rethink his position on Disney Princess movies.

  • Karen

    Just got my screener of the film. It is wonderful.

  • snip234

    Too bad those three clips you included in your Animation section didn’t make it into the film.

    I would’ve preferred to see Glen Keane’s drawings in the credits. I didn’t know he executive produced it!

  • http://MrFunsBlog Floyd Norman

    Awesome animated filmmaking and it’s even better than I expected.

    Please, Disney. Change the stupid title and give Rapunzel her name back.

  • kc_am

    Toy Story 3, How to Train your Dragon and Tangled the three animated movies that will be this years animated feature Oscar nominees.

  • http://stringstornasunder.blogspot.com Chris Powell

    Awesome to see so many positive comments!!

    Wonderful film- I hope Disney gets a look at this page!

  • http://yeldarb86.deviantart.com Mr. Semaj

    I’m VERY glad they took the traditional story route for this film.

    Disney should be leading in the game of animated features, not following.

  • Sandy!

    =D !!!

  • OtherDan

    Nice review. I thought the animation was exceptional, and seeing those still frames is pretty amazing. I have never seen CG poses so…”2D-ish” as extremes. On thing I felt about the animation was that it was more well observed than what we have become accustomed to; which generally means, familiar looking.

  • RODAN

    Thank you Amid, I felt the same… I only wish that the Disney marketing folks would have given us some kind of a clue that it was going to be the lush classic fairytale telling in the best possible “Disney” tradition.
    They instead, had me thinking of it as just another “Tinkerbell” like rendition of the famous story.

    They really put me off this project for quite a long time. If only they would have communicated with those of us who can better get the buzz out there that it was going to be far better a film than they were leading me to believe.

    So… A+ to Walt Disney Animation
    and a big fat F to their marketing department.

  • http://tophatsasquatch.com/ Tommy Day

    Great post, Amid. I had no idea this movie was going to be so great, and I’m glad it was just the marketing department making some AWFUL trailers.

    I was very happy to see that the characters actually had some exaggeration and squash and stretch to their movements. Maximus had to have been one of my favorite characters. I think this was Disney’s best animated movie since Lilo & Stitch for sure.

  • dbenson

    “Mother Knows Best” was the exact opposite of “uncanny valley”, but somehow it was almost alarming to see an animated character actually become a performer. You believed you saw SOMEBODY singing and moving, not a puppet operated by animators or a motion-capture suit.

    One other note: The big dramatic climax was well done, but the real emotional climax for me was Rapunzel meeting her real mother. Similar moments in past Disneys were almost throwaways, but a few wordless scenes made the grief of the King and Queen real, and the actual meeting — with a lovely shot of Rapunzel and the Queen mirroring each other as they slowly approach — was a beautiful, honestly earned misty-eye moment.

  • Darkblader

    I actually decided to sneak into tangled, and I enjoyed it and decided to see it again but paying it this time. And I found a review of tangled(Who might be onto something)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-0mJQy6Z9Q

    Looks like he didnt like Mother knows best either. Basically I dont either because it sounds like it was a song written for an R rated film but ends up getting toned down quite a lot.

  • Diogo

    Hey, i just saw the film and i think is AMAZING in every aspect, the story, the appealing characters,etc…,

    But the one thing that impress me the most was the animation, it is ASTONISHING!!, it goes far beyond anything made in CG before. It is so fluid, dinamic and expresive that is breathtaking. I absolutely agree that is a game changer in CG animation.

    The rendering of the world, the beutiful landscapes, the classic buildings, the Global Ilumination lighting is gorgeous as well.

  • http://elblogderg.blogspot.com Roberto

    I liked When Will My Life Begin more than I’ve Got ADream. Yep, it was pop music, but it wasn’t so cringeworthy or out of place IMO. It’s a happy song and I loved the musical number.

    I agree about everything else, though.

  • http://animationartblog.com Inger

    Thanks for the great post.
    I love Flynn’s poses in the top picture.
    It is hard for me to pick a character that stood out.
    Maximus was so expressive he potentially stole the show but all the others were so strong.
    It’s hard for me to understand why Tangled didn’t get nominated for an Oscar-maybe the Academy voters only saw the crappy trailers
    :0)

  • john stuart

    i thanks for this post
    tell u the truth this is the only disney film that made me cry in the end
    because it has a strong beautiful and smile inducing ending especially the animation so superb

  • Mike P.

    Yes, Mr. Amidi; (if I may, being so late to post,) I especially agree with your points in #1, 3, and 5. I find the surface TEXTURES the filmmakers achieved especially appropriate and appealing; to create a soft, painterly feel to surfaces, reminiscent of cel painted artwork, was what they seemed to be aiming for (and not “realism”). They achieved it. Along with other-worldly lighting effects I’ve not seen in any other animated film.

    For me especially though, as I conduct a continuing study of the horse in the history of the animated film, the crowning achievement is the creation of Maximus. (I’m glad Mr. Barrier also singled Maximus out in his commentary.)
    I won’t go into many details here, but from a design standpoint, Max’s head is a most nearly perfect combination of the distinguishing features of a real horse’s head but with eyes large and close enough together to allow for the most dynamic and engaging array of expression in a horse character to date.
    (Contrast this with “Donkey” as a white horse in “Shrek 2″; to me, HIS eyes were placed TOO close together, without a nose ridge or anything to separate them. In a hand-drawn/traditional horse character, one could get away with this; but in CG, rendering Donkey’s eyes like this in a 3D modeled character has a rather eerie and displeasing effect.)

    Up until 2010, “Spirit” (to me) held the top spot as the best designed animated horse character, but now, Maxi has kicked him off that throne.