Aha, well today I officially clock 20 days in this challenge and what better way to celebrate completing one fifth of the 100 days then with a Disney film? The first Disney film on the list actually. The first of many, I should warn you. Naturally, I grew up in the 90s during the “Disney Renaissance” as it has been called so I do have a love for the old school hand drawn animation, so when I heard Disney was trying to go back to its animation roots of course I was thrilled. I never saw The Princess and the Frog but here I was happy to find out that Disney finally made an adaptation of Rapunzel, even if it was CGI instead of hand drawn. Let’s get started then.
It all started when a tiny drop of sunlight fell to the earth and caused a magical golden flower to grow. This flower had healing properties and an old woman called Mother Gothel used it to keep herself young and beautiful. Meanwhile, the Queen in the kingdom (who was pregnant) fell sick and the flower was brought to her and she drank it. She recovered and gave birth to a baby daughter with long golden hair. Knowing that the flower’s magic had been transferred to the young princess, Mother Gothel stole the child away and locked her in a tower so that nobody would ever find her. Now it’s 18 years later and Rapunzel is determined to leave her tower so she can go and see some strange floating lanterns that always appear on her birthday. Gothel won’t let her go so Rapunzel sends her away and gets the help of a bandit called Flynn Rider to take her to see the lanterns.
It sounds like a perfect Disney movie doesn’t it? I think this film could fit in nicely with the films from the 90s and it does have the same modern feel that those films had and the older ones from when Walt was still alive, well didn’t. Let’s talk about Rapunzel herself; of course the whole feminism and Disney Princesses is a big issue but Rapunzel is definitely a good character and she immediately turns the original fairytale on its head by trying to leave her tower. Rapunzel is definitely one of the more interesting Princesses as well as being fun loving and slightly rebellious. She’s also a bit of an Action Girl as she gets pretty physical with a frying pan and uses her 70 feet of hair as a rope in tight situations. Her romantic co-star is also another typical Disney hero (in a good way) and the story is very much about him as well. He is kind of a combination of Aladdin and Eric although they do add something new with him being an orphan impersonating a hero he was told stories about when he was a child. And of course we have our villain; Gothel is a bit of a curious villain in that she does seem to care for Rapunzel a little, visiting her every day and acting a bit playful with her. Don’t be fooled as she outright kills someone near the end of the film and tries to traumatize Rapunzel once she finds out she’s left the tower, but it’s still nice to see her blur the villain and hero lines a little. And this being a Disney film we do have animal sidekicks – a chameleon named Pascal and a horse named Maximus. They don’t talk which is why I like them.
The animation is a little tricky to talk about since we’re used to the formula of Disney being hand-drawn and Pixar being CGI but this really does look like a traditional hand-drawn Disney film except in CGI. Rapunzel’s 70 feet of hair is definitely quite an achievement as animating that with a computer can’t have been easy. They’ve also created her so that she’s more cute than being too beautiful. It also helps that she’s probably the first Disney Princess to be officially legal. Apparently the style of this film was influenced by the painting The Swing from the Rococo era. That’s actually one of my favourite paintings so it is nice to see that the art style of this film evolved from that. If I may say also, Mother Gothel was designed pretty well too and she’s probably the first outright pretty Disney villains (when she’s not growing old anyway).
Okay time to talk about our voice actors. As Rapunzel we have Mandy Moore doing a great job; she was perfect for Rapunzel and has this nice voice that the Disney Princesses do have, while being a little fun and witty as well. She makes Rapunzel a unique character as opposed to your average fairytale princess. Case and point, I had no idea Odette from The Swan Princess was voiced by three different actresses – she was that interchangeable. We have Zachary Levi as Flynn and he’s equally fun to listen to as he and Rapunzel have a nice natural banter going on. Theirs is definitely one of the better developed Disney romances and it’s a little reminiscent of Aladdin and Jasmine. Mother Gothel is played very interestingly by Donna Murphy; she kind of avoids the whole Evil is Hammy thing by being a bit over the top when she’s being friendly to Rapunzel but when she’s being evil, she is a little menacing. There aren’t actually many other voice actors in the film as those three are the only main characters who get big speaking roles, though it is worth noting that Ron Perlman voices one of the bandits as well.
Since this is a Disney film, we’ll talk about the songs; there aren’t as many of them that we are used to having in the 90s films as this is a bit more of a romantic comedy but both Rapunzel and Gothel get songs and we do have a mini-musical going on. The songs aren’t that memorable and are only really in the film as an added extra. The opening song “When Will My Life Begin” is pretty catchy as well as the song sung by a bunch of bandits in a tavern “I’ve Got A Dream” though it’s meant more as a comedic number. Gothel’s song “Mother Knows Best” isn’t that memorable at all and I don’t really agree with having villains sing. Then we have the main song “I See The Light” which plays over a certain floating lantern sequence which I will get to later. It’s a nice little song and should probably be considered the film’s signature song (like “Under the Sea”, “Colours of the Wind” etc) but isn’t exactly as memorable as those other songs from the 90s movies.
My two favourite scenes in the movie actually come back to back with each other. The first is when Rapunzel finally reaches the kingdom and there’s a festival going on so she immediately becomes the centre of attention and leads the villagers in a dance in the square. It’s a really nice little scene and it’s definitely vintage Disney, and indeed it is the clip I used in the video. The music is pretty catchy too and it’s a nice little bit of dramatic irony that Rapunzel is now the centre of attention at a celebration that is in reality for her, except only the audience knows it. Equally stunning in animation is the scene that comes right after that where Rapunzel and Flynn watch the entire kingdom release floating lanterns into the air from a boat. The whole scene is just breathtaking to watch. I know I use that adjective a lot but that’s really the only way to describe it.
I do have a big gripe about the film but if you don’t want to be spoiled then don’t read it – it’s the friggin haircut! Seriously, Disney, you have only one chance to adapt Rapunzel and that’s the haircut she ends up with? It’s absolutely awful and apparently, according to creators, it’s not going to grow out. So she’s now stuck with that god awful hairdo. Sigh, girls do not look good with hair that short and Rapunzel is no exception. Well on the bright side, it’s only actually that haircut for about seven minutes of film and she has the lovely long blonde hair for the rest. I guess she could always make extensions out of the 70 feet of hair that got cut off.
So there you go, entry number 50 into the Disney Animated Canon and it’s a worthy entry especially if you’re an old school Disney fan. It can’t touch some of the bigger classics but it’s still a worthy film and that’s why I included it. And that’s also twenty days down in the challenge so a video of the next 20 will be going up soon. Make sure to check it out and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.