Tangled: Untangling Rapunzel with the magic of Disney

Flynn Rider meets Rapunzel in Disney's Tangled - copyright Disney

Disney’s breathtaking new animated film is a fun and surprisingly modern take on the age-old fairy tale of Rapunzel.  Hidden away in a tower by the only mother she has ever known, Disney’s Rapunzel is a bright, lively, and happy girl, busying herself with dozens of hobbies and enjoying the company of her adorable chameleon friend Pascal. She takes pride in keeping the tower in ship shape, bakes vast quantities of delicious pies and cakes (much to Pascal’s delight), knits, sews little outfits for Pascal, plays guitar, and paints the most wonderful murals. Watching her lying on the floor, propped up on her elbows, bare feet in the air, contentedly doing a jigsaw puzzle, she looks just like any teenage girl. Well, any teenage girl with 70 feet of hair.

The story begins with the Queen becoming gravely ill during a difficult pregnancy, and being given a healing elixir made from a one-of-a-kind magical flower. The Queen’s health is restored, and she gives birth to a beautiful baby girl with sparkling green eyes and lustrous blonde hair, imbued with the healing powers of the magical flower. What the royal family doesn’t know however, is that a selfish and vain old woman (Mother Gothel) has been using the flower’s healing powers regularly to bring her eternal youth. Or eternal Forty-Something at least. Her anti-ageing flower now gone, Mother Gothel tries to steal a lock of the baby’s hair, but once shorn the hair loses its power. She needs to find another way to benefit from the healing powers of Rapunzel’s hair. In her desperation, Mother Gothel kidnaps the baby and hides her away in a tower in a box canyon where she will never be found, and raises her as her own.

Floating Lantern scene - Disney's TangledEvery year on her birthday Rapunzel watches out the window as thousands of lights drift across the sky – despite Mother Gothel’s explanation, she knows they aren’t stars (she has plotted the course of the stars over 18 years and this is most definitely an anomaly!), and her greatest wish is to find out what they really are, even if it means disobeying her mother and leaving the tower.

Enter loveable rogue, Flynn Rider, a petty thief with swashbucking style and smouldering “handsome” look. In an attempt to hide from the Stabbington Brothers, he has climbed the tower with the help of arrows (not hair!), only to be knocked out cold by Rapunzel’s heavy iron skillet. A quick zap in the ear from Pascal wakes Flynn, and Rapunzel enlists him as her guide to see the floating lights up close.

With Tangled, 50th animated film, Disney has taken a leap forward on multiple levels. The characters, their interactions, the settings and the action-packed sequences make it feel more like an adventure movie than an animated fairy tale. Watching Rapunzel abseil down the tower, and swing from her hair during one of the chase scenes is thrilling and very Indiana Jones – this isn’t your typical Disney princess!

Never before have we seen such a feisty, self-assured, capable and loving animated female lead, and never before has her male lead had such depth and personality. The relationship between Flynn and Rapunzel develops over the course of the film with utter believability, as does Flynn’s friendship with the Maximus, the Captain of the Guard’s horse.

The female characters are very modern – Rapunzel is intelligent, adventurous, quick-thinking and talented, but also embraces traditional skills like knitting and baking. With her passive aggressive, manipulative manner and belittling comments towards Rapunzel, Mother Gothel’s character is more Livia Soprano than Ursula (the octopus in The Little Mermaid). Even the artists’ depiction of the bright eyed Rapunzel with her shining hair naively enveloping herself in her mother’s dark cloak has a subtle sinister and suffocating edge.

Finally, the quality of the animation of is extraordinary – the way the characters move around each other during an argument, the way they breathe, the way their hair moves, the subtle flicker of movement under the lower lid when Rapunzel’s eyes move, and the shape of her cheeks as she speaks. There is a level of detail here which is simply astonishing.

Will our family enjoy Tangled?

The giggling from the audience during the sneak preview was as good a marker as any!  That many of the parents confessed to welling up during the pivotal scenes also goes to show just how believable the story is. Boys will love it just as much as girls – while Rapunzel is technically a princess, this isn’t a Princess Movie and there are plenty of strong characters the boys will love.

Suitable for all ages, recommended for ages 5 and up.  Young children might find some of the villains a bit scary and may find the 3D version distressing during the chase scenes.

Rated 5* – Please add your own ratings and reviews below!!

Tangled activities to try at home:

For a little taste of Disney’s 50th Full-Length Animated Film, watch the Official Tangled Trailer here:

All images protected by copyright, used with permission from Disney.

Written by Janis P.


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