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Feature


Once upon a time, in the land of whatever, the King and Queen were overjoyed to discover they were going to have their first child. But during her labor the Queen fell ill, and the King sent forth the entire kingdom in search of a legendary magical flower said to have amazing healing powers. Once found, the flower’s powers saved the queen and her baby girl. Unbeknownst to them, a wicked and vain woman named Gothel (Donna Murphy) had found the flower centuries before, and used it to keep herself youthful. After discovering that the one of a kind flower had peen plucked, Gothel broke into the Princesses nursery to cut off her hair, which was now infused with the power of the flower. When she discovered that the hair could not be cut and maintain its power, Gothel kidnapped the child, and raised her alone in a tower, hidden from the rest of the Kingdom. Several years later a master thief on the run named Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) sneaks into the tower, and encounters a teenager named Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) with incredibly long hair, who has no idea she’s a missing princess.

 Tangled
Tangled is good fun, with well rounded characters, good action, and funny jokes, but it isn’t the full-on return to classic form Disney keeps hoping for. The less tangible problems are that the whole film feels kind of slight in terms of narrative and dramatic weight, and isn’t exactly as memorable as the studio’s 50th fully animated feature should be. The emphasis is placed on the action and the comedy, likely in hopes of bringing boys into the theater for what is clearly a girl-aimed movie, but this emphasis threatens to turn the whole endeavor into a pseudo- Shrek meh-fest. Fortunately the comedy here is a little more on the timeless side, with some nice Howard Hawks screwball homage, not to mention some side-splitting slapstick, and the action is truly massive and surprisingly exciting.

The story isn’t great, and the music isn’t particularly magical (more on that in the ‘Audio’ section), but it appears that the Disney people have finally discovered a way to bottle that physical Disney animation magic in CG form. They still aren’t matching Pixar on most levels, but this is easily the best 3D work the studio has ever produced in terms of character animation, detail, and dynamic camera movement. And it better be if the $260 million budget is accurate (possibly the third most expensive movie ever, not taking inflation into account). The character work is the best, though, leading me to compare it to genre giants like 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book and Ratatouille. The human characters move like vaudeville performers, and their face stretch and express without losing at least a dollop of reality. It really feels like watching real actors at times, albeit kind of funny looking ones. And then there are the two lead animal actors, Rapunzel's chameleon buddy Pascal, and palace guard horse Maximus, both of whom steal every single scene they appear in. Whoever is specifically responsible for Maximus deserves some kind of award ( Tangled was only nominated for best animated feature at last year’s Annie Awards).

 Tangled
These characters are generally more enthralling than those found in most of Disney’s recent animation work (unless we’re counting Enchanted). Rapunzel is a strong feminine role-model for the little girls in the audience who never loses her Disney princess elements. She’s also a total innocent without being a total sap. Her evil stepmother, Gothel, is another particularly strong character, especially since she’s not a typical, evil for the sake of evil Disney villain. She also isn’t a misunderstood heroine whose story changes given the audiences point of view, nor is she some kind of tragic Arkham Asylum criminal suffering the effects of misspent youth. Gothel starts simply as a selfish jerk. Her actions are understandable, but not commendable. Eventually she devolves into a more vicious headspace, but it’s refreshing to deal with a less simplified cartoon antagonist who manages to be funny, threatening and believable all at once.

Video


You guys won’t believe it – Disney has released a really gorgeous CG Animated film on Blu-ray. Seriously, this time I was determined to find something wrong with this transfer, but I’ve failed utterly. This 1080p image is vibrant as all get out, and features varying detail levels without any noticeable compression or digital artefacts. Each environment features its own collection of indelible design elements and incendiary colour timing. The forest is bright, with a kaleidoscope of crisp hues, the interior of the tavern is warm with strong contrast, and night time scenes are cool, with sharp, warm highlights. The subtle changes from day to night hues during the extended dance sequence, and the sky lantern ceremony are also glorious in terms of colour design. Unbelievably sharp fine details include single strands of hair (specifically Mother Gothel’s grey tinged doo), single blades of grass, intricate stitching on garments, and the chameleon’s scaled skin. Human skin is a pleasant mix of the kind of smooth, plastic look of most CG human characters, and a warm glow. The sheer quantity of background elements ensures that the extra wide compositions don’t squander any of those extra HD pixels.

 Tangled

Audio


A gold standard transfer deserves a gold standard soundtrack, and this DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix stands tall with the best of them. The soundtrack takes all the best elements of animated movies, hyperactive 3D movies, action movies and musicals, and mixes them into a big pot of directional effects and busy channels along a wide sonic spectrum. The LFE is kept in check, but boisterous, and perfectly represents the rumble of approaching horses on several occasions. The big action movie moments, like the breaking of a dam, the subsequent flooding, and the climatic escape, are as big and boisterous as most big budget standard action fair, and include all kinds of directional effects and expressive bass elements. Dialogue is clear, and relatively natural for an animated film, with no major discrepancies in volume or quality. Tangled’s songs sound warm on the track, and feature plenty of instrumental depth, but overall these are the film’s biggest folly. I couldn’t recall a single one of Alan Menken and Glenn Slater’s songs after watching the film, and even found myself flinching at their saccharine hokeyness on several occasions. There’s almost no comparison between this score and Menken’s truly wonderful work on The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. I feel like Tangled was a more satisfying experience than The Princess and the Frog overall, but this is a huge step down for memorable and entertaining music.

 Tangled

Extras


‘Untangled: The Making of a Fairytale’ (12:30, HD) is a made for TV behind the scenes EPK hosted by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi. Subject manner includes production and character design, technical trivia, and stuff concerning the previous 49 Disney animated movies. Next are three deleted scenes with director introductions (12:30, HD). These are presented as unfinished storyboards, with temporary music, and vocal performances, and include an alternate version of the tavern scene, an alternate ‘getting to know each other’ scene, and a scene with a fortune telling monkey. This is followed by two versions of an attempt at a 2D storybook opening (4:00 each, HD), and two extended songs. ‘50th Anniversary Feature Countdown’ (2:00, HD) is a quick run-through all of Disney’s animated features. Things end with nine TV teasers (including a ‘Wicked Game’ joke, an OJ Simpson chase joke, and a drug scare joke), ‘Discover Blu-ray 3D with Timon and Pumba’ and sneak peaks.

 Tangled

Overall


Disney’s 50th official feature length animated film (this number does not count mixed media films like Mary Poppins and Song of the South, STV sequels, or television based films like A Goofy Movie or Recess: School’s Out) is a perfectly entertaining experience, with plenty of laughs, and genuine thrills, but it doesn’t resonate or feel particularly timeless like the studio’s best often do. This Blu-ray version of the film features a practically perfect 1080p transfer (in 2D), and a beautiful 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, but not much in the way of extra features, which makes me wonder if another release might not be somewhere on the horizon. I vote for a rental before purchase on this one for those without kids.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer. Thanks to Troy at Andersonvision.com for the screen-caps.


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