Note: This is the tenth entry in a series of posts looking at the Kid Friendliness, Entertainment Value, and Life Lessons for Kids from the Disney Princess movies. Previous posts covered “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Cinderella”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”,“Aladdin”, “Pocahontas”, “Mulan”, and “The Princess and the Frog”
The Little Monkey has quite the imagination when she dreams of being Rapunzel. The slow progress of her own hair growth has made her impatient and it may finally be sinking in that the 16 years it took Rapunzel to grow her magic hair is a long, long time. Fortunately, she managed to find a bright pink shoelace in one of our closets, a hair clip from Yashy’s dresser, and an Elsa hat that has a fake ponytail sticking out the back. Putting those three pieces together, she can now dance through the house sporting hair that is longer than she is tall, as we all take pains to avoid stepping on the shoelace that constantly slides through the house. It warms my heart to see how much this thrills her.
After her love of “Frozen” became apparent, one of the next movies we shared together was “Tangled”, Disney’s strangely retitled retelling of Rapunzel, the poor girl who spends decades trapped in a tall tower in the woods, only to be rescued by a prince who falls in love with her after hearing her beautiful singing voice. The legend is a perfect fit of for the Disney Princess series, and I am surprised it took the studio so long to tell its own version of the story. Disney flips the role, making Rapunzel a princess who is unaware or her nobility after she is kidnapped in her infancy, and turns the tale into a swashbuckling adventure, including a sword wielding horse and a number of unseemly looking characters who turn out to be kind hearted and loyal.
“Tangled” is almost a great film. It looks amazing and contains one of Disney’s most beautiful sequences as Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder, her rescuer, fall in love on the waters outside of the kingdom as thousands of floating lights rise into the night sky. Unbeknownst to Rapunzel, her real mother and father, the King and Queen, release the lanterns every year on Rapunzel’s birthday with the hope that she will find her way back to them. The scene is a highpoint in the art of animation. If only the film’s music were as good. The uninspired music in this film is a missed opportunity considering the fact that Mandy Moore provides the voice for Rapunzel. One only has to observe kids watching the film to see this. When the Little Monkey watches “Frozen” or “The Lion King”, she sings most of the songs. With Rapunzel, she silently watches the scenes unfold.
The first time the Little Money watched “Tangled”, when she was about 3 years old, she grew frightened during a scene in which Flynn Rider and Rapunzel are escaping from the King’s guards, which features a lot of swordplay and a daring underwater escape after a dam comes crashing down. The scene is visually impressive but can be intense.
Near the end of the film, Mother Gothel, the evil witch who kidnapped and held Rapunzel prisoner, stabs Flynn Rider and he dies in Rapunzel’s arms before one of Rapunzel’s magic tears brings him back to life. Mother Gothel turns to dust when Flynn cuts off Rapunzel’s hair in order to save her from being trapped in the tower forever.
Life Lessons for Kids
“Tangled” focuses a lot on deception. Rapunzel frequently discovers that things are rarely as they seem on the surface. She believes Mother Gothel to be her protector, that Flynn has located her secret tower so that he can exploit the magic of her hair, and later on, that he has abandoned her after getting what he wants. Rapunzel is surprised when she makes friends with a number of goons at a pub after asking them about their dreams. She slowly discovers through the film that Flynn is a true friend and that Mother Gothel has been deceiving her. This is a difficult concept for small children, whose trust can easily be swayed.
There is a reason that the phrase, ‘never take candy from strangers’ is such a popular one, for it reveals a truth that children are quick to trust those who make them feel important or give them what they want. Using a film like Rapunzel to show children that someone they have known for a long time can be tricking them is a difficult lesson to impart, and one that perhaps children under 8 do not need to be exposed. However, the fact is, Mother Gothel does do harm to Rapunzel, keeping her from her true parents, and a child watching “Tangled” might recognize how fearful such a situation would be. Fortunately, the tone of “Tangled” is often light and comedic, with Rapunzel achieving her dream of seeing the floating lights and, and in the process, discovering that she is a princess whose parents care very deeply for her. She may not have been loved by Mother Gothel, but she was cherished by a whole kingdom.
“Tangled” is one of the most expensive films ever produced. The film is made using Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) but the producers wanted to make the film like like a traditional hand-drawn film in 3D. Over the six years of production, numerous techniques were attempted, and like everyone in the film, they had difficulties in dealing with Rapunzel’s hair. The final film cost an estimated $260 million but eventually took in close to $600 million globally. As for that title, Disney felt that the use of the word ‘princess’ in the title of its prior Disney Princess movie, “The Princess and the Frog”, limited that movie’s audience to younger girls. They worried Rapunzel might have the same effect and changed the title to “Tangled”, while also featuring Flynn Rider prominently in the promotional materials. Maybe it helped, but it’s a shame. Rapunzel is one of the most memorable names from my childhood.
If you have any kids who adore the film, like mine does, you’ll be happy to know that a television series is in development that will premier on the Disney Channel in 2017. Next week, we head to the Scottish highlands for “Brave”.